Tigers Look For Physical Scrimmage

The start of two-a-days received mixed reviews with a less than satisfactory first first practice followed by a better one on Tuesday night.

Auburn, Ala.--Tuesday night's practice was a bounce back session after irritating head coach Gene Chizik and his staff at the first half of the first two-a-days practice of preseason.

"They bounced back, they really did," Auburn assistant head coach Trooper Taylor said. "I can understand why he wasn't happy this morning. I think the guys really tried to bounce back and that is good to see. It shows some leadership is trying to come through."

The Tigers drilled for more than two hours on Tuesday evening, going over plays that they will run in Wednesday's scrimmage, the first of the preseason.

For the evening session, the Tigers worked in shorts after going in full pads in the morning. Taylor said "alignment and assignment" were the themes for the second practice. "Just getting the guys to do the things they are supposed to do," he said when asked what the focus was. "We didn't install anything new. It was mainly going back and fixing the things the guys blew up this morning. We came back and made sure they can execute them."

Taylor said the morning practice was a wakeup call for some of the players on the need to get more physical. "The problem was they were getting hit in the mouth," the coach pointed out. "When you get hit, somebody is going to flinch. This game is physical and we introduced them to what Auburn physical means. I think they got a good taste of what that is like and it is a good thing because when they step into that stadium tomorrow and scrimmage we don't want that to be the first time."

Taylor said the first session was useful to the coaches. "We were able to see who thinks he is tough and who is really tough," he said. "It will be interesting to see how they carry it over."

The wide receiver coach had praise on Tuesday night for one of his older players and one of his younger pupils.

DeAngelo Benton, a junior, has been challenged by Taylor and offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn to take a bigger role on the 2011 team. "He is doing a lot better," Taylor said.

DeAngelo Benton is shown at Tuesday's first practice.

"The last time I bragged on a guy it was him and he stayed hurt--split his finger, broke his wrist, broke his ankle,"?Taylor said. "DeAngelo is like a different kid out there. He is making some plays, his leadership is good. He has got that old deep voice and he sounds like (singer) Barry White when he talks. When he corrects somebody, it really jumps out. It is good to see him doing the things he is doing."

Commenting on freshman Quan Bray, Taylor said, "I am proud of that kid." He noted that Bray posted a 3.5 GPA summer semester despite the distraction of his mother being killed back in LaGrange, Ga., as part of a domestic dispute.

Taylor said in addition to learning in the classroom, Bray is picking up his football assignments, too. "He is out there busting his tail," the coach said. "You talk about life throwing you some curve balls."

Quan Bray

Senior guard Jared Cooper said he is encouraged by the progress the offensive line is making this season. "We are coming along well," he said. "We have to build a chemistry between all five guys, but I think we are on our way."

Offensive line coach Jeff Grimes, who has had praise for Cooper's play going back to spring training, said the senior and the other linemen are having good battles in practice with a young, athletic defensive front.

"We have been having a lot of good battles," Cooper said. "A lot of times the first couple of days of practice people are just feeling their way through, but that really hasn't been the case so far. It is has pretty well been physical since right off the bat.

"We have two or three drills every practice where we go one-on-one with the defensive line," the senior said. "It has been really physical so far."

Running with the first team after being a backup in previous seasons, Cooper admits his first string status provides a spark. "That puts a little more oomph behind you and gives you a little extra drive," he said. "Not that it wasn't there before, but subconsciously it gives you a little more motivation."

A new offensive lineman who has a chance to line up next to Cooper in the starting lineup is center Reese Dismukes. The early high school graduate from Spanish Fort is in a tight battle for No. 1 on the depth chart with redshirt sophomore Blake Burgess.

Both Dismukes and Burgess will be watched carefully on Wednesday when the Tigers scrimmage at Jordan-Hare Stadium. "It should be big as far as the competition goes," Dismukes said of the scrimmage. "Blake and I have been back and forth. He is doing some good things, I am doing some good things. I am doing so bad things and he is doing some bad things so we can go out tomorrow and critique everything we have been working on and see what's up.

"I am sure the determination on a starter won't be determined tomorrow because we are neck-and-neck," Dismukes added.

Reese Dismukes takes a water break on a hot Tuesday in Auburn.

Like Cooper, Dismukes notes there has been a lot of contact work with the offensive line going head to head vs. the defensive linemen in drills. "We have been getting after them," Dismukes said. "They got us today in practice, but I thought we got them the previous two days so it has been going back and forth."

The only returning starter on the defensive front four, redshirt sophomore end Nosa Eguae, agrees with Dismukes that there have been some physical battles taking place between the offensive linemen and the guys on defense.

"What we do up front is the offensive and defensive line are making each other better," Eguae said. "It doesn't matter what we are doing--pass rush, run fits or whatever--as long as we are playing with a good motor and the offensive line is giving us a good look, we are going to get better.

"We are making progress, but we are nowhere near where we need to be," Eguae said. "Making progress is good, but we are not ready to play a game," he added. "However, it is not September third yet so we don't have to be ready to play a game."

In other news and notes:

*Chad Slade has seen practice time at first team right tackle this week with Brandon Mosley moving to left tackle in the absence of A.J. Greene, who is out with an injury. Slade, a redshirt sophomore, can play all of the offensive line positions except for center.

"It is going really well," Slade said of his time running with the ones at tackle. "A lot of hard work has to go into it. Since we are younger and need more experience, we have to work harder at it than last year's group."

Commenting on focusing on tackle in practice, Slade said, "I like it a lot since I?played tackle in high school. I am trying to get back used to it."

*Slade has dropped 25 pounds since last year and pointed out that has made him a better lineman because of improved mobility. "I feel like I can come off the ball more efficiently," he said.

*Sophomore Jake Holland continues to handle the first team middle linebacker duties he took over in spring training. He noted on Tuesday that all of the time he spent last year in the film room with 2010 senior Josh Bynes improved his overall knowledge of the position, something he plans to use this fall. "I learned a lot from Josh," he said.

*Junior cornerback T'Sharvan Bell notes that he has been spending a good bit of his time in preseason training as the nickel back when the Tigers pull a linebacker and replace him with an extra defensive back. He said that last year nickel back was a role he took on midway through the season. "This year, I am the guy," he said. "It has definitely been a lot more."

Bell notes that when he plays nickel, as opposed to cornerback, he lines up more like a linebacker, which means he has to get up for run support as soon as he figures out a play is not going to be a pass.

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