Tigers Have More Contact at Sunday Practice

An Auburn football practice report features comments from the team's coordinators plus news on players working at new positions.

Auburn, Ala.--Despite scrimmaging a day earlier, the Tigers put the full pads on again Sunday evening for a two-hour session that included 11 on 11 full contact work as Auburn passed the halfway point of spring football training.

Coaches used Auburn's eighth of 15 spring practices to correct mistakes from the first major scrimmage held on Saturday. They also used the session to teach individual skills in position groups.

Defensive coordinator Ted Roof, who also coaches the linebackers, has moved Eltoro Freeman from strongside linebacker to the weakside and moved redshirt freshman Marcus Jemison from safety to strongside linebacker.

Roof said he isn't certain if Freeman will stay on the weakside or move back to the strongside, but notes that he likes the redshirt sophomore's potential and work ethic.

Commenting on why the Tigers moved Jemison, Roof said, "He wasn't getting very many reps (at safety). When you look at his body type...and he is a pretty instinctive kid and he can run. What we did like about him is he seemed to tackle well and is one of the guys who can make plays in space."

Jemison, who is up to 202 pounds on his 6-2 frame, said the move makes sense to him and notes that he feels like he is doing well for someone who hasn't played linebacker since he was a sophomore in high school.

Last season he was seriously injured in August at practice and missed the entire season. Jemison suffered a broken fibula as well as a dislocated ankle.

Jemison notes that he was so depressed about the injury for about two months he considered quitting football, but noted his mother, who has been battling cancer, wouldn't go for that.

Jemison notes it has been a tough freshman year with his mom's ill health and his injury, but says things are looking up because his mom is doing better, he is making progress and he also likes the new coaching staff.

Jemison, who said his goal is to get up to 225 pounds, notes that he doesn't feel like he is 100 percent physically yet, but is making progress. "It is coming back," he said.

The opportunity to earn playing time is there for Jemison with the Tigers being short on linebackers. Adam Herring and D'Shaun Barnes are sidelined with injuries.

Craig Stevens is the number one guy on the strongside while Josh Bynes is running first team at middle linebacker. Those are the only two returning linebackers with significant college playing time.

Marcus Jemison was injured last preseason and redshirted his first fall on campus. He is now getting a look at linebacker.

Offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn said after grading video of the scrimmage he has seen progress from all three quarterbacks in the battle for first string status, but as of Sunday night there is no number one, two or three guy on the depth chart.

"Each one of them had a play or two that kinda of you go wow, ‘That's what we are looking for.' At the same time there were a couple of mental busts, a couple of physical reads that weren't what we wanted. They bounced back today and looked like they corrected the things we talked about."

Malzahn said that he is asking a lot of the QBs as far as reading defenses and getting the ball to the right place at the right time. "Each day you can tell they are grasping more and more," he said. "They are getting confidence.

"We don't have a lot of our offense in now, we just have the base offense. After they get that down we can start getting to the other stuff. They are competing hard. We went live with them again today. I think that is the way we can evaluate the quickest. We are going to find out what is inside and how they'll compete."

The coaches said the defense was the winner of Saturday's scrimmage, but by a narrow margin. Commenting on what he saw, Malzahn said, "As many people as we rotate, overall I was pretty well pleased. Our guys are trying to be physical, they are trying to play faster, trying to do what they are coached to do. There were some mistakes, obviously, but they are all correctable. Our guys came out to practice today and they had the attitude that they want to correct it and get better."

Going into the first major scrimmage, Roof said he wanted to see intensity and physical play from the defense. "We made a step in the right direction," the coordinator said. "By no means are we where we want to be, but as far as building a foundation we have definitely taken a step in the right direction."

Sophomore running back Eric Smith said he thought the first major scrimmage was a solid one for the Tigers, but there is plenty for the offense to work on this week. "I feel like it went pretty well for the offense. There are some things we will have to work on as an offense. There were a lot of good things, but there were some bad things also. The defense played aggressively. Overall, I thought it was a good scrimmage, a good first scrimmage."

Smith said that he got plenty of chances to run the football along with Ben Tate, Onterrio McCalebb and walk-on Justin Albert, who was impressive in his first opportunity to show the coaches what he could do in a scrimmage situation. "It was pretty equal the amount of carries we all had," Smith said.

The scoreboard said the defense won the scrimmage and they played very aggressive, attacked the ball and made key stops when they had to, but I feel like we played well, too.

"We didn't really get to run our offense as fast as we wanted to at times because we had to let the defense get set," Smith added.

Sophomore cornerback Neiko Thorpe agreed with Smith that the first scrimmage was a solid one.

Commenting on the offense, Thorpe said, "The quarterbacks did pretty good. They kept a fast tempo. They ran a couple of live plays and played at the same tempo even when they weren't live."

Thorpe has won praise from the coaches for his work in the secondary this spring. "I feel like I am improving," he said. "I want to improve every day. I feel like if you are going to be out here you need to work hard to get better."

The cornerback said he is working on gaining size and strength after playing immediately last fall as a true freshman when there was a rash of injuries in the secondary.

"I know what I need to eat now," Thorpe said. "I weigh 183 now. I think I weighed 171 during the season last year. I am not done. I feel like I am going to continue to get bigger. I am just going to keep doing the workouts Coach Yox (Kevin Yoxall) has for me."

The Tigers will return to practice on Tuesday night.

Trooper Taylor left prepares to club Tommy Trott (5) in a drill at Sunday's practice to simulate contact while a catch is being made.

News and Notes: Defensive end Antoine Carter left practice early after hurting a knee. No report on his status was available from the coaching staff after the practice...Neiko Thorpe said he thought that a junior safety played well in the scrimmage. "Mike McNeil stepped up, he says...Craig Sanders, one of the top prospects in the state, attended Sunday evening's practice. He is a junior at Ariton High School...Another highly regarded in-state junior, running back D.J. Howard from Lincoln High, made a return visit to Auburn after attending junior day in March...Mario Fannin, who was out of action last week with an ankle problem, participated in Sunday's drills as did another wounded offensive player, tight end Tommy Trott, who has not been cleared for contact yet while rehabbing from knee surgery. Fannin hasn't been cleared for contact yet.

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