Offense Wins Praise at Practice

Auburn put on the full pads again as they worked out under the lights at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Auburn, Ala.--The Auburn Tigers returned to football practice on Tuesday night and are still no closer to finding a starter at quarterback.

That is the word from head coach Gene Chizik, who put the Tigers through a full pads workout under the lights of Jordan-Hare Stadium that included 11 on 11 full contact work with the quarterbacks sharing time on the first and second teams.

While none of the quarterbacks stood out above the others, Chizik said, the coach did have praise for guys on that side of the line of scrimmage. "There were some good things," he noted. "Offensively, I thought we made some strides trying to run the football and being physical up front.

"Defensively, I would like to see a little more energy," he said. "I thought we got a little bit worn out tonight, but we are trying hard. Overall, it was a good practice tonight."

Commenting on the quarterbacks, Chizik said that Kodi Burns, Neil Caudle and Barrett Trotter are getting equal reps with the first and second teams in practice. "They are rotating in with all of the different groups so one person doesn't have an advantage of working with one group vs. another. We are thinking that is working out about the way it needs to."

Chizik said that no leader has emerged at quarterback. "By the end of spring practice, I don't even know if we will know that. I hate to sound like a broken record, but they are all doing some nice things. Then, again, they have got a ways to go as well. Saturday's scrimmage will be telling. It will be interesting."

Chizik had a visitor at practice, former Auburn head coach Pat Dye, who directed the program from 1981-1992. The field at Jordan-Hare Stadium is named in his honor.

"It was great to have him out to practice," Chizik said. "Those young guys, it was kind of an eye-opener for them, having a legend like that come and talk to them. He just talked what it is like to be an Auburn man. What it is like to be an Auburn student. What it is like to be an Auburn football player and at the end of day what it is like, what it will mean to them, being an Auburn alumnus. I thought it was a really neat message."

Defensive end Antoine Carter, who hurt his knee on Sunday at practice, is "doing really good," Chizik said. Whether or not he returns to the practice field this spring will "be up to the medical people," Chizik added.

The Tigers are now 60 percent of the way through with spring drills with nine practices completed. "They are tired and they are beat up," Chizik said of his team, noting that is one of the reasons he moved practice to the stadium to hopefully increase the energy.

The Tigers will return to practice on Thursday and will have their second major scrimmage of the spring on Saturday, which will be a week away from the April 18th A-Day game. Chizik said he and his staff have still not decided what format they will use for the spring game.

Special teams coach Jay Boulware said first string status is still up for grabs for both the punting and kicking duties. "It just keeps going back and forth," he said of the field goal battle between Wes Byrum and walk-on Chandler Brooks. "It's a pick 'em. I am just like most of the Auburn fans felt last year. I am yearning for some consistency at that position right now. That is an area of concern for me right now."

Boulware said on the punt and kickoff return teams "we are nowhere near settling down on where we want to be" with the returners. "We are going to look at the guys we have right now and maybe factor in some of the young kids in the signee class."

News and Notes: Commenting on the move of Marcus Jemison to linebacker from safety, Chizik noted the Tigers needed more speed and more depth at linebacker. "It is pretty fitting for him," Chizik said. "He is close to a 200-pound body. He is a tough kid. What we are asking him to do out in space is conducive to what he is and what type of body he has got. Being a safety, he is used to covering, whether it is man coverage or zone coverage. He is used to doing a lot of different things. We felt like the transition would be a smooth one. He has done a really nice job. He has really been unselfish about it, which is really good." The coach added, "He just wants to play. I am really proud of him for that."...Chizik noted that senior defensive lineman Jake Ricks is working hard to improve this spring and has made progress. "I really like his effort," Chizik said...Commenting on senior offensive tackle Andrew McCain, another player who has seen limited playing time at AU as has Ricks, Chizik said, "We really believe Andrew has to be a technician in this league to be effective. He is going to have to be really good at his trade, so to speak. I am really proud of where he has come, trying to really do what we are asking him to do. He really has and I am proud of him for that. Obviously, he has got to get better. He needs every day in pads he can get even though he is an older guy. He has played a lot of football, but game time experience is limited and he needs to be really good at his trade. He has got six more days to get better at what he does, but I think he can really help our football team."...Running backs coach Curtis Luper said that the battle for playing time will continue in the backfield. He notes that newcomer Onterrio McCalebb has done some good things, but is trying to play through a hamstring problem that has limited him."...Sophomore Eric Smith is having a solid spring, Luper said. "He is a good football player."...Boulware said a point of emphasis in spring practice is to find speed guys to cover on punts with the Tigers using a spread punt formation, something he got from Florida coach Urban Meyer when Meyer was at Utah where Boulware coached before he went to Iowa State. "I can't really count the snapper because he is the seventh gunner, but we basically have six for sure, guys who are athletes. That is probably one thing our fans will notice about our punt team next year that we have a lot of speed on it. We are going to look like we are a lot faster."

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