The defensive coordinator says there is no doubt that his group is way ahead of where it was last year at this same stage of the spring, but notes that there is still plenty of room for improvement. He also notes that the offense, which includes eight returning starters, should provide a real test for his defensive group.
"We are going to play base defense pretty much the whole day," Chizik says. "We are going to be looking for good technique and we will be watching the execution, starting with the defensive line. We will be watching how players take on blocks, how they hold the gaps--just the little things. We are looking at scheme in terms of everybody being in the right place, but we are looking for technique and who is playing hard.
"It is going to be very interesting because we aren't going to do very much other than play base defense," Chizik adds. "This year we have to get better playing our base defenses. Some of them were really good to us last year. Some of them weren't very good to us and we are going to focus on getting those much better."
Cornerback Lamel Ages prepares to tackle safety Donnay Young at Thursday's practice.
One of the positions that Chizik will be closely watching is the free safety spot where graduating senior Travaris Robinson was an All-SEC performer. Donnay Young, a junior with some starting experience at that position, faces a tough challenge from redshirt freshmen Will Herring and Karibi Dede.
"T-Rob is a smart player and made a lot of plays," Young says. "He set the bar real high for us in following him. I am trying to learn from what he did and do the same thing for us this year."
Young, a six-foot, 198-pounder, says with eight starters returning plus others like himself with starting experience the Tigers have a chance to be tough on defense. "We are all interested in working hard in practice everyday to get better at the things we are doing," he said. "If we do that we should be pretty good."
The junior from North Clayton High School in College Park, Ga., says that he is ready to have his best season. "I feel like I got stronger and faster in the offseason," he said. "I was 194 last year and I have added a lot of muscle to my frame."
Wide receiver Ben Obomanu is watched by cornerback Carlos Rogers in the 11 on 11 portion of Thursday's practice.
Despite having practice cut short by lightning on Thursday afternoon, head coach Tommy Tuberville said the two-hour session in full pads was a productive one despite rain during most of the workout. "It was a little slippery, but I thought we got a lot done," Tuberville said. "We did a lot of drills today because we have our coaches clinic here. We had 400 or 500 (high school) coaches and it is always good to bring them out and show them what we are doing with our drills."
The Tigers did one on one contact drills with no tackling to the ground permitted. They also had 11 on 11 work with contact, but no tackling. Overall, for the first full pads practice, Tuberville said he was pleased. "I was very impressed with where we picked up from the bowl game mentally--with the offense especially. We did make some mistakes. We did have a little problem with our centers because Danny Lindsey (foot surgery) is not practicing. We have a new freshman (Will Ward) and a guy (Jeremy Ingle) who hasn't been there very much.
"The running backs really looked good--Brandon Jacobs, Tre Smith and Ronnie Brown. All three got some work today and all three looked very sharp. Brandon has got a lot to learn, but the other guys are really helping him. Carnell (Carnell Williams) didn't do a lot today and we won't do much with him until the end of spring.
"On the offensive line and the defensive line it is just good to see the numbers we have. We have a lot more depth. It looks like we will at least have two good groups to scrimmage on Saturday and possibly three in some areas. That has not been the case the past few years."
Tiger Ticket Extra: Jeremy Wells is off to a strong start deep snapping on punts. He is expected to win that job held last season by Michael Lindsey, who was a senior in 2002. Wells will continue to deep snap for field goals. Kicking drills at the end of practice were called off due to the lightning. Tuberville said the Saturday scrimmage, which will run approximately 85 to 90 plays, will feature "a lot of kicking." The Saturday practice at the stadium will start at 10 a.m. The scrimmage will start 30 to 45 minutes later...The Auburn coaching staff put on a fish fry for the high school coaches on Thursday night with former Auburn star tailback Terry Henley as the guest speaker.