Grimes Seeing Progress Heading Into Game Five

Comments from Auburn coaches and a key player are featured in this football practice report.

Auburn, Ala.--Offensive line coach Jeff Grimes said his group is continuing to make progress as the Tigers polished the game plan for Saturday's home game vs. Arkansas with a two-hour plus session under the lights.

Grimes has juggled the starting lineup throughout the first month of the season, but said on Wednesday night although nothing is finalized yet that there is a good chance that true freshman Patrick Miller will retain his starting spot at right tackle ahead of fellow freshman Avery Young.

Grimes also indicated there is a good chance the other four offensive line spots will be unchanged from the LSU to the Arkansas games, but said lineups are not finalized until after Thursday's practices.

"We are still working with the same guys and the same guys are still in the mix, and there is still competition going on, which I think is a very good thing at this point in the year," the coach noted.

Coach Jeff Grimes is in his fourth season as part of the Auburn staff.

"A lot of times guys like to feel like they have everything solidified by game four or game six or whatever," Grimes said. "Several times in my career I have found we can still get better by making lineup changes even later in the season.

"If guys are still improving, and doing what Patrick Miller did for a couple of weeks, there is always that possibility," the line coach added.

Commenting on Miller's play, he said that the freshman moved ahead on the depth chart at right tackle not because Avery Young didn't play well. "Patrick just improved, Grimes said. "He won the job much more than Avery lost it, if that makes sense.

"Avery was more ready at the start of the year, but in the course of a month Pat showed us in practice every day he deserved an opportunity. When we gave him more reps with the first team in practice, he stepped up and did better. Not only was he was ready, he was one of the best five."

Grimes noted that Miller played "really well" in his first college start" considering the level of competition on the LSU front. "I was really pleased," the coach said. "He didn't get nervous and went out there and really competed hard. If that is an indication of the type of player he is going to be, he is going to be really good."

Commenting on the offensive line play as a whole, the coach said, "I thought we did some good things, particularly given the talent of their defense. I thought there were times we blocked them effectively. I thought there were some times we gave the back a clean line of scrimmage and let him get himself to the third level. There were times when he didn't as well.

"There were times we had good protection and times we didn't," Grimes added. "Overall, I would say I am pleased in the fact that we made progress again in that game, but I am not content because we are not where we need to be. We still have a long way to go in order to have a chance to go where we want to go."

Grimes said with the youth of the line the Tigers should be improving every week at this time of year.

Head coach Gene Chizik challenged the receivers to step up during the off-week and again this week, but said that is still a work in progress after Wednesday night's practice in shoulder pads, shorts and helmets.

"I think they have still been very inconsistent," Chizik said. "I still think that group has to step up, but when you look at our passing game everybody has got to step up.

"The offensive line does, the quarterback has got to put the ball in better places," he added. "We have to do a better job of making yards after the catch. We have not been very consistent in that regard at all."

The coach added there is also room for improvement in the pass protection from the line and the backs and when the opportunities are there to make big plays in the passing game the receivers need to catch the football, which has not always happened in the first four games.

"All of the way around the receivers have to be more consistent and more productive," the coach added.

No player on the Auburn team is having a better season than junior Cody Parkey. He is 7-7 on field goals this year, extending his streak to nine straight, the third longest in Auburn history behind 12-in-a-row by Jaret Holmes in 1997 and 11 consecutive makes by Damon Duval in 2000. Wes Byrum in 2009-2010 and Rob Bironas in 1998 also made nine straight.

Despite missing much of spring practice, he has been sharper this season than he was as a sophomore when he hit 13-18 field goals. "I have a year under my belt and I feel comfortable out there," the junior said.

"Once I step on the field, I just wipe clean on the situation," he points out. "I know what I'm doing, and I'm going to do it just like I did in practice. When I step on the field I know Jake Lembke is going to have a good snap and Ryan White is going to have a good hold so it's up to me to have a good kick.

"If I stay positive, which I do, I know I'm going to have a good kick," he added. "Even if I did miss, when I get off the field I still have to stay positive because my team is going to need me at some point during the game."

Parkey said his goal is to go a whole season without a miss. "We still have a lot of football left and I want to continue to go perfect so I am practicing really, really hard and I just want to give my team the best chance to win."

Cody Parkey

Parkey has been performing well on kickoffs, too. When the coaches call for him to go for a touchback, he has been putting the ball into the end zone. When they want him to make the kickoff returnable with plenty of hang time to allow the coverage team to get in position to make a tackle, he has been doing that successfully.

Auburn is allowing just 13.5 yards per kickoff return, which ranks second nationally this week. "I think I have done a pretty decent job when he (special teams coach Jay Boulware) tells me to kick a touchback or tells me to kick it high," Parkey said. "We have a bunch of different kicks we can do. I am not 100 percent satisfied, but I think I have done a decent job."

Missing Man: Mike Blakely carried the ball one time for two yards in the opener, 11 times for 32 yards in game two and three times for 32 yards in game three. However, he spent the LSU game watching from the sidelines. Asked about whether or not Blakely would get some carries vs. Arkansas, Chizik did not promise that would happen, but noted there is a good chance of that happening.

"Mike has had a good week of practice...really two good weeks of practice," Chizik said. "We have got a lot of confidence in him. He will get his share of time."

Freshmen Linebacker: Position coach Tommy Thigpen said after Wednesday's practice that a pair of true freshmen, Kris Frost and Cassanova McKinzy, have made progress in recent practices. McKinzy has seen very limited duty in the middle and Frost has been mostly a special teams performer. Thigpen said that this could be the week that Frost sees expanded playing time.

Kris Frost is a redshirt freshman.

"Brian (defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder) said something the other day about Kris. Brian said Kris is really starting to improve and is taking a lot more ownership in the meeting room and being more vocal. He's starting to have a lot more confidence in what he's doing. He has come along pretty well. I wouldn't be surprised if you see him some this weekend playing in some base packages."

The Replacements: Wide receiver coach Trooper Taylor said Wednesday night the Tigers are going to replace Quan Bray this week by committee with Trovon Reed and Ricardo Louis taking the suspended player's reps. He also noted that Sammie Coates could get some snaps as an inside receiver.

Game 5 Kickoff: The Tigers and Razorbacks will play for the 22nd time shortly after 11 a.m. on Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium. The game will be televised in ESPN2 with Beth Mowins handling the play-by-play with Joey Gallaway doing the analysis and Tom Luginbill the sideline reporter. Auburn leads the series 11-9-1 and is 5-3-1 in games played in Auburn.

Interim Coach: John L. Smith, who took over the Arkansas team when Bobby Petrino was fired in the offseason, is 1-4 this season and 133-90 all-time in 19 seasons as a college head coach.

Auburn's Coaches: Chizik and his assistants will be wearing arm bands on Saturday in support of the Coach To Cure MD program sponsored by the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) and the Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy.

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