Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Tuesday's Non-practice News and Notes

Kodi Burns hasn’t even been at Auburn for two entire school years yet.
As spring practice enters its second week, though, Burns is adapting to his fourth offensive coordinator in two years.
“It does kind of get confusing,” Burns said Tuesday. “You kind of revert to your old habits a little bit, not thinking right, and that’s what coach Malzahn said that he wants to get all the old stuff out of us if he can – if there’s any left, he just wants to program us to run his offense, and then after he programs us to do that, then we can be ourselves and I can do what I do best to run the offense.”
For Burns, an elusive runner, that includes tucking the ball and taking off sometimes.
Burns said although transitioning to another new offense is difficult, the reward to learning coordinator Gus Malzahn’s offense is obvious based on past results.
Malzahn said over the weekend the quarterbacks still have a lot to learn about the offense.
“I know the other day he got mad at us about protections,” Burns said. “A lot of us were really unsure of different protections that the line had and I think we got that fixed and ironed out, so just executing now is the main thing.”

RAINED OUT: The rain postponed Auburn’s scheduled Tuesday practice. The Tigers will practice again Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. instead.

GOOD COP: One of Tuesday’s lighter moments came when The Montgomery Advertiser's ace reporter Jay G. Tate asked left guard Mike Berry to compare offensive line coach Jeff Grimes to Hugh Nall.
“He’s a lot more supportive,” Berry said. “Nall was going to get after you. That’s just the type of guy he was. You gotta love that. Grimes, I would say, is more balanced. He’s a pretty easy-going guy. He’s going to coach you hard but he knows how far to go.”
In previous years, when Auburn offensive linemen made mistakes they knew it meant their position coach, Hugh Nall, would bring his verbal wrath.
Nall’s tirades were great spectacles during open practices.
Berry said Grimes hasn’t dished out anything similar this year.
“Not for real. Not the Nall way,” Berry said. “Having Hugh Nall for three years… I’ve not seen him do that.”
Grimes, apparently, takes a subtler, gentler approach.

PHYSICAL CHALLENGE: Coach Gene Chizik and defensive coordinator Ted Roof said the defense wasn’t physical enough on Saturday.
The linebackers took those comments as a challenge.
“I talked to the linebackers after practice as a group and said ‘They say we’re not physical, that means as linebackers we’re not doing our job,’” middle linebacker Josh Bynes said. “We’re not filling the holes, we’re not making an appearance on every single play.
“When they say we’re not physical, I take it out on us because we’re right there in the heart of the defense. Once things get past that line, it’s us. If it gets past us, which it shouldn’t, it’s all our fault. Everything falls right there in between the middle. If we’re not physical defensively, it’s our fault and we need to take control of that.”
The linebackers can take inspiration from the physicality of their coach.
Bynes said Roof, who serves as the linebackers coach as well, looks like a linebacker.
Stevens said Roof acts like one, too.
“When he gets out there and is teaching us those drills, it’s like he forgot he was coaching out there,” Stevens said. “He tries to go full speed out there – he’s out there jamming us and stuff. He’s about to hurt us.”

FOREVER 21: Eltoro Freeman didn’t ask for many concessions when Auburn recruited him.
However, one matter was important enough for him to make a point: He wanted to wear jersey No. 21.
That’s a strange number for a linebacker to wear, but it has special meaning to Freeman.
“It means a lot to me,” Freeman said. “My cousin was a big-time high school football player, Onterio Harrell. He wore 21. He was my first cousin. He died at the age of 24 of cancer. So when I was in ninth grade I got that number. Everywhere I go I’ve been having it. So that’s been a blessing for me.”
Harrell played with Buffalo Bills receiver Terrell Owens in high school at Benjamin Russell High School. He was supposed to follow Owens to Tennessee-Chattanooga as well, but couldn’t go because of the cancer.
Through the first week, Freeman has been one of the most talked about players for Auburn.
That didn’t change Tuesday. Neither did the rave reviews.
“Toro, I like him,” linebacker Craig Stevens said. “He kind of reminds me of Tray Blackmon. You know, he goes hard every play. He’s energized. I think once he calms down and focuses on the plays that he’s got, he’ll be a good player.”
Bynes said Freeman increases the team’s intensity level.
“He’s fired up every day,” Bynes said. “…I say ‘I ain’t going to knock your hustle down. Anyway you got to have a good day at practice, you do it.’
“…He just brings that enthusiasm around, just like bringing that power and that emotion.”

MOVING: Include new offensive lineman Vance Smith among those trying to pad on the pounds.
Smith, a converted tight end, decided after his first meeting with Malzahn that his quickest path to the field was on the offensive line.
Auburn is dangerously thin on numbers along the line. Smith obliged on Malzahn’s request for help.
“It was my decision and I wanted to do it,” Smith said. “He said it would help the team out a lot, so I decided to do it.”
Smith said he’s up to 262 pounds. Working closely with assistant strength and conditioning coach Joseph Walker, who’s monitoring Smith’s diet, Smith hopes to gain two pounds per week.
So far, he has added 10 pounds.
“By fall camp, I should be about 290, 295,” he said.
Blocking is nothing new to Smith, who played in an option-oriented offense in high school.
He said the only difference has been blocking defensive tackles instead of ends.

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