Veteran Likes First Scrimmage Energy

Auburn senior linebacker Craig Sanders gives his impressions of the first preseason scrimmage.

Auburn, Ala.--With the focus on the passing game and getting looks for many of the young players on both sides of the ball, it was a chance for senior linebacker Craig Stevens to get some work in and then become an extra set of eyes for the coaching staff. While he admits it was far from what they needed to do as a defense, he saw some good things out of Wednesday night's scrimmage.

"Overall I feel like we did pretty good both offensively and defensively," Stevens said. "The offense had a couple of big plays. We're trying to limit those. Then again we turned around and made a couple of big stops on defense. Overall I thought it was a great scrimmage for both sides."

Much of the work in scrimmage one went to younger players on both sides of the football and defensively that is not only a privilege to have some bodies, it's a necessity because several of the incoming freshman will have to play a significant role for the Tigers in 2010. One of the few positions with veterans is at safety where Zac Etheridge, Aairon Savage and Mike McNeil are all back. Still that didn't keep a pair of players from making some noise anyway in the defensive backfield.

"The young guys got a lot of reps," Stevens said. "Demetruce McNeal at safety made a lot of big plays back there. He's one guy that really stood out to me. Ryan Smith did a good job at safety too. They were back there hustling all day. That's what it's going to take to build some depth on this defense. All of the young guys overall on defense had a great day. They were hustling around. They might not have known where to go but once the ball was snapped they were hustling around."

At linebacker newcomers Jake Holland, LaDarius Owens and Jawara White all got plenty of action, but a newcomer to the position also got plenty of work as well. Making the move from safety to linebacker, sophomore Daren Bates is becoming more and more comfortable at his new spot according to Stevens.

"Bates is doing good," Stevens said. "With him being back that's another linebacker. He's always been a hustle guy. With him coming from safety to linebacker he picked up on things quickly. Him being back has added depth at the linebacker position. He's been hustling and making plays."

With a pair of scrimmages remaining before the season opener on Sept. 4 against Arkansas State, Auburn has to quickly begin to narrow down the focus on both sides of the football to get a depth chart and playing rotation together. That will allow the coaches to teach and tweak the schemes to fit the players they expect to be in the mix. Stevens said until that is done it's his job and the job of the older players to teach and work with all the guys as much as possible to help their progression heading into the new season.

"It feels good just to bring those guys along," Stevens said. "They've been picking things up quick. Me and Josh and Bates have been trying to pull them along and teach them as quickly as possible and trying to simplify the game for them. We're trying to get them where they can just go out and fly around like they did in high school. Overall it has been a good thing for us. We've been getting a break every now and then. They're going to provide some help for us."

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