The head coach says the scrimmage should help provide further clarity for the staff as it works on building its depth chart with opening night against Louisiana Tech three weeks away.
The Tigers practiced in full pads on Friday morning and finished their third and final two-a-days workout earlier than scheduled in the evening after practicing during a rain shower. After that the team headed out for a group dinner and bonding time with the coaches, their families, trainers and other support personnel.
Chizik called the Friday practices productive. "We had a great blitz period out there today and some great special teams work," he says.
For a team that has practiced nine straight days, Chizik says the energy level "was really good," and adds, "it was really good when it started raining out. Practice always picks up when they can cool down like that, but even this morning it was a really good tempo for full pads practicing late last night, having a quick turnaround and practicing again in the morning. They did a good job."
The head coach notes that the Tigers are still in the installation phase of preseason drills. He says overall the players are doing a good job of learning their assignments although there is still work to be done.
The Tigers spent a good deal of time on the kicking game Friday morning with punter Clinton Durst having a very good day. He continues to be consistent and had several good hang time punts during the special teams portion of practice. Working at punt returner were Mario Fannin, Quindarius Carr, Montez Billings and Anthony Gulley.
A player who could also see some time back there returning punts is junior college transfer Demond Washington. On Friday the Tigers were working on punt coverage and that's where Washington could excel as a gunner on the outside. He's shown a good grasp of that to this point and it could be one of his roles this season.
Demond Washington (32) covers punts at Friday's practice.
On the injury front linebacker Eltoro Freeman continues to be held out of contact and is wearing a small cast on his right hand. The good news is that freshmen Harris Gaston and Dee Ford both returned to practice after suffering minor injuries and both worked at linebacker.
In other news and notes:
*With Chris Todd named the starting quarterback, the scrimmage on Saturday could help determine who is number two, Chizik says.
*Heisman Trophy winner Bo Jackson attended practices on Thursday and Friday and Chizik says the former running back's presence is appreciated. "It's just great to have guys who made Auburn great come back and talk to everybody about how special the place is. It is awesome to have him back around. It is awesome have him not just talk to the running backs, but to our whole football team about what it means to be an Auburn guy--an Auburn man. We are really, really glad to have him around."
Coach Gene Chizik
*Chizik says the experiment of moving freshman Ford to weakside linebacker from defensive end is a challenging one because the former St. Clair County High star doesn't have experience at linebacker. Ford was a defensive back before having a growth spurt in high school and moving to end.
"Dee is a really good athlete," Chizik says. "Whether he can make the transition to putting his hand on the ground and moving back, that remains to be seen. That is usually a more difficult move than putting him back and then down. Your vision is expanded and there are all kinds of moving parts in there, but athletically he is a talented kid. We are going to continue to see if he can help us there. He is an impressive athlete."
*Defensive coordinator Ted Roof agrees with Chizik that Ford's move is challenging. "What jumps out to me about him is that he doesn't get stuck on blocks. He doesn't get velcro-ed to blocks, he uses hands and gets off blocks and seems to have a nose for the football."
*Commenting on what he hopes to see in Saturday's scrimmage, Roof says, "Contact speed. I would like to see great effort. I like people flying around and hitting people at full speed and would like to knock some balls loose."
*Junior Mike Goggans, a returning starter at defensive end, won praise from Roof after Friday evening's practice. Goggans, who is up to 265 pounds, is also working at tackle. The coach anticipates Goggans playing both positions this year and says the work he has done at practice this preseason at tackle has helped him at end, too.
*Another defensive lineman, freshman end Nosa Eguae, is performing well in practice, Roof says. "I tell you what Nosa does. Nosa just shows up and comes to work every day. He is also the type of kid who gets it. Football makes sense for him and, as a coach, you tell him something and you coach him, you see it transformed so he doesn't make the same mistake again.
"As a coach, you really want to coach kids like that," Roof adds. "I think he has got a ways to go. He is just a true freshman. Especially in this league, where he plays, true freshmen playing on the defensive front in the Southeastern Conference, that is a pretty tough task."
*Freshman safety Daren Bates is another newcomer who has done good things in practice. "He is a guy who seems to show up at the ball a lot," Roof says. Safeties coach Tommy Thigpen notes that he is encouraged by Bates, who intercepted a pass and caused a fumble in the first scrimmage.
*The Tigers won't practice on Sunday, but will participate in Fan Day from 2-4 p.m. at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Admission is free and members of the women's basketball, soccer and volleyball teams will also be in attendance with Aubie and the cheerleaders.