First Contact: Tigers Hit at Practice Three

A report with photos, notes and quotes from players and coaches is featured on Auburn's third preseason football practice.

Auburn, Ala.--With the first three games scheduled at night and the Auburn area under a heat advisory and no classes in session, Gene Chizik has opted to practice his team under the lights.

With three practices in the books, including one that went late into the night on Friday, the head coach said he likes what he is seeing.

"I think we got a little help from the weather and I think that the focus was definitely there," said Chizik, who pushed the start time of practice back nearly an hour to avoid rain and lightning in the area.

"I think they really wanted to come out and practice correctly with each other," Chizik said. "We didn't have full pads on so obviously we aren't taking everybody to the ground and that kind of stuff. They really tried to make it a physical practice and still take care of their teammates."

Gene Chizik

After watching the Tigers work out in helmets, shoulder pads and shorts for around three hours, the coach said, "I think tonight as a football team we got better in a lot of ways."

The Tigers will practice in shoulder pads, helmets and shorts on Saturday night, take Sunday off and go in full pads for the first time this preseason on Monday.

Cornerbacks coach Phillip Lolley said he and the rest of the coaching staff are taking a close look at freshmen Jonathan Mincy and Chris Davis hoping to get both ready to contribute this fall.

"Absolutely they will have a chance to play," Lolley said when asked about the pair. "As people saw at the end of the year last season against Northwestern, Neiko Thorpe had to play close to 150 snaps and we didn't have anybody we could go to in our nickel and dime situations. Because of all the injuries we had at safety we had to move Demond Washington there and that only left Walt McFadden and Neiko at corner with very few backups at that time.

Coach Phillip Lolley keeps an eye on his players at practice.

"Anthony Gulley Morgan and T'Sharvan Bell left spring as the backups behind Neiko and Demond," Lolley said "The one that has really, really improved is T'Sharvan Bell. He got so much better in spring. We also expect Demond and Neiko to get better and better because T'Sharvan is really closing quick and Anthony Gulley Morgan has really come on. He came in here as a receiver and made the transition over to us and he is getting better every day.

"Those guys, along with our two true freshman along with Ryan White, who is over at quarterback now, are guys we feel can give us some help," Lolley noted. "We want to give Ryan a chance to play quarterback here. We will give him a legit shot there. If that doesn't pan out then he has agreed he will come over with us.

"Ryan is a great athlete,"?Lolley added. "With all of those guys, along with Woody Parramore, that is it for the corners. Woody has been a walk-on here who has earned his spot on the team. The kids love him because he gives us that work-hard attitude every day and that is kind of what Auburn is all about. I am proud of all of those guys."

Wide receivers coach Trooper Taylor vowed that his pupils will be improved in all phases of the game in 2010 vs. 2009, including blocking. Taylor's wideouts were one of the most improve parts of the team compared to 2008.

"You will see a big-time emphasis on blocking," Taylor said. "It will be night and day and it will be noticeable in every game."

Taylor said so far in practice his three newcomers--Shaun Kitchens, Antonio Goodwin and Trovon Reed--are off to good starts.

"As far as them being athletic and what you are looking for, if we can get some more of them I am going to re-negotiate," Taylor joked. "We are going to talk about some things because those guys will make us really good."

Taylor predicts a more productive season for receiver Emory Blake than he had as a freshman last fall. "Emory will play a bunch," the coach said. "The thing for Emory, he was a true freshman playing in the SEC and that was tough for him with all of the things we do alignment-wise. If you just put Emory in one spot and left him there he would have done great, but because we moved him around, we taxed him a little bit more than you do with most."

The other reason that Blake didn't play more last season was his blocking, which Taylor said should be improved this fall.

In other news:

*Rain and lightning pushed the starting time of practice back as the Tigers finished after 10 p.m. The Tigers were scheduled to work out on Saturday afternoon, but will go under the lights instead with a 7 pm. start.

*Trooper Taylor was making the punt returners practice catching footballs using just one hand, a drill designed to teach them to concentrate on the ball as long as possible. Freshman wide receivers Trovon Reed and Antonio Goodwin were in the punt return group along with freshman safety Demetruce McNeal. Cornerback Aairon Savage was also catching punts along with wide receiver Quindarius Carr and running back Eric Smith.

*Players working as kickoff returners on Friday night included freshman cornerback Chris Davis, freshman running back Michael Dyer, cornerback Demond Washington, running back Davis Hooper, running back Onterio McCalebb, wide receiver Terrell Zachery and running back Mario Fannin.

Philip Pierre-Louis catches a pass from a ball machine. The redshirt sophomore wide receiver is making a strong comeback from knee surgery he had in the spring after being injured during a scrimmage.

Freshman offensive linemen Tunde Fariyike (65), Roszell Gayden (78) and Chad Slade (62) wait their turn to run a blocking drill on Friday night.

*Offensive line coach Jeff Grimes did a lot of individual teaching of assignments tonight with the young offensive linemen.

*Visitors at practice tonight included former Tigers Chris Todd and Terry Henley, a standout running back for the Tigers during the Shug Jordan Era.

*Chizik said that he had not heard the Tigers were ranked 23rd in the USA Today/Coaches Top 25 poll. "IT is nice that somebody thinks we are worthy of that, but as any good coach will tell you it is all kind of window dressing and you have to see where you are at the end of the year."

Auburn is one of six SEC teams ranked. "In my opinion, it is the best league in the country," Chizik said. "It is a very talented league, it is a very competitive league."

*Chizik said there is no timetable for the return of wide receiver DeAngelo Benton, who is out with an injured finger.

*Freshman running back Ladarious Phillips has been given the nickname of "Da-Da," which is pronounced Day-Day. He said Friday night that he is pleased with how the first three days of practice have gone. He noted that although he is 291 pounds and moving well, his goal is to get his weight to 275.

Quarterbacks (left to right) Clint Moseley (15), Neil Caudle (19), Barrett Trotter (14) and Cameron Newton (2) run a drill at Friday night's practice.

*Offensive line coach Jeff Grimes said after practice on Friday that he is really pleased with his four returning starters and the right tackle spot is wide open with the top candidates, in no order, Roszell Gayden, Brandon Mosley and John Sullen, although Sullen is also working at guard. The four returning starters are Ryan Pugh at center, Byron Isom and Mike Berry at guards and Lee Ziemba at tackle.

The offensive line coach said that sophomore Sullen is a much better player at 305 pounds than he was last year. Sullen, who has dropped 52 pounds in the last year, is exactly at his goal weight. In addition to being more mobile this year, Grimes said that Sullen has gotten tougher.

*Grimes said it is too early to get a read on the freshmen offensive lineman other than to say he is pleased with how they have done this week.

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