Tigers Show Improvement In Saturday Practice

Auburn had a full-squad football practice on Saturday as the Tigers prepare to put on the full pads possibly as early as Sunday.

Auburn, Ala.--Following a sluggish first practice in shells on Friday, the Auburn Tigers got back to work on Saturday and Coach Gene Chizik said he was pleased with how the team responded.

Working together as a complete squad for the first time after splitting into two groups the first three days, Chizik said he liked the effort of his team in the nearly three-hour practice.

"Today I thought it was a lot better day," Chizik said. "A lot better day's work I guess you could say than yesterday. I thought the focus was better. The physicality of practice was better. I thought we got a lot done today, much more than yesterday."

One of the areas of focus for the Tigers in the preseason is at the quarterback position. After splitting up for the first three days, all five quarterbacks practiced together on Saturday. Chizik said it made breaking up the reps a little more difficult as they got into 11-on-11 work.

"We tried to give three to four different guys reps today," Chizik said. "They all took reps in individual work, but when you go to team settings it's difficult. Not all of them got reps in that particular part of practice."

In addition to veterans Chris Todd, Kodi Burns and Neil Caudle, true freshman Tyrik Rollison also got some team reps on Saturday.

"We threw Tyrik in there some and let him get some reps," Chizik said. "It was mainly those four guys."

An offensive player who fans are anxious to see in action is running back/wide receiver/quarterback Mario Fannin. A player who could see action in a variety of roles for the Tigers, Fannin said he's happy to be back on the field with the pads on and happy about his role in the offense.

"It's feeling great," Fannin said. "It gives us an opportunity to get physical before the season and to get a little better in that aspect of the game.

"It's a lot of fun for me," he added. "I just thank the coaches for trusting me in that aspect of the game. I just try my best at everything they tell me to do. I just try to do it full speed ahead and get it done. It feels great."

Defensively, much of the focus is at the linebacker position where veterans Craig Stevens and Josh Bynes return as the only true experienced players on the roster. Backup Spencer Pybus saw some limited action last season, but that's it for players that have ever played a snap for the Tigers. Junior college transfer Eltoro Freeman is expected to be the other starter on the weak side but after that it's a toss up.

Jonathan Evans

Stevens got his first chance to glimpse some of the young guys on Saturday as the team joined together for the first full-squad practice of the preseason. Stevens said he liked what he saw out of guys like Harris Gaston and Jonathan Evans.

"Harris has been getting some work at the will (weakside linebacker)," Stevens said. "Behind me is Ashton Richardson (walk-on) and Chris (Evans) little brother. He's been getting some reps behind me.

"Jonathan is a lot like Chris," he added. "He doesn't really know what he's doing yet. It's hard to know what you're doing coming fresh out of high school with the terminology. He knows how to get to the ball. I think sooner or later we'll clean it up and he'll be a ball player. Harris is a lot like me as far as body type. He's got real long arms. I think he'll be a good player."

One of the players who returned to the practice field full-time on Saturday is junior offensive lineman Bart Eddins. He said he worked mostly at center with the second-team offensive line. He said he's worked some at guard and tackle but it was his first extensive duty after having knee surgery over the summer.

He said his knee felt fine, but he's sure it will be sore some on Sunday. Coming from a family of competitors, Eddins said the toughest thing for him is to ease back into things. He noted that several guys have moved around to different positions in the preseason and Coach Jeff Grimes told them he wants them to learn as much as possible about every spot on the field.

True freshman offensive tackle Aubrey Phillips missed Saturday's practice with what Chizik described as a non-football medical issue. He said there were some medical test to be done on Phillips in the coming days and they were hoping to learn more about his situation at that time.

Sophomore linebacker Adam Herring still isn't practicing and Chizik said they're not certain when he will return to the field. Herring missed spring practice with knee and ankle problems and is still recovering from those injuries.

The Tigers will return to practice Sunday evening in what could be the first full pad practice of the fall. Chizik said they would determine before the workout if they would go full or continue in half-shells.

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