Defense Makes Progress In Wednesday Scrimmage

A report on Auburn's Wednesday football practice features comments from players and coaches.

Auburn, Ala.--In a full pads practice that was about 50 percent scrimmage on Wednesday, the defense had its best day of the spring.

The offense, which held the upper hand in the two previous scrimmages this spring, continued to have some big plays, but both offensive and defensive players plus coaches said the defense came on strong.

Senior linebacker Craig Stevens, who noted the offense was the winner in Saturday's scrimmage, said there was "no doubt" the defense was the winner on Wednesday and that was reflected in the coaching staff's scoring system that gives the defense points for three-and-outs and big plays.

"We made a major improvement today," Stevens said. "We came out kind of sluggish. They jumped up on us in the beginning. I think it was 14-0 and then we started picking it up. We got a couple of three-and-outs and we were able to pull it out in the end."

Interceptions by safeties Ikeem Means, a walk-on, and Drew Cole helped the defensive effort. Assistant head coach Trooper Taylor said the defensive front, led by Mike Blanc and Nick Fairley, did a solid job stopping runs and passes and said the defense had some success with its blitzes.

Auburn's top receiver, Darvin Adams, was a spectator at the scrimmage so backups could get more practice time in full speed, 11 on 11 situations. He said DeAngelo Benton, who caught a long TD pass, Ralph Spry and Kodi Burns stood out in the passing game. Each had one touchdown reception.

Commenting on the touchdown catch by Benton, Taylor said, "He did a nice job. DeAngelo kind of stuck the defensive back and got in the back corner (of the end zone). Cam let it go perfectly where only he (Benton) could catch. D-Lo went up and made a nice play, but the ball placement was unbelievable. If he would have missed it, it would have gone out of bounds. That is what you are looking forward. We talk about catching balls in windows. That was a peep hole. He put it in there.

"He made a nice throw to Kodi Burns, too, a frozen rope between two defenders," Taylor added.

Spry is a walk-on junior transfer from Auburn High who played two seasons for the Minnesota Golden Gophers and redshirted last fall. Taylor said that Spry has made significant improvement this spring, but wasn't happy that the transfer had a fumble on Wednesday.

Adams said "all of the quarterbacks are really throwing the ball good now" and he added that he likes the fact that all four QBs can throw the bomb. He said newcomer Cam Newton has been impressive. "He has a big body and he can run the ball also," Adams said of the 6-6, 250-pound QB. "On zone reads he is another factor running the ball."

Adams said that Newton has been doing a good job of trying to step up as a leader of the team both on and off the field, something that linebacker Stevens said he has also noticed. Newton threw TD passes to Benton and Burns on Wednesday.

Adams noted that offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn, who was not happy with two interceptions on Saturday, lectured the offense after the scrimmage about holding on to the football. "Coach Malzahn said we didn't do pretty good because we had like three fumbles and a lot of penalties," Adams said. "We have got to do better."

Defensive coordinator Ted Roof said, "I thought we made some progress today. I thought the contact speed was better. At this point of spring practice everybody is beat up, everybody is tired, but I thought the contact speed was better and it looked like we tackled better today--not to be confused with good enough because it wasn't good enough, but it was better and a step in the right direction."

The Tigers have not completed 12 practices. They will have a light workout on Friday.

"We are going to polish on Friday, but we are not going to put the vanilla stuff on," Taylor says. "We are going to see who our play-makers are."

News and Notes: Commenting on a junior defensive tackle's play, Trooper Taylor said, "Nick Fairley, he's something. Blanc, across the board. Even looking at Goggans and Nosa how they are penetrating upfield, that is why some of the balls were interecepted, too...Senior kicker Wes Byrum says he has been working around a sore kicking knee, but will be ready to kick on A-Day, which is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Saturday. Byrum says a major goal for his final college season is to handle the kickoff duties in addition to kicking field goals and extra points. Quarterback Neil Caudle is the favorite to be Byrum's holder...Chandler Brooks, a walk-on junior, is the only other kicker on the team this spring. Signee Cody Parkey is expected to join the competition for playing time in preseason practice in August. Parkey, from Jupiter, Fla., High, is rated as the No. 2 prospect in the country for the 2010 signee class by notes that Brooks has been kicking well as has senior punter Ryan Shoemaker, who was the starter as a freshman, but has been a backup the past two seasons to Clinton Durst, who was a senior last fall...DeAngelo Benton, who playing sparingly last season as a true freshman, had one of the big plays of the scrimmage, catching a touchdown pass....Auburn will divide up the teams as evenly as possible on Saturday to make the A-Day game as competitive as possible according to Taylor...QB Neil Caudle made a throw to a receiver's back shoulder that impressed wide receivers coach Taylor...Taylor says that the A-Day Game will be an important evaluation day for the coaches to study how players perform in front of a crowd. "Some guys are real good when there is nobody else in there. It is a little different catching a punt or catching a pass or running a route when people are cheering or booing for you."

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