"I was looking for retention," Chizik said. "I was looking to see who retained what from the guys that had been here. From the younger guys we were looking to find out who kind of grasped concepts today. Who understood football today? Then we're always looking for great effort. I think all sides of the ball, the effort level was extremely high."
That effort and recognition from the spring is something that every coach was looking for on Wednesday. One of the most vocal and outgoing of those coaches is wide receiver Coach Trooper Taylor. He said for him the first day is one filled with questions and answers from his guys.
"I thought it went really well," Taylor said. "Those guys were really focused, even in the board sessions when we got them on the board writing. Here's what I do, I put him out there in front of his peers and make him draw the play and the formation. Then tell me what the quarterback's reads are and the tailback's reads are and then what every receiver is. That allows me to play the best players instead of a guy getting locked into one position."
Among the wide receivers Taylor singled out sophomore Darvin Adams as a guy that made some plays. He said as a group the wide receivers made more plays on Wednesday than they did the entire spring. Among the quarterbacks Chris Todd got the bulk of the work in the second group and threw the ball well while both Kodi Burns and Neil Caudle worked in the first practice group.
After a long winter and spring filled with questions about the team, his hiring and everything in between, Chizik was obviously glad to be back on the field and doing the job he loves, coaching football. He said it was good for everyone to start fresh and begin a new season.
"It was great," Chizik said. "I think the kids were ready. I think the coaches were ready. Speaking personally for myself, I was ready. It's just good to get back out there and start. The kids have really worked hard in the summer. We were really looking forward to seeing what kind of shape they were in. I think they did a great job today. We as coaches were really excited about it ourselves."
Now 6-5, 293, Nick Fairley could provide immediate depth on the defensive line.
One of the things that Auburn did a little differently on Wednesday was splitting the team into two groups for practice with the group not on the field going through a workout with Coach Kevin Yoxall. Chizik said there were some obvious reasons why most of the veterans went with the first group and the younger guys in the second but nothing that means anything in the long run.
"Right now we're trying to rep so many different people at different positions because we have a lot of positions that are wide open," Chizik said. "We split the squad but don't read into it. There was no rhyme and no reason. We basically had two practices so we could focus on the reps just trying to be a little creative in the way we could get guys some reps. Especially with the young guys who might be able to help us.
"We're going to do it as long as we feel like we have to as we continue to rep our guys," he added. "We want to get a good idea of what we want to do."
There was plenty of housekeeping to be done by Chizik on Wednesday as is usually the custom on the first day. Robert Cooper worked with the tight ends on the first day and is likely headed there permanently after signing as a quarterback/athlete. Wide receiver Philip Pierre-Louis wasn't at practice and isn't listed on the roster but Chizik said he would be back when school starts on Aug. 17. Chizik didn't give a reason for his absence. One player who won't be back is running back Justin Albert. The walk-on from Prattville is no longer a part of the team but no reason was given.
On the signee front the Tigers got word that both Terrance Coleman and Josh Jackson came up short in their bid to get in school and will both attend junior college. Safety Daren Bates has gotten word that he's in other than some paperwork left to finish up while defensive back Taikwon Paige is still waiting and considered a longshot to qualify at this point.
The Tigers will return to the practice field on Thursday afternoon for practice number two of the fall.