Hit And Miss For Offense In Scrimmage

Tony Franklin and Kodi Burns discuss the play of the offense in the first scrimmage of the spring.

Auburn, Ala.—The production of the offense in the first scrimmage of the spring was generally positive as the Tigers went for just over 120 plays at Jordan-Hare Stadium on Saturday morning. According to the unofficial statistics, the offensive output was just over 602 yards.

With Chris Todd sidelined because of shoulder problems, Kodi Burns, Neil Caudle and DeRon Furr took turns directing the offense and all had their moments.

"(Burns) made a couple of really good throws," said offensive coordinator Tony Franklin. "He ran the team well, he managed the offense better, so he looked much smoother than he did back toward the bowl stuff."

Burns completed 22 of 37 passes for 162 yards with one interception and a TD. Known as more of a runner, he was limited on the ground to five carries for nine yards while wearing an orange non-contact jersey.

"I'd say I got a B," Burns said of himself. "There is always room for improvement. I felt like I could sling the ball a little bit better. We had some drops and I take the blame for that not putting it directly on them. All it was, was a timing thing. It wasn't really bad passes, it was bad timing. Over the next couple days and weeks we're going to work on timing and get it down."

The sophomore QB from Ft. Smith, Ark., has had some issues with his mechanics of late. He threw some good and some bad passes, but he was mostly accurate on Saturday.

"I know I've always been good passing, but basically it's a confidence thing," he stated. "Back last year I tried to guide the ball instead of throw the ball. I know I can throw now, so I'm just throwing the ball now and getting it to the playmakers."

Burns and Caudle were both hands-off from the defenders, but big, physical Furr was fair game for the scrimmage. Normally a scary ordeal for a freshman who graduated early from high school, it was actually Furr delivering several blows to the defenders and picking up first downs with his legs.

"DeRon looked exactly like I did when I first got here," Burns explained. "I was live and you're kind of running out there like a chicken with your head cut off. You kind of don't know the plays, but as long as you're making plays you can see the talent in him. He's going to be a good quarterback. He just needs to learn the plays and he'll be all right."

Todd wasn't ever one of the 11 on the field, but he was part of the scrimmage as he stood behind Furr and helped him with the plays in the fast-paced offense.

Furr was three of five passing for 26 yards, but was the leading rusher for the scrimmage with 57 yards on 10 carries.

"We wanted to see if he could be special with the ball in his hand making plays, and I think he proved that he can," Franklin said of the freshman. "He's just raw. He's a tough kid, he's strong, he's hard-nosed, he's a competitor and he's a winner, and that's what we wanted to see… if it would translate into this level. We turned him loose on them on let them go after him. I think he rose to the occasion and made some plays for us."

Furr also didn't back down when getting hit late out of bounds by linebacker Merrill Johnson. Furr hopped back up and put Johnson on his back on the offenses' sideline.

"I don't like that in the stadium," Franklin explained of the extracurricular activities. "I tell them you just don't fight in the stadium. I think when you come in here you have to have different discipline and even though somebody jumps you and hits you late and all of that. It's a good camaraderie thing and fights are part of football. It's just a part of the game, but not when you're in the stadium. You don't need to do it."

Furr also got banged up in the scrimmage. He took off his shoulder pads and threw on the sidelines for the last five-plus series while Caudle and Burns got more time.

"I think they said he had a sprain on the AC and they just didn't want to get him back in," Franklin said of Furr. "Hopefully he'll be able to throw next week."

With Todd out and Furr hampered late, Caudle had plenty of opportunities to show his progress. He threw 33 times and completed 22 of them to his team, but twice to the defense with a few more dropped would-be picks. He did, however, throw three touchdowns. He hit Quindarius Carr with a 46-yard bomb on a stop and go, a 22-yarder to Terrell Zachery on a wheel route down the sideline and another 16-yard score to a wide open Robert Dunn on a corner.

"I thought Neil made some good throws, but he's throwing it to them (the defense) way too much," Franklin noted. "He's got to eliminate that. He's got to get better at it and he's got to get better at his footwork inside the pocket."

Zachery was the leading receiver for the day in terms of receptions and yards. He had nine for 84 and a score.

"He showed things that I haven't seen yet," Franklin said of the sophomore receiver. "He's been getting better every day in practice, but he was special the catch, which is very important in this offense—which is to make plays after the catch. He made several plays after the catch and he made several nice catches, too. That was a very pleasant surprise to me that he showed some signs of being pretty unique."

Mario Fannin was injured early in the scrimmage and only carried three times. According to Tommy Tuberville, Fannin's shoulder popped out and he could return by next as early as next week. Ben Tate (hamstring) and Tristan Davis (toe) also missed action. Brad Lester ran 12 times for 44 yards and also had a 20-yard TD reception on a nice throw from Burns down the sideline.

With the absence of several scholarship runners, Anthony Jemison showed off some quickness and carried six times for 35 yards and caught a pair of passes for four yards. He is the older brother of Marcus Jemison, a safety who will join the program this summer.

In addition to Zachery, Robert Dunn also had a fine day hauling in passes. He had several nice grabs from Caudle in between the coverage and the senior finished with eight grabs for 63 yards. Montez Billings had six for 57 and Tommy Trott was clutch on third down, finishing with five receptions for 33 yards.

Chris Slaughter was held out, as well as Tim Hawthorne, who broke his arm in Friday's practice.

While the defense is still establishing its foundation under Paul Rhoads, the offense didn't hold back much during the scrimmage.

"People find this hard to believe, but we had most of the package in for the bowl game," Franklin noted. "Everything from there is just tags and little, slight changes that make the play look different. We'll constantly keep growing that part of it, but the base offense is basically there."

Burns had a good first scrimmage of the spring.

Burns took most of the snaps with the first team offensive line in an offense he's adapting to quickly after playing a similar style at Northside High School.

"It was real similar," he said. "It wasn't the Tony Franklin system, but it was pretty much the same thing with a lot of the same terminology and a lot of the same plays. I'm real comfortable in this offense. We ran a lot of zone read and we lined up in about five-wide just about every play and threw the ball a lot. We did run a lot of zone read and a lot of Q-zone (quarterback draw) and stuff like that."

Chaz Ramsey played only briefly and Byron Isom stepped into his role at right guard and played well with the first team. The second team offensive line is usually a concern in scrimmages, but this year's depth appears to be at a high as the unit played considerably well on Saturday.

"I thought they were all productive at different times," Franklin said. "I think that's a good strength of this football team to me is that you've got two groups of guys that can play. I think it's real important in this offense to have at least eight guys that can play and that can come in, rotate in and out and stuff. Today they showed some signs of being able to do that."

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