Rhoads Looking for A-Day Production

Paul Rhoads discusses what he will be looking for in Auburn's spring football game and discusses some of his defensive players.

Auburn, Ala.--Auburn's new defensive coordinator says he is going to be looking for execution of the basics when the Tigers hit the field for their annual spring football contest on Saturday.

It will be the first A-Day Game for new defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads, who came to Auburn earlier this year from Pitt.

"Fundamentals" is the key word for the defense, Rhoads says. "As everybody in the country does, we are not going to put a whole lot of the playbook out there on the field. We are going to play base things and see who is going to show up playing good stances, playing with great change of direction, getting off blocks and tackling--do the things great defenses do."

With 12 of 15 spring practices complete, Rhoads says, "I think we are progressing. I don't think any unit ever progresses as fast as a coaching staff would like them to, but Thursday was better than Tuesday after the layoff, which it should have been. We are still adding concepts and they came ready to learn today."

One of the good battles this spring has been at the weakside linebacker spot where two players with extensive playing and starting experience are trying to be number one.

"I think we have great competition at the will linebacker spot with Chris Evans and Merrill Johnson," Rhoads says. "I think that will be a committee position. We might even alternate who starts or base it on grade production, but that is a very competitive position for us."

Chris Evans was a key player for the Tigers last season.

Antonio Coleman, a returning starter at defensive end, has been sidelined since the first scrimmage when he suffered a cervical sprain. He was expected to participate in the A-Day Game, which kicks off at 1 p.m. on Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium, but head coach Tommy Tuberville says the decision has been made by the team's trainers and doctors to give him extra time to recover. Coleman worked out in full pads on Thursday with the team trainers, but didn't see action with the defensive ends.

In Coleman's place, sophomore Antoine Carter has made progress this spring. "I think Hot Boy (Carter's nickname) has done a nice job," Rhoads says. "He has done a great job of stepping up and playing with the first unit and has clearly indicated to us he is ready to step on the field and be a guy we can count on.

"He is very physical and very tough," Rhoads says of Coleman, who just turned 18 in December. "The next thing he has got to work on is getting off, separating off of blocks. If you keep a close eye on him, whether it is a pass play or run play, he is pushing linemen back on their side of the line of scrimmage.

Antoine Carter has been busy this spring.

"The next thing he has got to do is get off those blocks whether it is to sack the quarterback or tackle the run, he has got to do that," Rhoads adds.

The defense will be back on the practice field at 4 p.m. on Friday for a light workout in shorts in a final tuneup prior to the spring game. The Tigers will wrap up spring drills on Wednesday evening with a scrimmage.

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