Chizik Likes Practice and Freshman Class

Auburn is in two-a-days mode and this report features a report on Thursday's football practice.

Auburn, Ala.--After a quick turnaround following a Wednesday night scrimmage, Coach Gene Chizik put the Auburn football Tigers through a two-hour practice on Thursday and plans to do it again on Thursday night.

"Today I thought was a really good practice," Chizik said. "I thought they really pushed through. They stayed focused out there. It was a warm day out here and we needed it.

"We went out early without pads on and put them on halfway through practice. We tried to do some teaching stuff from yesterday's scrimmage and then go back and be able to rep some things and work some special things with pads on. I think that was the right thing to do and they responded today. I really felt they tried to get better at stuff they weren't good at last night.

"We are still installing things," Chizik noted. "I thought they were focused today and they came out to try to be a better football team."

Commenting on the first scrimmage of the preseason, the coach said that he saw good plays on both sides of the football and things that will provide the coaches teaching moments. "I know we are making strides as a football team," said Chizik, who noted that there is still work to do to get rid of some of the "sloppy" play he saw on Wednesday night.

He said for the second scrimmage of the preseason, which is scheduled for Saturday, he wants to see more polish on both sides of the football.

Chizik continued a consistent theme in the first two weeks of preseason football team by praising the freshman class as a group.

"I can't tell if I am just ready for them to contribute or they are really ready, I don't know," Chizik said. "Seemingly, there are quite a few of them that are going to contribute to us and I say that eight days into practice. It might be a little premature, but there are quite a few of them, if you ask me at this point of time if I am counting on them helping us, my answer is yes I am."

The coach said he hasn't been surprised with how well the freshmen are performing and noted that for a first college scrimmage players like Antonio Goodwin, Corey Lemonier, Shaun Kitchens, Jonathan Mincy, Jefffrey Whitaker and LaDarius Owens, plus others handled themselves nicely.

Goodwin caught two touchdowns in the scrimmage. "That was exciting," he said. "I feel really good with how things are going in practice and I hope I will be able to get playing time this year."

Goodwin, a backup to Darvin Adams and Quindarius Carr, said both of the older players have helped him learn his assignments.

One of the points of emphasis for the scrimmage was avoiding penalties, a problem for the 2009 Tigers. Chizik said that the Tigers still need work in that area on both offense and defense, but added it wasn't a "penalty-fest" in the first scrimmage. "Any penalty is disappointing to me when that is what you are emphasizing and talking about," he said.

Zac Etheridge, who was held out of Wednesday night's scrimmage, is shown at Thursday's practice. The safety is coming back from a serious neck and spine injury suffered last year vs. Ole Miss.

Trovon Reed, who was held out of action with a leg injury at Wednesday night's scrimmage, catches a punt in Thursday's practice.

In other news and notes from Thursday's first practice:

*Senior Wes Byrum looked sharp kicking field goals in practice. He kicked several balls in the team drill that would have easily been good from past 50 yards out. Several NFL scouts were watching him closely. Neil Caudle is the number one holder. Another quarterback, Clint Moseley, is a backup holder.

Wes Byrum made this field goal in Thursday's practice.

*Moseley, who was sharp passing the ball in the scrimmage, said that was the most fun he has had since he was a senior in high school leading Leroy to the state championship.

*Thursday is Auburn Radio Network affiliates day. Chizik and men's basketball coach Tony Barbee talked to the group thanking them for carrying Auburn games. AU's play by play man, Rod Bramblett, attended practice and was with the group.

*Former Tiger and former NFL offensive lineman Kendall Simmons attended practice.

*Chizik said that the Tigers have been lucky avoiding injuries although linebacker Eltoro Freeman twisted his foot in the scrimmage and did not practice on Thursday. Starting offensive guard Byron Isom was rehabbing on Thursday, but Chizik said that neither problem is "catastrophic."

*Chizik said that he likes the aggressiveness of his two freshman safeties, Ryan Smith and Demetruce McNeal. "They are making strides every day," said Chizik, who added they are making the normal freshman mistakes. "Their effort is great, they want to be good and they are trying very hard--two aggressive players and I really like that."

*Commenting on QB Cameron Newton, the head coach said the juco transfer is still in a learning mode. He noted the quarterback did good things in the scrimmage and in practice this week, but needs to improve overall.

*Chizik said that sophomore John Sullen is making a push for the starting job at right offensive tackle. He noted that Roszell Gayden and Brandon Mosley are pushing for the job. "We still have time to figure it out," he said.

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