Grimes, Other Auburn Coaches See Progress

A report on the Auburn football team features comments from Jeff Grimes and other Auburn coaches as the Tigers are into their second week of spring drills.

Auburn, Ala.--The Tigers began their second week of spring football drills with a light workout in shorts, shoulder pads and helmets on a sun-drenched, 70 degrees day on the Auburn campus with the emphasis on teaching.

The session was the fifth of the 15 days of practice allowed that includes the April 17th spring scrimmage for A-Day.

Offensive line coach Jeff Grimes said that he can tell a positive difference in his group of players compared to this time last year.

"I think we have certainly made progress and experience is such a huge factor at the offensive line positions," Grimes says.

"Just understanding how to play the game is a big deal," he added. "We are so much further along in the players' knowledge of the game and their knowledge of the system than we were at this time last year. I?think they will show that as the spring goes along and particularly as we go into the coming season."

Grimes returns his starter at center, Ryan Pugh, both of his starting guards in Byron Isom and Mike Berry and starting offensive tackle Lee Ziemba. All of those players are seniors as is Bart Eddins, who started the Tennessee game at guard last season. Eddins is working with the first unit in Berry's spot while Berry recovers from offseason surgery and takes the role of a student assistant coach this spring, Grimes noted.

The Auburn coach said he is encouraged by what he is seeing from newcomers Roszell Gayden and Brandon Mosley at the right tackle spot vacated by the graduation of Andrew McCain.

Coach Jeff Grimes (left) watches Roszell Gayden (78).

"We are a long way ahead of where we were at this time last year, but I would be awfully disappointed if we weren't," Grimes said of the offensive line as a group.

Offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn and defensive coordinator Ted Roof made similar comments on Wednesday following Auburn's practice.

"I think we are a lot further ahead than we were at this point last year," noted Roof, who said the Tigers should be ahead based on the number of players back and this being the second year for Tigers to work with the current defensive coaching staff.

Commenting on the offense, Malzahn said, "The veterans definitely have a better understanding as well they should. Our expectations are a lot higher though."

Malzahn said the Tigers are focusing on "the little things" offensively. He added, "We are trying to be tough on the guys and striving for perfection."

The coach said he has not narrowed the quarterback battle. "Not yet, but we are getting to that point. We are five days through our install so we have installed about everything we will install for the spring. We have been evaluating each position."

The QB coach/coordinator said, "Obviously, you can't rotate four quarterbacks equally all spring. I told our guys it is getting to the point where we need to start making some decisions."

Malzahn, who pointed out that newcomer Cameron Newton is making steady progress in learning the offense each practice, noted that all four quarterbacks are having a good spring and making it difficult for him to narrow the QB battle, but said that is a good thing. He added that Neil Caudle and Clint Mosley are throwing the football well and that the rust is coming off improving Barrett Trotter as he gets back into the swing of things coming off his knee rehab that kept him sidelined last season.

Caudle was the top backup last year to Chris Todd. "Neil knows the offense about as well as I do," Malzahn said. "As well he should. He is a smart kid and he has been in the offense for a year."

Malzahn said that Caudle has stepped up as a leader and will be one for the team this year whether he is a starter or backup. "He is a lot more authoritative," Malzahn said. "Neil Caudle is the type of kid that you want on your team anyway. You want him representing our football team, our university. He is class and character--as good as it gets."

Malzahn said the QB depth situation is better than it was at this time last year. "We feel like we have got four quality quarterbacks."

The Tigers will return to practice on Friday and work again on Saturday.

News and Notes: Roof said that early high school graduates, linebacker Jessel Curry and defensive end Craig Sanders, made good decisions to get a head start on their college careers. "Time will tell, they will certainly have the opportunity to (play this season)," the coach said. "They both have tools. It is just how quick can they pick it up and not think so much and just react and let it be second nature to them."...Roof said that cornerback T'Sharvan Bell, who played well in the Outback Bowl, is having a good spring. "His whole approach to things, his whole approach to life, he has made some major strides in that. I am real proud of him. Once again, he still has a long way to go. He came in and made a couple of big plays in the bowl game and has had a good offseason and he just needs to continue to work to get better. I am confident he is going to do that."

Defensive end Nosa Egaue said after practice on Wednesday that he is 100 percent now in his recovery from having a fractured bone in his foot. He remembers he first figured out something was wrong because of pain in his foot on the Wednesday prior to the opening game. He said got the word on Friday before the game that he couldn't play from the team physician, who said if he saw action he could break the bone and be out for a year...Malzahn noted that Onterio McCalebb is an improved all-around football player this spring, particularly when he doesn't have the football in his hands. "He has a better feel for the position," the coach said of the tailback. "He has come a long way. He has really done a good job for us with his assignments when he does not have the football."

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