Defense Wins Auburn's Second Scrimmage

A report on Auburn's second scrimmage of spring training is featured with comments from the defensive and offensive coordinators.

Auburn, Ala.--Although head coach Gene Chizik wouldn't say it after Auburn's second major scrimmage of the spring, a week before the A-Day Game the defense controlled the action in a two-hour session at Jordan-Hare Stadium on Saturday.

Defensive end Antonio Coleman had three sacks to lead a defensive front that won praise from position coach Tracy Rocker for its hustle in the scrimmage.

Linebacker Eltoro Freeman, who made the move to weakside from strongside earlier in the session, was a standout performer.

In Chizik's system for grading a scrimmage that allows the defense to score points for good plays, the defense was a 61-34 winner. The offense got off to a good start, taking a 28-15 lead early in the session before the defense took control.

Cornerback Neiko Thorpe returned an interception 72 yards for a score on a pass thrown by Neil Caudle, who shared first team duties with Kodi Burns.

Burns said that Caudle's interception happened when wide receiver Harry Adams missed an assignment. Adams was just moved from cornerback to wide receiver on Thursday in an effort to give the Tigers a deep threat with his 10.3 100 meters speed.

The other QB who has been battling for number one status, redshirt freshman Barrett Trotter, was relegated to work with the second stringers only.

Freshman defensive end Cameron Henderson intercepted a pass and had good moments rushing the quarterbacks.

Freshman running back Onterrio McCalebb, who is still not full speed with a hamstring problem, had three long runs and stood out in the scrimmage, drawing praise from running backs coach Curtis Luper. Ben Tate, another tailback, took a blow to the head early and sat out the rest of the scrimmage other than when the Tigers worked on kickoffs.

Walk-on Justin Albert, who was a standout in scrimmage one, got a chance to run the ball a good bit on Saturday and had another good day.

Gus Malzahn

Offensive coordinator and quarterback coach Gus Malzahn said he isn't ready to name a number one QB, but after studying the video of the scrimmage he said that he could be closer to establishing a depth chart.

"We are in evaluation mode and we need to be 110 percent once we do decide on the guy," said Malzahn, who made the QBs live for full contact on Saturday. "I think each practice you get closer and closer as you gather more information."

Quarterback Neil Caudle throws a pass in Saturday's scrimmage.

While the first scrimmage a week earlier featured the running game, there was more passing on Saturday. Malzahn said the scrimmage enabled the coaches to learn a lot about the receivers and quarterbacks.

However, one of the offensive highlights didn't involve the passing game. The running of tailback McCalebb stood out. "He is still not 100 percent, but he is pretty explosive," Malzahn said.

Defensive coordinator Ted Roof said he would need to grade the video to know for sure how his guys played, but added, "We wanted to feel good about our effort because there are going to be mistakes. I thought that we took a step in the right direction today, but at the same time we have four more practices and we can't afford to have any wasted opportunities.

"We have to take a positive step each and every time we step onto the field," Roof said. "There are a lot of things we have got to get cleaned up so we are not giving up big plays."

The big disappointment for the defense was an injury to safety Michael McNeil. He was taken from the stadium by ambulance with what is believed to be a broken bone in his leg. Chizik wouldn't confirm what the injury was, but others said the leg was broken.

Wide receiver Darvin Adams said he thought the receivers and the offense had some good moments, but said the scoreboard accurately that the defense out-played the offense. "I give credit to the defense," he said. "They did a good job of holding the offense down."

The Tigers will be off on Sunday for Easter and will return to practice on Tuesday.

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