Chizik Looking for Defensive Improvement

News, notes and quotes from Auburn's fourth spring football practice are featured.

Auburn, Ala.--Gene Chizik made it clear on Monday he wants to see improved play from his defense when it comes to stopping the run.

That was a point of emphasis for the Auburn coach after a workout that lasted two hours and 15 minutes on Monday, the fourth of 15 days of spring practice for his Tigers.

Chizik said the offense's success running the football in practice has been more of a defensive issue than anything the offense was doing.

"I think it was more, offensively, getting our defensive line and linebackers moved off the ball a little bit," Chizik said. "It started some with the defensive line and it drifted back to the linebackers some--really not being downhill enough and fitting in their gaps and seams. Then the safeties not fitting well.

"It is a complete team thing, it is not one area," said Chizik, who noted the offense was able to make some big plays in Saturday's first full pads workout that featured limited scrimmaging. "There is no one guy on offense who created the problem."

Chizik said at times the offensive front did a good job of being physical and knocking defenders off the line of scrimmage in the first full pads practice.

The Tigers had the full pads back on again on Monday. "I?thought it was a good practice today and again it was good to see that the energy level was up. We have a long way to go in terms of technique issues and things we are trying to do day by day taking some baby steps to improve."

The coach said he has liked the effort he has seen from his team, including the most recent practice. Chizik noted that his players were "pretty alert" for a Monday morning.

Offensive guard Bart Eddins is shown at Monday's workout.

Wide receiver coach Trooper Taylor said he is pleased with how much his players have retained from the 2009 season going into spring drills 2010. Last spring the focus was teaching the details of Gus Malzahn's offense and getting a feel for who could do what.

"There is power in knowledge so when they understand the big picture of the play is it is easier for them to execute and it also gives us feedback," Taylor said. "We have got guys coming off field saying, ‘Hey, Coach, the safety is rolling down right here, we need to run this. ‘Look, the linebacker was wide this time, we need to run this.' That has been really good to see.

"It helps you as a coach to build confidence when you watch it on tape and they are saying what they saw and it matches what you saw on tape," Taylor noted. "That has been the biggest improvement."

Taylor said he is trying to develop wide receiver depth and teach players to line up at multiple positions. Taylor said that he is seeing improvement from backups DeAngelo Benton, Emory Blake, Kodi Burns, Ralph Spry, Philip Pierre-Louis and Quindarius Carr.

Commenting on Spry, a transfer from the University of Minnesota who redshirted last year, Taylor said, "He has done a good job of making some plays. He caught the bubble (screen) and made several people miss."

Spry is the son of Auburn head track and field coach Ralph Spry. Taylor said a year of conditioning under the direction of Kevin Yoxall has made a big improvement in receiver. "He really looks good and he is fast," Taylor pointed out.

News and Notes: The Tigers are scheduled to return to the practice field on Wednesday. Later this week they are planning to practice on Friday and Saturday...Auburn signees LaDarius Owens, a linebacker from Jess Lanier, and Jeffrey Whitaker, a defensive tackle from Warner Robins, Ga., High, attended Monday's practice...Chizik said he believes senior-to-be cornerback Demond Washington will be more effective this season after playing four games at safety last year after injuries depleted the depth at those positions. "I think anytime you can cross-train somebody for two positions it does nothing but help provided they are mentally ready for that and he was."...Tailback Mario Fannin said that so far he feels good about how practice is going. "I am just trying to get comfortable back there and make sure I?get better every day," he said. The senior said he has always had he desire to be Auburn's starting tailback and he is trying to stay focused in each practice so he can make that happen. "Right now it is just learning everything, getting everything done and just getting more prepared," he said...Running backs coach Curtis Luper said that he is hoping that the added muscle and size will help Onterio McCalebb be a more effective tailback this season. McCalebb, who is up 15 pounds since he arrived at AU last summer, is 175, 10 more pounds than he played at in 2009. "I can definitely feel the difference on the field," the sophomore running back said.

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