Sunday's AU Practice Receives Mixed Reviews

Commens from the coordinators plus news and notes from Auburn's fourth spring football practice are featured.

Aubun, Ala.--After a chance to grade videos from Saturday's first full pads workout, the Auburn football team was back on the practice field on Sunday evening and the team's coordinators note the Tigers still have a lot of work to do.

The Tigers practiced for more than two hours in full pads and the session featured more 11 on 11 work with tackling in addition to sessions devoted to installing the offense and defense that new head coach Gene Chizik and his staff have brought to Auburn.

Defensive coordinator Ted Roof said the Sunday evening workout featured a lot of fundamental drills as well as situational 11 on 11 work with first down and third featured.

"We had some good work, some good energy," he said. "It was a good day, we got some things done."

Roof noted the defense was better on Sunday than it was on Saturday. "We were better today," he stated. "We made strides and that's what we got have to do.

"We have got to improve every day and we have to come out with the attitude that we have got to improve every day because we can't afford any missed opportunities and we have got to make sure when we come out there that the attitude is to get better. That is the goal, to get better today. We all have to get better."

Roof said he thought the defensive front improved on Sunday and the defense forced turnovers, which is a major point of emphasis. "If you look at the two teams that played for the national championship, both were in the top five in takeaways," he said. "If you look at the teams that played for conference championships, they led the conference in takeaways. I think you have to get all of the way down to the 31st or 32nd team in the country, in terms of gaining takeaways, that didn't play in a bowl game."

Ted Roof

Roof said that on every play his staff gives a player a two, one or zero. A two is awarded for carrying out assignment using good technique, a one is awarded for getting the assignment done without using good technique and a zero is the score for not being successful on an assignment. "You add up the number of points you have divided by the number of plays, that is how you get your grade," Roof said. In addition, Roof said the defensive players have a "production grade." Explaining that system, he said, "If you are in 49 snaps and are involved in plays whether they are sacks, tipped balls or assists seven times, your production grade is one out of seven. We look at the assignment grade, but we also have a production grade because there is value in guys who make plays."

Roof said that linebackers Craig Stevens and Josh Bynes, safeties Mike McNeil, Zac Etheridge (in non-contact drills), Drew Cole and Christian Thompson plus defensive linemen Mike Blanc, Jake Ricks, Antonio Coleman and Zach Clayton did some good things at the weekend full pads practices. At cornerback, he said that Neiko Thorpe and Harry Adams are making progress.

Commenting on Stevens, Roof said, "He is very coachable. He is a salty veteran is what he is. He is becoming more physical every day, which is an area of emphasis for our entire unit."

Offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn said, "Anytime in the first day of pads, in my experience, you are going to have some sloppy situations. We didn't protect the football like I would like, but we came back today and did a little better job. I feel like we improved today."

Commenting on individuals on offense, Malzahn said, "It is hard for me to single out any one person because there has been some good and there has been some bad. There hasn't been a whole lot of complete consistency at the level we need to really recognize anybody at this point, but we have some guys getting closer. Hopefully, by the end of next week I will be able to answer that and have a few names."

The coordinator did note that he saw some good runs from senior tailback Ben Tate and some good catches from junior wide receiver Tim Hawthorne.

Malzahn added it is not unusual for players to take a while to adjust to learning a new offense, especially one with a faster tempo. "We are not throwing a lot at them. We are throwing a pace at them they are having to recover. It usually takes a couple of weeks before they can get to where they can actually recover mentally and then rebound for the next play. We are putting a lot of stress on them. We are straining them a lot right now. We will keep after them."

Redshirt junior Neil Caudle, who has played only sparingly since arriving on campus, said he is excited about getting a fresh start with a new coaching staff and a new offensive system being installed by coordinator Gus Malzahn.

"Quarterbacks in this offense have to know what everybody is doing at all times," Caudle said. "They have to be real vocal out there. This offense is a lot more fast paced. We have to think quicker, we have to do our assignments quicker."

"Everything in this offense is timing," Caudle added. "You have certain steps, certain depths where you are supposed to run routes."

Another quarterback, Barrett Trotter, is also in the mix this spring after redshirting last fall as a freshman. "I think I have been doing fairly well," he said. "I think I have a long way to go, I think we all do."

Commenting on Malzahn, who is also the position coach for the quarterbacks, Trotter said, "He is really into details, He will get onto you about small things. I don't know if he would specify a lot of things as bigger than others. I think he would put them a lot on the same level--at least he is going to yell at you the same...just a lot of the small details, they are just real particular, which is how they need to be. We need to get better."

Trotter ran a version of the Tony Franklin spread offense in high school at Briarwood Christian School in Birmingham. He was involved in that system last year at Auburn. Comparing the two, he says what Malzahn is doing, with two backs and more power running, is different than Franklin's system. However, both are no-huddle systems and Trotter sees another similarity. "They are both really fast-paced," he points out.

The Tigers are scheduled to return to practice on Tuesday night and have three more workouts planned this week on Thursday afternoon, Saturday morning and Sunday evening.

News and Notes: Running back/receiver Mario Fannin rolled his ankle in practice on Saturday and had to watch the practice on Sunday...Philip Pierre-Louis, who was lost for the season after suffering a torn ACL when he returned the opening kickoff of the 2008 campaign, noted that he is making progress. "They are really trying to limit me just to be sure," he said about his recovery. "They don't want me doing any contact right now." Pierre-Louis, who will be a redshirt freshman this fall, is having to wear a knee brace, but notes that he forgets he is wearing it at times...One of the state's top linebacker prospects for 2010, Jawara White from Charles Henderson High in Troy, attended Sunday's practice...Another 2010 prospect, defensive end and tight end Travis Dickson from Ocean Spring, Miss., High, also attended practice. Dickson has been to Auburn to see the Tigers play a game. His brother, Richard, is an LSU tight end and his father, Dick, played for Mississippi State...Cody Parkey, a kicker from Jupiter, Fla., High who committed to the Tigers last year, attended practice...Auburn signee Jamar Travis attended practice along with 2010 prospect, wide receiver Jeremy Nicholson, his teammate at W.S. Neal High School in Brewton...Malzahn said he is pleased to see the offensive line make progress in its offseason goals of getting bigger. "We are a run-play action team," he said. "We want a physical, hard, downhill edge so definitely we don't want guys losing weight who don't need to lose weight. We want them to be as big and strong as they can and keep their athleticism."

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