Scout Team Day A Mixed Bag For Tigers

Auburn practiced with scout teams for the first time this season on Tuesday as the Tigers continue to prepare for their Sept. 4th opening game.

Auburn, Ala.--Tuesday was a day of learning for the Auburn Tigers as for the first time this preseason the scout teams were involved in practice. Working out in full pads for just over two hours, coach Gene Chizik said his football team was a little sluggish to start with as the players got used to a different style and tempo of practice.

"I think overall the focus was there," Chizik said. "I think we got the things we needed to out of practice. We just need to pick up the tempo tomorrow all the way around.

"Everybody was kind of in new spots and new places, but I think that comes with the territory," he said. "Tomorrow should be a little more crisp."

On Sunday Chizik said there was a possibility news about the number two quarterback role and starting right tackle position could be announced this week, but that didn't happen on Tuesday. Instead the most interesting news of the day came regarding the scout teams that were on display for the first time this fall.

With increased depth and talent on both sides of the ball compared to last year, it means some interesting names will be working opposite the playing rotation this season.

Offensively, returning players such as Philip Pierre-Louis and Travante Stallworth are both starting with the scout team as the receivers recover from knee injuries.

Up front freshmen Eric Mack, Ed Christian and Chad Slade are all working on the scout team along with redshirt freshman Andre Harris. Serving as the scout team quarterback on Tuesday was defensive back Ryan White.

On the defensive side of the ball maybe the biggest name on the scout team is linebacker LaDarius Owens. The incoming freshman is playing linebacker for essentially the first time in his career and it's taking him some time to get adjusted to playing the position. Also defensive ends Joel Bonomolo and Justin Delaine as well as safeties Demetruce McNeal and Ryan Smith were working with the scout team on Monday. Those two positions are among the deepest on Auburn's roster making the move easy to understand. Chizik said the players knew going in there was a chance they could end up on scout team this fall.

"We really try to handle that up front in advance," Chizik said. "It's hard. It's really hard. We try to make sure there are no surprises and we do it in advance so everybody knows where their place is. What we've told them is that it doesn't mean that's where they will end up the year. That's just where we started today. We made that very clear to everybody. Today some people had to get used to doing some new things. That's always what happens this time of year."

While moving to the scout team can be a tough pill to swallow for some players, for the team as a whole it means one day closer to the season getting started. For senior Craig Stevens it means that it's time to get down to business at hand and that is getting ready for Arkansas State.

"Once we see the scout teams that's when it kind of hits home that the season is here now and a game is right around the corner," Stevens said. "A lot of guys are excited. It just gives you that little boost of energy. You fly around and take that one more step. I feel like it makes us better."

One of the more interesting nuggets following Tuesday's practice came from safety coach Tommy Thigpen. He said at the moment he doesn't have a starter at either of the deep positions.

While seniors Aairon Savage and Zac Etheridge along with junior Mike McNeil were all expected to compete for the job, he said sophomore walk-on Ikeem Means is likely his fourth guy at the moment with Drew Cole number five. He said Means is coming on strong as he continues to learn the position. He played wide receiver his entire life before moving to defense last fall.

Tiger Ticket Extra: Coach Trooper Taylor said that currently Quindarius Carr is leading the race to be the punt returner with Trovon Reed and Jonathan Mincy also performing well. Taylor said in addition he has junior Darvin Adams catching punts as an option. He said he did a similar thing with Dez Bryant while at Oklahoma State to get him more touches.

In the kickoff return game Jay Boulware said that Demond Washington and Onterio McCalebb are the top two returners at the moment. It's doubtful both would be in the game at the same time though as they would have someone else back as the second option such as Mario Fannin or possible Trovon Reed in order to keep them fresh.

On kickoffs Boulware said Wes Byrum has worked hard to improve his distance and right now he's locked in a battle with true freshman Cody Parkey. Byrum said he feels like Parkey is more advanced at this time in his career than Byrum was his freshman season at Auburn.

Injuries haven't been a huge concern so far in the preseason, but big freshman running back Ladarious Phillips is currently out of commission after rolling his ankle near the end of Saturday's scrimmage. He was on crutches Tuesday and Chizik said at the moment he's "day to day."

Inside The AU Tigers Top Stories