Sunday, April 26, 2009

Powers, Marks drafted

Two more former Auburn players found homes in the NFL on Sunday.
In the third round, the Indianapolis Colts selected cornerback Jerraud Powers with the 92nd overall pick.
A round later, the San Diego Chargers chose offensive guard Tyronne Green with the 133rd overall selection.
For more, read tomorrow's Anniston Star.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Titans select Marks with 62nd pick

Sen’Derrick Marks wasn’t necessarily expecting to get a phone call from an NFL team during the first two rounds of Saturday night’s NFL Draft.
The defensive tackle received a pleasant surprise. The Tennessee Titans selected Marks in the second round with the 62nd overall pick.
“I had no idea who would pick me and when I’d be picked,” Marks said. “I just sat around waiting and it just happened.
“A lot of people had me in the second or third round. But I saw a lot of guys go ahead of me that I didn’t expect, but it really didn’t matter to me. It just feels great.”
Marks decided to forego his senior season, choosing instead the riches of the NFL Draft.
For some time, that decision seemed to backfire. Marks watched his draft status drop after a bad combine showing and a less-than-stellar Pro Day performance.
Still, the Titans decided to take a chance on the second-team all-SEC player late in the second round.
Tennessee was one of a few teams with which Marks visited.
“The Titans complex was the only facility that I went to visit and I really enjoyed it,” Marks said. “It was a lot like Auburn’s, so I felt very familiar with it. I really liked the d-line coaches and the way that they coach. I really liked my visit and enjoyed it.”
Marks didn’t start playing football until high school. Because of his late interest, many programs did not recruit the two-star prospect out of high school.
Once Marks got to Auburn, however, he exceeded expectations. He finished as at least a part-time starter over all three seasons at Auburn after redshirting in 2005.
Marks finished with 32 tackles in 2008, including 10 tackles for loss and a pair of sacks. He also blocked a kick. As a sophomore in 2007, Marks accumulated 43 tackles including nine for loss.
Marks, a 6-foot-2, 306-pound lineman, has experience playing at end. He split time there in ’07 before moving full-time to tackle as a junior.
Tennessee needed help along the defensive line after Albert Haynesworth left the team to sign a lucrative deal with the Washington Redskins.
“Sen’Derrick Marks is perfect getting up the field,” ESPN analyst Todd McShay said “He’s at his best when he’s on the move. He’s a little bit undersized. Early on he can come in and rush the passer from the interior. Certainly Tennessee needs some depth at the defensive tackle position and I think Marks will provide some of that.”
The Titans tried to address the position through free agency, signing former Tampa Bay starter Jovan Haye. As a 14-game starter, Haye finished with 33 tackles. Another defensive tackle, Tony Brown, had 52 tackles including four sacks last year. Jason Jones is the only other Titans tackle with significant experience.
Marks was one of six defensive tackles selected in the first two rounds.
“I went crazy,” Marks said. “When I went to visit the Titans, I asked coach (Jeff) Fisher how it all works on draft day and he asked if I really wanted to know and he told me. When he just called me, he said, ‘Didn’t I tell you that it was going to be a great feeling?’”

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

NFL Draft projections

Here's a look at what ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. projects for the first round of this weekend's NFL Draft.
Kiper doesn't think any Auburn player will get selected on the first day. In fact, the first player he has getting selected is offensive guard Tyronne Green, who Kiper currently has slated to get taken with the 91st overall pick.
After Green, Kiper only projects one player to get drafted in the first four rounds -- DT Sen'Derrick Marks.
At one time, Marks was thought to be a surefire first-round pick. To be honest, I'm not certain how his draft stock plummeted so much. Marks had his share of injuries this season that limited him. Perhaps there's a question about his durability, but that had never really been a problem in previous seasons. Marks is also versatile enough that he played defensive end during his sophomore season at Auburn. That's not to say he could at the next level, but he played the position well while at Auburn. Marks seemingly could be a steal in the fourth round -- someone who was at one time supposed to be a first-rounder but dropped. Marks has overachieved before. Remember, he was a two-star recruit coming out of high school.
Three more Auburn players -- CB Jerraud Powers, DT Tez Doolittle and RB Brad Lester -- have realistic chances to get drafted. LB Merrill Johnson turned in a strong Pro Day performance and could also get a look as a free agent. He said he planned on switching to safety.
None, though, are expected to get drafted within the first four rounds.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

News and notes from Sunday's practice

Even after Auburn’s offense posted big numbers and 57 points during its spring game, coordinator Gus Malzahn doesn’t have any delusions.
He realizes those inflated numbers came against a second-team defense that featured several walk-ons. He also realizes there is plenty of work to do before Auburn opens the season against Louisiana Tech.
“Just being totally honest with you, we’re a long way away,” Malzahn said after the Tigers’ final spring practice. “We’re going to hit the ground running in the fall. We’ll evaluate our guys and we’ll put our best 11 out there and we’ll improve each time.
“We’re not where we want to be, obviously, going into the fall. I just want to make that clear, but at the same time I think we do have a foundation.”
The Tigers have limited depth on the offensive line and are still searching for more playmakers at the skill positions.
More importantly, Malzahn is still searching for his starting quarterback.
Neil Caudle and Kodi Burns will go through voluntary summer workouts and enter fall camp knowing they’re both still neck-and-neck in the competition.
Caudle has never made a start at Auburn. Burns has started eight times, including seven games in 2008.
Burns said he was disappointed that a starter hasn’t been named.
“Yeah, definitely,” Burns said. “I’m kind of disappointed about it, but at the same time I feel like I went out there and did pretty good. There are a lot of things I can get better at. It’s been really tough for me, but I’m not worried about it. I’m not going to beat myself up about it.
“I’m not going to get my head down. That’s just part of it. I think I’ve learned that and grown up since I’ve been in college that things might not always go your way, but it’s just about how you bounce back.”
Auburn coach Gene Chizik echoed Malzahn’s sentiments about the work remaining.
Chizik said he was happy with the way the defenders – even the backups – flew around the field on Saturday.
The offense, though, is still a work in progress.
“Offensively, it was nice to see us have some production yesterday but we certainly don’t want to have delusions of grandeur,” Chizik said. “We have not arrived on offense by any stretch of the imagination. I think you saw glimmers of the offense, glimmers of the defense, but both sides we’ve just got a long way to go.”

WAITING GAME: Chizik said Sunday that the coaching staff is waiting to see which recruits will make their way into school this summer.
At least two high-profile signees – quarterback Tyrik Rollison and receiver DeAngelo Benton – remain question marks.
“We’re going to wait until the end of the semester of school to really see where everybody’s at,” Chizik said. “I feel like things were working really good. We’ll just see what the (NCAA) Clearinghouse does.”

Saturday, April 18, 2009

A-Day scrimmage

There's a lot to get to, but I also have a lot of print work to do.
Here are some highlights:

The first-team defense and first-team offense never faced off. The offense won 57-31.
Today's announced attendance of 45,381 is the largest recorded crowd in A-Day history.
Auburn’s offense finished with only five plays of 40-plus yards in 2008. It matched that total during Saturday’s scrimmage, which featured four 12-minute quarters and a running clock.
Running back Ben Tate rushed for 72 yards and two touchdowns during the first-team offense’s first two drives. He scored on runs of 46 and 9 yards and earned Offensive MVP honors despite playing just two drives.
Terrell Zachery scored on a 70-yard end around. Onterio McCalebb scored on a 75-yard run.
Mario Fannin accounted for 93 yards on two rushes and four catches. He had a TD reception.
QB stats: Kodi Burns started with the first-team offense on the first three drives (all scoring drives). He finished 3-of-8 for 48 yards. His long completion was thrown into double coverage and tipped. Could have been an INT, but Fannin caught it. Neil Caudle led scoring drives in the second half. He finished 11-of-16 for 161 yards and two touchdowns.
The second-team defense featured at least five walk-ons. The first-team defense allowed just one first down in three drives.
Your MVPs: Off - Ben Tate; Def - Michael Goggans; Special Teams - Wes Byrum

There weren’t many questions answered during the A-Day scrimmage.
Any doubt that Mario Fannin will touch the ball as much as his talent predicates after his move to H-back, though, was eased by his Saturday performance.
Fannin ran pass routes out of the backfield, got the ball on handoffs, and found ways to make plays whenever the ball was in his hands.
Fannin’s first of six touches came on a 41-yard pass. Kodi Burns lofted a pass into the middle of the field where Fannin was double-covered. A safety got a hand on the pass, but Fannin caught the deflection. From there, he drew a facemask penalty and continued down the field, setting up Auburn for its second touchdown.
Later in the game, Fannin caught a third-and-4 pass a yard shy of the first-down marker but broke at least three tackles and turned the minimal gain into a 17-yard play.
He also snuck out of the backfield for a touchdown from Neil Caudle and averaged 11 yards per carry on his two rushes.
All of Fannin’s production came against the second-team defense, but he thinks his performance shows the offense’s potential.
“I guess you could say we’re just actually getting more disciplined in our roles and what every person has to play in order to make the offense work,” Fannin said. “That’s what I think the main thing goes.”

CONTINUED COMPETITION: Burns and Caudle have both said they would like to know which quarterback will be named the starter sooner rather than later.
Offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn told the media after the game, though, that there would be no decision until the fall.
Caudle seemingly had the better scrimmage. He certainly had better statistics and was more accurate – especially on short passes. The scrimmage didn’t necessarily play into Burns’ strengths, though, since quarterbacks were considered down when defenders tagged them.
Burns started the game with the first-team offense and Caudle played the third quarter with the unit.
It’s worth mentioning that Burns didn’t get as many opportunities to throw the ball because the offense scored so quickly on his three drives. The offense scored three times on 10 plays.
“We were scoring so quick, that’s just kind of the way things worked out,” Burns said. “I’m not upset about it at all. It just worked out that way. That’s good. We scored pretty quick. It keeps the ball out of my hands and gets it to the playmakers.”

CATCHING ON: Sophomore Darvin Adams said he spent part of his freshman year wishing the coaches had given him a redshirt.
Instead, he played mostly on special teams.
He put on a show during his first A-Day, though, sending a message that he wants to do more than serve as a special teams contributor in 2009.
Adams caught four passes for 103 yards and a touchdown.
One of Adams’ catches went for 45 yards and probably would have been a touchdown if Caudle hadn’t underthrown him.
Two drives later, Caudle placed a perfect pass to Adams’ outside shoulder. Walk-on safety Matthew Sample was on Adams’ inside shoulder, but Adams came down with the pass and shrugged off the tackle attempt for a 34-yard score.
Harry Adams also showed signs of promise when he took a pass over the middle and turned it into a 13-yard gain. Harry Adams still has some work, though. He had at least one drop and slipped on another route, costing him a reception.

Photo Credit: Todd Van Emst/Auburn University

Friday, April 17, 2009

Trotter out

Quarterback Barrett Trotter is out for A-Day.
An Auburn official confirmed Friday evening that Trotter, who was injured during Thursday night's scrimmage portion of practice, would not play on Saturday.
There is no word on the extent of his knee injury.

More news and notes to follow later this evening.

News from Thursday's practice

At least four prominent Auburn players are expected to miss Auburn’s spring game on Saturday and a few others could also miss the game.
Running back Eric Smith (knee), cornerback Aairon Savage (knee) and safeties Mike McNeil (broken leg) and Zac Etheridge (shoulder) are all unlikely to play Saturday.
Receivers coach Trooper Taylor said receivers Tommy Trott and Philip Pierre-Louis both could sit out as well, depending on trainers’ recommendations.
That list of Auburn players with injuries apparently grew on Thursday night during a half-scrimmage at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Safeties coach Tommy Thigpen said Mike Slade suffered an injury. Thigpen didn’t specify but said he was unsure if Slade would play on Saturday.
Defensive tackle Mike Blanc said later that quarterbacks Barrett Trotter and Neil Caudle both took big hits during the scrimmage as well. reported this morning that Neil Caudle is fine and will play Saturday. Trotter, however, injured his knee and will miss A-Day.
“We hurt two of the quarterbacks,” Blanc said. “We hurt Trott and Neil. They were scrambling with the ball and somebody got two nice little ones on them. They’re OK, though. They were back in action. There were just some nice hits out there. That’s what our defense has to do. We have attack and swarm.”
No other coaches or players mentioned potential injuries to either quarterback. The entire Auburn camp has been so tight-lipped that the injuries might not have been mentioned even if they were serious.
Blanc did, however, say the quarterbacks “were back in action,” which presumably means they were cleared to play again.
With Chris Todd still not practicing, Trotter, Caudle and Kodi Burns are the only three scholarship quarterbacks. Brent Poole, a walk-on, could also get some time during A-Day.
The safety position is equally thin. If Slade can’t go on Saturday, Christian Thompson and Drew Cole would be the only scholarship safeties on the team.
Defensive end Antoine Carter hasn’t participated for most of spring. It’s unclear whether he’ll play.
Auburn coach Gene Chizik said he wasn’t sure which players would participate during the spring game. However, he did say the team still has plenty to accomplish, so it won’t be an entirely watered-down affair.
“We’ve got to get something done Saturday,” Chizik said. “So we will scrimmage and we’ll do some special teams. We’ve got to get something out of the practice, but you know, it will be base defense and base offense and we’ll run some and throw it some and we won’t do a lot of blitzing and things of that nature, but it will be a good look at the base of all sides and on special teams as well.”

RUNNING IN PLACE: Auburn will hold Smith out of Saturday’s game despite running backs coach Curtis Luper saying “he’s basically ready to go.”
“He had a great spring up until that point,” Luper said. “He was doing really well, understands the offense well, he’s tough, hard to tackle, conscientious, works hard. He’s what I like.”
With Smith out, Auburn will have just two scholarship tailbacks – Ben Tate and Onterio McCalebb. Walk-on Justin Albert also should get plenty of opportunities during A-Day.
Luper said as of Thursday, Tate and McCalebb would not be the top two running backs. Luper has praised Tate for a good portion of the spring, which probably means McCalebb hasn’t worked his way into Luper’s ideal rotation, which only features two players.
“I’d like to play two,” Luper said. “The ideal situation is you get a guy who’s the guy. He can carry 20-25 times and someone else carries it 10 times. I don’t know where we’ll be. We’ll find out. There’s a lot of work for us offensively, timing-wise, a lot of work they have to do on their own this summer.”

ROSY RETURN: Offensive lineman Darrell Roseman has made his way through two star-crossed, injury-riddled years at Auburn.
Now he’s attempting to work his way onto the field.
“I would say I’m about 90 percent,” Roseman said. “I mean, the best I’ve been since I’ve been here, so I can’t complain about that.”
Roseman is currently working at left guard. He’s up 30 pounds since moving over from defensive line and now weighs approximately 295 pounds.
This is seemingly the longest he’s gone without suffering a debilitating injury.
“Man it’s been very frustrating, but I’m still here,” Roseman said. “I’m still fighting trying to get on that field.”
Roseman had shin problems throughout the 2007 season. He attempted to go through spring practice, but eventually needed steel rods inserted in both shins.
“At first it was a big adjustment because you can tell they’re there,” Roseman said. “As the year goes along, I’m used to them now. You can still tell because you can feel the pain, but it’s better than it was.”
Upon Roseman’s return, he moved from defense to offensive line. The first day he moved to the offensive side, he suffered a shoulder injury that eventually required shoulder surgery.
Roseman said he has considered quitting football on several occasions.
“I question myself every time, but that’s when I go to God and my mom,” Roseman said. “Everything just seems to work out for me.
“I just want to play. That’s my main goal, just to play, just to contribute in any way I can.”

Photo courtesy: Todd Van Emst/Auburn University

Thursday, April 16, 2009

QBs hurt

Defensive tackle Mike Blanc said in passing that two quarterbacks were hurt during Thursday's partial scrimmage.
Blanc listed both Neil Caudle and Barrett Trotter as getting banged up during the scrimmage.
Blanc later said they were OK.
"We hurt two of the quarterbacks," Blanc said. "We hurt Trott and Neil. They were scrambling with the ball and somebody got two nice little ones on them. They’re OK, though. They were back in action. There were just some nice hits out there. That’s what our defense has to do. We have attack and swarm."

Nobody else said anything about potential injuries to quarterbacks, but things have been tight-lipped in the Auburn camp all spring.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Auburn nixes UCLA game

The Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday that Auburn officials rejected an offer to open the 2010 football season with a neutral-site game against UCLA.

ABC attempted to broker the game. It would have been played in Atlanta at the Georgia Dome.

Auburn already had a full slate and has a game scheduled for that weekend. The Tigers open the 2010 season at home against Arkansas State.

“We were contacted to see if we had an opening on our 2010 schedule and we did not,” Auburn athletics director Jay Jacobs said through a released statement. “Our schedule had already been completed and contracts had been executed for the 2010 season, but as I said earlier, we welcome the opportunity to talk about future schedules with UCLA and other BCS conference schools.”

Since 2004, Auburn has set a trend of playing one marquee non-conference game per season. Non-conference opponents have included Georgia Tech, Washington State, Kansas State and West Virginia over the past four seasons.

Auburn will host WVU in 2009 before starting a home-and-home series with Clemson in 2010.

A-Day format

Auburn released the format of its A-Day scrimmage today.
Here's a look:

Offense vs. Defense
Four 12-minute quarters
Scoring for the offense will be as follows: touchdown, 6 points.; field goal, 3 points.; plays of 15-plus yards, 2 points.; three consecutive first downs, 2 points.; PAT, 1 point.
The defense will score points based on seven scenarios: touchdown, 7 points.; turnover, 5 points; sack, 4 points; blocked field goal, 3 points; three-and-out, 2 points; tackle for loss, 2 points; blocked PAT, 1 point.

If a turnover is returned for a TD it counts as seven points, best I can tell.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

News and notes from Tuesday's practice

Neither Neil Caudle nor Kodi Burns knew what, if any, decision offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn had made on quarterbacks before Tuesday’s practice.
As it turned out, Caudle and Burns appear to be the two survivors of the quarterback competition.
Auburn coach Gene Chizik, in uncharacteristic fashion, said following the Tigers’ 12th practice that Caudle and Burns split most of the reps with the first-team offense. Chizik did caution that redshirt freshman Barrett Trotter is not out of the race, but it appears he’s running third in a three-quarterback race.
“What we decided, we’re getting to the point now where we’re coming down to the end of spring practice and you’ve got to try to decide where you’re going to put your reps,” Chizik said. “Neil and Kodi took a lot of the reps tonight, not that Barrett didn’t.
“It’s not over at all. Again, as you come down this path at the end you’ve just got to decide – it’s hard to evenly divide up reps between three people. That being said, we just decided to give a few more reps to Neil and Kodi. Really, that’s the extent of it.”
After three weeks of a total standstill in the race, that seemingly minor detail carried significant weight.
The team took both Sunday and Monday off following Saturday’s scrimmage game. Burns said he used the opportunity to escape from what has been a competitive month of practice.
At this time last year, Burns and Chris Todd were neck-and-neck in the quarterback race. Burns finished the spring in strong fashion, winning the A-Day offensive MVP award.
He’s looking for a similar result this year.
“I kind of feel like that,” Burns said. “I feel like I’m getting better each practice. I feel like the things he’s asking of me, I’m going to be able to do a little bit better each day. We have four or five more practice left and I hope to keep getting better.”
Caudle was a non-factor in the race by this time in 2008.
Now he’s one of two quarterbacks still vying for the starting position.
“Each practice is real important for everybody,” Caudle said. “It’s definitely important, especially coming down to the wire to show what we can do.”
Per Chizik’s policies, Malzahn was not available for comment before or after Tuesday’s practice.
Chizik said that while Burns and Caudle are getting most of the first-team reps, he does not consider them to be atop the quarterback depth chart.
“I wouldn’t say that at all,” Chizik said. “I would say that the only decision we’ve made is reps at this point. In the name of trying to – as we come down the path here, and we’re coming down the home stretch – decide rep-wise how to not distribute it three ways, that’s what we did.
“We certainly haven’t named a starter or a co-starter. Those two certainly haven’t won a position and Barrett Trotter’s not out of a position. We’re trying to focus on where we need to put our reps right now.”
Still, Burns is holding out hope that there can be some resolution by the end of spring practice.
“As a quarterback you definitely want to know,” he said. “As a guy that started a lot last year, you definitely want to know and you’re concerned. But I’ve just got to go out there and know that I gave it my best and any decision that they make is on them. You can’t worry about that.”

NOTES: Chizik announced Tuesday that A-Day would use an offense vs. defense format. He also said an explanatory key to the scoring system would be distributed so fans could follow along.
Special teams will be a part of the final scrimmage, possibly including some kickoff returns. If there are kickoff returns, they will be “thud,” meaning no tackling to the ground.
Quarterbacks will not be live on Saturday, as they have been for much of spring.

BILLINGS OUT: Montez Billings has missed spring practice with what has previously been described as an injury.
Chizik said Tuesday that Billings’ situation has nothing to do with the receiver’s health.
“Montez right now, we’re trying to clear up an academic situation,” Chizik said. “We’re still working on that as we go.”

KICKING INTO GEAR: Over the past week, kicker Wes Byrum has shown special teams coordinator Jay Boulware a level of consistency missing in 2008.
Boulware said Byrum has reclaimed the starting kicker spot – partly because he’s returning to old form and partly because Chandler Brooks is injured. Boulware didn’t specify Brooks’ injury.
In fact, Boulware wasn’t even sure of Brooks’ first name.
“Is that his first name? Golly,” Boulware said. “Yellow shoes. That’s what I call him.”
Byrum retook control of the starting job by making 7-of-8 pre-practice kicks on Tuesday.
“I’ve been really pleased with the last couple of practices with Wes. He’s gotten better with pre-practice kicks each day.
“We’re shooting for him to be 100 percent during that little, brief period we have at the beginning of practice. If he can get to that point and start striving for the next thing – to do that a couple of days in a row – we’ll be on track for getting the consistency that we want. We haven’t arrived by any means. It is getting better.”
While the field goal kicking has improved, Boulware said he has major concerns about kickoffs.
He said Morgan Hull is the only kicker with a strong enough leg for the job, but Hull lacks consistency.
“We’re really hurting in that department right now,” Boulware said.

DUNNCITY concert following A-Day

Former Auburn receiver Robert Dunn, aka "DUNNCITY," has become an Internet sensation with his rap song "Goose and Patron."
Now he's bringing his act back to Auburn for a Saturday night show.
Dunn, who is set to release a mixtape in June, told The Anniston Star that he will perform live Saturday at what used to be the Best Western Hotel on College Street. The show is expected to being around 10 p.m.
Dunn has released several singles and said he looks forward to his return to Auburn.
Former Tigers Quentin Groves and Travis Williams are running the company pushing Dunn. The group, Major League Ent., is focusing on pushing DUNNCITY and Eric Moore, aka "Knuck Da Gov."
Williams said both are expected to release mixtapes at approximately the same time this summer.
Auburn student Tia Shae is also with the group, though she is currently focusing more on her studies.
Groves said it was important for her to focus on her education before diving into the music industry.
"I told her you've got to do what you've got to do now so you can do what you want in the future," said Groves, who plays defensive end for the NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars. "Music will always be there."

More notes to come following Auburn's Tuesday night practice.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

News and notes from Saturday's scrimmage

Here's what I was told about Saturday's scrimmage, which was closed to the media:

Safety Mike McNeil suffered a serious right leg injury -- possibly a broken leg -- during the scrimmage. Tommy Thigpen said Mike Slade replaced him.

The defense won 61-34 with a modified scoring system.

The offense started strong. Onterio McCalebb made a long run (Kodi Burns estimated it as 70-plus yards), setting up a 1-yard Ben Tate TD rush.

After that, the defense dominated.

DE Antonio Coleman had two or three sacks according to Josh Bynes.

According to Walt McFadden, CB Neiko Thorpe returned an interception about 50 yards for a touchdown. Thorpe said the interception counted for 10 points. Neil Caudle threw the interception, but Burns said it wasn't his fault. Burns said new WR Harry Adams didn't run the correct route, creating the interception.

Offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn said the three QBs -- Burns, Caudle and Barrett Trotter -- evenly split reps. Malzahn indicated this was the final time all three would split reps, though he didn't indicate which QB would be out of the competition for starting QB.

WRs coach Trooper Taylor said Tim Hawthorne had a big play. He bragged about Hawthorne, saying "He's coming into his own, guys. I'm really proud of that kid because boy has he been beat up."

Taylor also reiterated that Philip Pierre-Louis and Montez Billings need to get on the field if they want to be factors. Taylor said he has been hard on PPL to get him in the training room more than once a day. He also said it's time for Billings to get back to practice. "Until he's out there playing and participating, I don't have any comment about him. If he wants to be a part, pushing himself through and get back, we'll go from there. Until then, I'll concentrate on the guys out there."

Internet rumors surfaced yesterday about Coleman walking off practice after an argument with Tracy Rocker. I asked Coleman about what happened Thursday. Here are his responses:

AS: (Good to have a strong showing after difficult week?)
AC: It was a little different. I wouldn’t say it was my best performance but talking with coach Rock, coach Roof – they kind of opened my eyes a little bit about how I lead the team.
AS: (What’d the coaches say?)
AC: Basically I have to step up and be that leader. It’s not showing up on the football field, which was true. I just took their words and I ran with it and I think we had a pretty good day.
AS: (What happened?)
AC: Basically I was hurt and couldn’t go. I basically just went in and got some treatment and just tried to get it taken care of. I went back that day and talked to coach Rock and coach Roof and went back out there and started playing. It was all a big misunderstanding. I don’t know people took it or whatnot, but I was going in to get treatment and get ready for Saturday. Everything’s fine.
AS: (Good to bounce back from ‘misunderstanding’?)
AC: It was a decent scrimmage. It was mediocre. I think I could have done better. I think I opened their eyes a little bit about what I’m about and what I can do for this team.

Unless something breaks, that's it for the weekend. Have a great Easter.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Iron Bowl moves to Friday, to be aired on CBS

Straight from Auburn press release:

CBS Sports has announced that it will televise the 2009
and 2010 Alabama-Auburn football games nationwide, Games in both years
will be moving to Friday on the last weekend of the conference regular
season schedule.

The 2009 game will be played on Nov. 27 at 1:30 p.m. CT at
Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn. The 2010 game will be played on Nov. 26
(Time TBA) at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa.

CBS Sports is the exclusive national network broadcaster of
Southeastern Conference football.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Notes from Thursday's practice

Harry Adams walked into an argument during Wednesday’s coaches meeting.
He soon realized the argument was over him when coach Gene Chizik approached him.
“After I got done working out, I came up to the office and the coordinator was sitting in there and the offensive coordinator and coach Chizik said, ‘Both these guys are fighting over you. I’m in the middle to make a change,’” Adams said. “He said, ‘What do you want to do?’
“I say, ‘I think I want to move to receiver because cornerback wasn’t working at first.’”
So Adams, who runs a 4.37 40, spent Thursday’s practice making his debut at receiver.
Chizik thinks the 5-foot-11, 185-pound receiver can help a position currently lacking in depth.
“We just feel like Harry brings a little bit of a speed element to that position, which we feel like we need help at,” Chizik said after his team’s 10th practice.
Receivers coach Trooper Taylor said he’s excited to have someone with Adams’ speed.
“Either you got speed or you don’t,” Taylor said. “He’s a kid who went out there and made plays today that really got be excited about the potential of what he can do.
“I thought having a guy who could stretch the defense a little bit would be exciting on offense.”
Adams said he’s excited to move back to receiver. That was his primary position in high school and he said the transition has been seamless.
Still, he has to learn the details in a new offense as well as learning the little things, such as alignments.
Because of the learning curve, Taylor said it could take time for Adams to contribute to the team.
“It will take time,” Taylor said. “You’re not going to just walk in the SEC and switch over. The good thing about it is he’s smart enough to do it, he’s talented enough to do it and now it’s going to be about whether he’s willing to do it. I’m going to find that out pretty quickly.
“The first day, I was impressed.”

SPREAD PUNT: Special teams coach Jay Boulware said Tuesday that he will not employ the standard punt formation. Instead he will spread out the line and put a three-man wall in front of his punter.
That, Boulware said, helps punt coverage.
“Basically, we have (six) gunners,” Boulware said.
Boulware puts a premium on speed on the unit.
Normally, tight ends and linebackers make up the punt coverage team. That’s not the case this year.
Boulware even removed receiver Tommy Trott from the unit.
“He wanted to play on the punt team this year and I told him he wasn’t fast enough,” Boulware said. “We put speed out there. We want the most speed we can possibly get. We basically have six for sure guys that are athletes. That’s probably one thing our fans will notice about our punt team next year is that we have a lot of speed on it. We’re going to look like we’re a lot faster.”

INJURY UPDATE: Running back Eric Smith suffered a leg injury Tuesday night.
Per his policies, Chizik didn’t elaborate on the injury, but said he would be fine.
“He’s good to go. The whole team’s beat up. He’s one of the guys that’s a little beat up right now. It’s been physical up to this point, which is by design. He’s going to be fine.”
Chizik said Smith is day-to-day. He doesn’t know if the sophomore will return for Saturday’s scrimmage – the second of Auburn’s fall camp.
Tailback Ben Tate, though, said he thought Smith would miss the rest of spring practice with what he termed a knee injury.
Tate added that he expected Smith to be ready “in a month or two.”
Taylor confirmed Thursday that he expects receiver Montez Billings (undisclosed injury) to miss the remainder of spring practice as well.
Defensive end Antoine Carter is among the other players with known injuries.
Carter was carted off the practice field Sunday with an undisclosed leg injury. Defensive line coach Tracy Rocker said Carter has not returned to practice. Another defensive end, Cameron Henderson, has been hampered by an ankle injury. Rocker said “it’s just like playing with ten out there when he’s out there.”
Still, Rocker isn’t looking for any extra help.
“There ain’t none to pick from,” Rocker said. “What we got, we’ve got to make it work.”

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Notes from Tuesday's practice

Kodi Burns isn’t spending time worrying about what he can’t control.
That means Burns, who was in this spot last year as well, finds himself taking Auburn’s three-man quarterback competition a day at a time.
After battling for the starting position for over a year now, Burns is no longer fazed by the questions that come along with a position battle.
“I’m used to it now,” Burns said before Tuesday’s practice. “It’s the way college life is in the football realm of things. I’m a veteran at this now. It’s not that bad.”
Burns started seven games last year, but nothing is settled through more than half of spring practice.
Previously it was believed that Neil Caudle and Burns were splitting reps with the first-team offense. Now it appears redshirt freshman Barrett Trotter is in the mix as well.
All three have gotten equal reps with the first-team offense over the past few practices, including during Saturday’s scrimmage.
Burns and Caudle both threw touchdowns during the first scrimmage. Caudle threw the game’s only interception.
Offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn has maintained that he would not put a timetable on naming a starter. That means all three must stay on their game until there is resolution.
“Coach Malzahn has said that when one of us starts to play better than the others, then he’ll decide,” Caudle said.
Auburn coaches decided to allow the quarterbacks to go live during the first scrimmage. Malzahn and Auburn coach Gene Chizik said they want to see how the quarterbacks react to the full-contact action.
Previously, that move has not proven wise for the Tigers. DeRon Furr injured his shoulder during last year’s spring practice. Caudle injured his shoulder during a fall scrimmage in 2007.
Still, Caudle agreed with the decision that allows defenders to hit quarterbacks at select times.
“It makes sense to me,” he said. “You’ve got to see if the quarterback can withstand pressure and how he reacts with a live rush and how physical he is. I think it’s a good thing. I think that if you go out with the right attitude, it’s going to help you out.”
None of the three quarterbacks said they have any idea where they stood in the competition.
If Burns is correct, impressing Malzahn enough to name a starter could prove very difficult.
“We have to take him seriously,” Burns said. “We’ve got to try to do everything we can to make everything we’re doing wrong right. He really wants perfection. It’s really hard to please him, but that’s what you’ve got to try to do.”
Burns must do that and not worry about what he can’t control.

DYE SPEAKS TO TEAM: Former Auburn coach Pat Dye spoke to the team before Tuesday’s practice at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Dye addressed the team for approximately 15 minutes, touching on several topics including Auburn’s two undefeated seasons, in 1993 and 2004. Dye who won 99 games and four SEC titles during his 12 seasons at Auburn,
“It was just great to have him out at practice, No. 1,” Chizik said. “Those young guys, that’s kind of an eye-opener for them – having a legend like that coming in there and talked to them.
“He just talked about what it’s like to be an Auburn man – what it’s like to be an Auburn student, what it’s like to be an Auburn football player and at the end of the day, what it’ll mean to them down the road being an Auburn alumni. I thought it was a really neat message.”
Chizik said he aimed to give Tuesday’s practice a pre-game atmosphere to energize his team. That could explain both the decision to work at Jordan-Hare Stadium and the invitation to Dye.
Running backs coach Curtis Luper said Dye is around the football offices “a bunch.”
“I’m locked into every single word he says, because there’s so much wisdom in his words,” Luper said. “He’s experienced a lot.”

COMING BACK: The early prognosis on defensive end Antoine Carter’s injured right knee is that it won’t keep him away from the field for long.
Carter was carted off the field during Sunday’s practice.
“…He’s doing well,” Chizik said Tuesday. “He’s going to be fine.”
Chizik said Carter’s return to spring practice depends largely on the trainers’ decisions.
In the meantime, Auburn has just three healthy scholarship defensive ends – Antonio Coleman, Michael Goggans and redshirt freshman Cameron Henderson.
Zach Clayton has also played end, but has focused on tackle this spring.
Chizik said there are no plans to move anyone to defensive end.
“We haven’t gotten that far simply because we don’t think that’s the issue,” Chizik said. “Antoine is going to be fine.”

EARNING PRAISE: Defensive tackle Jake Ricks thought he was on his way to a starting position at this time last year.
Instead, he found himself at the bottom of the depth chart by midseason.
Tuesday, Coleman said Ricks has been the most improved player through the first half of Auburn’s spring practice.
“He’s having a great spring,” Coleman said. “I’ve seen a lot of things out of him that I didn’t know he had in him. He’s stepping up big time and making plays that I’ve never seen from him before.”
Auburn lost both starters at defensive tackle. Tez Doolittle exhausted his eligibility and Sen’Derrick Marks declared for the NFL Draft.
Coleman thinks that has benefited Ricks.
“He’s not in anyone’s shadow any more and he understands that this is his senior year and he needs to step up and make plays,” Coleman said. “Everyone’s counting on him to get out there and make plays for us.”

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Notes from Sunday

Offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn said after Sunday’s practice that there is still no separation between the three quarterbacks splitting reps.
He did say, though, both of them had impressive moments during Saturday’s scrimmage.
“Each one of them had a play or two where you go, ‘Wow, that’s what we’re looking for,’” Malzahn said. “But at the same time, there were a couple of mental busts; a couple of physical reads that weren’t what we wanted. But they bounced back today, and they corrected the things we talked about.”
Malzahn said he would ideally have a starter named by the end of spring practice. He admitted he wasn’t sure that was possible.
“That’s a definite goal, but at least have it narrowed down to two,” he said. “That’s what we’re looking for now, so we can get a little more specific with our timing. It’s hard to a timing offense when you’re rotating three guys.”
Though Malzahn wouldn’t indicate which direction he was leaning, he said he was “getting closer” to making some decisions about the position.
He said the scrimmages give him the best indication of which player will take the reins come spring.
Part of his decision will come from which quarterbacks handle full-contact action the best.
“The more you scrimmage, the more the quarterbacks go live, the more you can some separation,” Malzahn said. “We’ll continue to do that. We’re just trying to get that physical hard edge, and we want the quarterbacks to have that, too.”
Asked again about injured quarterback Chris Todd, Malzahn indicated Todd needed to return before spring ball ends if he’s to join the competition.

LINEBACKER MOVEMENT: JUCO transfer Eltoro Freeman came to Auburn placing high expectations on himself. Just seven practices in to his first spring camp, he’s elevated himself into the starting rotation.
After backing up Craig Stevens at the strong-side linebacker through the first two weeks, Freeman has moved to weak-side where he’s playing in front of Spencer Pybus.
“We’re always looking to figure a way to get our best 11 out there and trying to put the pieces in the right places and that’s what we’re trying to do,” Roof said.
With just six scholarship linebackers on the roster right now, including two that aren’t practicing because of injury, Auburn needed to find more depth.
To address the situation, defensive coordinator Ted Roof turned to safety Marcus Jemison and asked him to move to linebacker.
Jemison worked with as strong-side linebacker on the second-team during the 25 minutes Sunday’s practice was open to the media.
“It was the coach’s idea because of the way I come up from safety and throw my body at a guy when I hit him,” Jemison said. “He liked that and then I have a nose for the ball. He said that’s the way I’ll get on the field quickest, so I’m with it. As long as I’m playing, I’m with it.”

MARIO RETURNS: H-back Mario Fannin doesn’t mind his new position.
No, it’s not running back, though he will still get some carries from that position. It will, however, highlight his skill set – especially when the Tigers work him in at tailback.
“I’m looking forward to it a lot,” Fannin said. “That’s something I came here for. The spot they have me at now, I’m thrilled to play that also. It’s kind of like a bittersweet thing.
“Any way they can get the ball to me, I guess they’re going to try and do it.”
Fannin, who returned to full practice including team drills Sunday, said his biggest adjustments are coming in run blocking.
“You’re the one that's sharing the contact and you have to know where to fit in order to create a lane for the running back,” Fannin said. “So that’s one way that I’m trying to learn and get better at it.”
Fannin bulked up to 230 pounds during the offseason, but said the extra weight has made him feel slower.
He aims to cut five to 10 pounds before the season.

INJURY REPORT: In addition to Fannin, safety Zac Etheridge and receiver Tommy Trott were also back in contact jerseys for Sunday evening’s practice.
In fact, only two players – cornerback Aairon Savage and receiver Philip Pierre-Louis – going through drills were in orange, non-contact jerseys.
The list of players sitting out, though, increased. Defensive end Antoine Carter was carted off the field with a right leg injury. Defensive lineman Derrick Lykes, linebackers Adam Herring and Da’Shaun Barnes and offensive linemen Bart Eddins and Rudy Odom all worked on bikes instead of in practice.

Early notes from Sunday's practice

Today, reporters were given the magnificent privilege of watching 25 minutes of Auburn's eighth spring practice.
Here are some of the details from the workout:

Receiver Montez Billings (unknown) is still sitting out practice. Trooper Taylor said he is banged up, but didn't offer any details. I will attempt to get some kind of detail to clarify the situation. Expect what I'm expecting, though: Nothin'.

Guys back from injury: HB Mario Fannin (ankle), S Zac Etheridge (shoulder) and WR Tommy Trott (knee). All three were in full contact jerseys.

Guys not participating: OLs Bart Eddins and Rudy Odom, LBs Da'Shaun Barnes and Adam Herring and DL Derrick Lykes.

Players practicing in no-contact jerseys: CB Aairon Savage (knee) and WR Philip Pierre-Louis (knee). Pierre-Louis said he is healthy when we last talked to him, but he didn't look healthy when I watched him.

Linebacker Eltoro Freeman split time working with the 1s today. He worked in front of Spencer Pybus at weak-side linebacker. That left the 1s with a lineup of Craig Stevens, Josh Bynes and Freeman.

Marcus Jemison is also working with the linebackers. The redshirt freshman came to Auburn last year as a safety. He broke his leg in a fight during an August practice and missed the entire season.

I didn't see this, but my colleagues Andys Gribble and Bitter of the OA News and Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, respectively, informed me that DE Antoine Carter was carted off the field with an apparent right foot injury.

Trooper Taylor, as always, put on an excellent show during practice. First thing I saw when I got to the field was Taylor running a drill where he took the padding from the bottom of the goalpost and swing it like a baseball bat at receivers trying to catch passes. Taylor knocked the ball away from both Terrell Zachery and Derek Winter.
Taylor also had some great comments, like this one after a walk-on dropped a pass: "I could make you a volleyball player yesterday."

Photo credit: Todd Van Emst, Auburn University

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Saturday's scrimmage

Saturday's scrimmage was closed to the media and stats weren't provided, so the reporters had to rely on several coaches and players to fill us in on what happened.
Here's what I gathered from Saturday's scrimmage:

Auburn's offensive tempo caught the defense on its heels from time to time, prompting Gene Chizik to slow the pace. That was not an overly popular decision. In fact, tailback Ben Tate said it wasn't fair because it gave the defense an advantage.
If that's all true, I agree with Tate. Malzahn's tempo is part of what makes his offense unique and explosive. At the same time, the offensive players need to realize that the defense is learning a new system as well.

Terrell Zachery and Minnesota transfer Ralph Spry Jr. both caught touchdown passes. Those were, perhaps, the only two TDs thrown on Saturday.
Zachery caught his TD on a post pattern from Neil Caudle. Zachery said his route, combined with Darvin Adams' corner route from the inside spot, confused the safeties in a Cover 2 defense and left Zachery wide open.
Kodi Burns threw Spry's touchdown.

Adams also apparently had a few big plays.

Tate described his performance as "poor," and said it was the worst he had played all spring. He lost a fumble.

Tailbacks Justin Albert and Eric Smith both made long runs on draw plays. Smith's went for a touchdown.

The defense won the competition 45-40 when Drew Cole forced Onterio McCalebb to fumble and Cameron Henderson recovered. The coaching staff used a modified scoring system.

Big defensive standouts:
Safety Mike McNeil for a big hit over the middle on a third-down passing play that broke up a pass and forced a fourth-down situation.
Zach Clayton had two sacks.
Mike Slade had an interception. He picked off Caudle.

There is no frontrunner in the QB race.

Here's the rest of Saturday's notes:
With spring practice approximately at the midway point, Auburn’s coaches are creatively trying to narrow the quarterback race.
During Saturday’s scrimmage, that meant a risky maneuver – allowing the quarterbacks to get hit during the second half.
“…You’ve got to be able to have a gauge when you’re trying to measure two or three close guys in a battle right now, what’s going to separate them,” Auburn coach Gene Chizik said. “And two-hand tag is hard to separate them. If we’re going to run the football with the quarterback, he’s got to learn to tuck the football and not turn it over.”
Chizik said he tried to get all three quarterbacks – Chris Todd (shoulder) is still not practicing – live series to see what they could do.
Offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn said he liked the decision to let quarterbacks take some shots.
“When we do that we get a chance to see things that maybe we couldn’t. It’s real important to see the film and I think I’ll be able to tell a little bit more after we watch that.
“When you’re truly competing, we want our quarterbacks to have that hard edge, too. I’m able to evaluate a lot clear when you do that.”

FANNIN OUT: H-back Mario Fannin sat out Saturday’s scrimmage with an ankle injury.
Fannin said earlier in the week that he turned his ankle, but he doesn’t believe it’s a serious injury. Coaches seem to think he will return to practice soon.
Chizik said the decision to keep Fannin off the field was obvious.
“Mario’s a little banged up right now, so we’re being really smart with him,” Chizik said. “He really did well earlier in spring practice and he’s going to be fine. We’re just being smart with him and making sure we don’t do anything to limit him the rest of the spring.”

NEW PRIORITIES: Chizik said Saturday that reserve offensive lineman Kyle Coulahan has at least temporarily left the team.
“Kyle is facing some academic issues,” Chizik said. “At this time, right now, he’s decided that’s where he’s going to place his focus. We had a great conversation and that’s kind of where he feels like he needs to go and I was a good listener.”
Auburn already had limited depth at the position and Coulahan’s departure means the Tigers are down to eight scholarship offensive linemen.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Notes from Thursday's practice

When offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn met the media for the first time, he vowed to return the offense to its run-game roots.
To that end, most of the big offensive plays coaches have relayed to reporters have been long runs during the first week.
Senior Ben Tate has turned in several of those plays, and running backs coach Curtis Luper said he has been happy with Eric Smith’s progress as well.
“They’re physical runners,” Luper said. “They can make the first guy miss which every good running back has to have. They both have good hands. They’re smart. They work hard. They want to do well. Combined with their talent, they’ll do well.”
Luper said the pair splits time with the first-team offense.
He also said Smith moves better than what most expect from a 230-pound back. Apparently, Smith doesn’t mind lowering the shoulder either.
“He’s a load,” Luper said. “He’s not easy to tackle. Ask McNeil, (safety) Michael McNeil. He hasn’t tackled them all spring.”
Luper didn’t mention Onterio McCalebb as one of the players getting a large workload with the starters, but he did say the true freshman is probably the team’s fastest player.
“We’re expecting big things from him, starting like Saturday,” Luper said.
Mario Fannin has worked in an H-back role throughout spring so far. An ankle injury has limited him this week, but he’s expected back in practice soon.
Luper said the staff plans to get Fannin experience at several positions, including slot receiver. The junior is expected to work with Luper at tailback during the final week.
“He’s one of the best players on our football team so we’ve got to get him the football” Luper said.

SATURDAY SCRIMMAGE: Auburn practiced in shells for the first time this spring on Thursday. Rain pushed approximately half of the workout into the indoor practice field.
Auburn coach Gene Chizik said Saturday’s scrimmage would last approximately 90 to 110 plays.
“What we plan on doing right now is playing it as much like a game-like situation as we can,” Chizik said. “We’ve been doing so much situational in practice right now – putting them in different situations that they’re going to run into on Saturday – so now we’d like to see them without coaches on the field, down and distance situationally, and execute our offense and defense situationally.”

KICKED AROUND: Two years ago, kicker Chandler Brooks struggled through his East Mississippi Community College season.
Now he’s apparently leading Auburn’s kicker competition.
Brooks’ stepfather, James Brooks, played linebacker for Auburn during the early 90s. Once his EMCC days were behind him, he decided he would come to Auburn and try to follow in his stepfather’s footsteps.
“It’s where I grew up,” Chandler Brooks said. “I always loved Auburn. I wanted to come back. That’s where my heart led me.”
Auburn coaches did not accept Brooks as a walk-on last year, but he tried out again and made the team in February.
When special teams coach Jay Boulware announced Wednesday that Brooks led the competition, it caught even the sophomore by surprise.
“I was kind of surprised,” he said. “We’ve all been on and off. Lately, I’ve been doing well. The kickers out there, we’re all doing well. We try to encourage each other.
“I was shooting to make the team. Once I was on the team, I kept setting goals. Then they told me I’m No. 1. I’m just working at it.”
That doesn’t mean he’s been completely embraced by the team, which hasn’t even given him a free pair of shoes.
Brooks’ old cleats broke, so he needed a new pair of shoes. The cheapest pair he could find was a pair of yellow shoes that cost $30.
“They’ll last me until I need a new pair,” Brooks said.

YOUTH TURNS CORNER: Cornerbacks coach Phillip Lolley and starter Walt McFadden said they have been pleasantly surprised with freshman T’Sharvan Bell’s play.
Bell, who missed all last year with a knee injury, has opened some eyes in the first two weeks of practice.
“He’s really progressing,” Bell said. “I mean he’s made some really good plays the last few days and (he’s) showing great quickness and awareness.”
With senior Aairon Savage still not in contact drills, sophomore Neiko Thorpe is working with the starting defense along with McFadden.
Bell seems to have established himself as the other standout.
Saturday’s scrimmage could be big for sophomores Harry Adams and D’Antoine Hood, both of whom are apparently working at the bottom of the five-man rotation.

ZACH-MAN: McFadden told reporters Thursday that receiver Terrell Zachery is among the fastest players on the team.
The Wadley native said he ran a 4.4 during underclassmen workouts.
Currently, he’s working with the first-team offense and he’s looking forward to Saturday’s scrimmage.
Last year, Zachery shined in a couple Auburn scrimmages.
“I’m going to just keep working hard and try to keep working with the 1s,” Zachery said. “I’m going to try to keep that same position.
“I just want to get out there and run around and show the coaches what I can do with the ball in my hands. That’s my main focus right now.”

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Wednesday notes

For years, former Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville built his program partly around “the kicking game.”
Ironically, the punter, kicker and long snapper he signed to scholarships within the last three years might all find themselves behind walk-ons this year.
To be fair, walk-on punter Clinton Durst started 11 games for Tuberville in 2008.
Special teams coach Jay Boulware said Wednesday that the two are even, but seemed to lean toward Durst instead of scholarship punter Ryan Shoemaker.
“I know Clinton has been punting phenomenal in the first few days,” Boulware said. “He’s really trying to hone in on the technique and we’re trying to establish a little bit more consistency from him.
“He didn’t have a very good day today, but Shoemaker had a phenomenal day today. I’ve really been honing in on him and trying to get him ready to go. I’ll be curious to see how it turns out. Both of those kids have ability. Durst has been striking the ball the most consistent throughout camp.”
Boulware declared Shoemaker was “out of this world” on Wednesday, perhaps tightening the race.
While Auburn ranked toward the top of the SEC in punting, kicking hurt the Tigers through much of last season.
Boulware said walk-on redshirt freshman Chandler Brooks currently tops the place-kicking competition. That means he’s ahead of Wes Byrum, who has started since his true freshman year, and Morgan Hull.
Boulware said Brooks stood out to him during walk-on tryouts – partly because he did so well and partly because of his yellow shoes.
In practice Wednesday, Brooks kicked a 51-yard field goal, Boulware said.
Walk-on Josh Harris also leads the snapper competition over scholarship snapper Dax Dellenbach, who is running third right now. Boulware said Bailey Woods is the backup snapper.

BIG PLAYS: Auburn coach Gene Chizik said tailbacks Ben Tate and Onterio McCalebb both made long runs during Wednesday’s mini-scrimmage.
Chizik said there were some good and bad plays on both sides of the ball during the scrimmage, but liked the defense’s physical play.
The early-practice scrimmage lasted approximately 30-to-35 plays by Chizik’s count. He also said it was a full-contact practice, with quarterbacks being the lone exceptions.
Chizik said, weather permitting, the team would hold its first full scrimmage on Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium. The scrimmage is closed to the media and the public.

CATCHING ON: Receiver Tim Hawthorne spent time Tuesday defending the receivers corps against criticism that it hasn’t produced enough.
Receivers coach Trooper Taylor has heard those comments as well, but he’s not prepared to write the group off.
“To be real honest, the talk that’s happened before we came around, that’s all B.T.T. – I say that’s before Troop time,” Taylor said Wednesday. “I don’t care anything about any of that, it’s what we have now and from what I’ve seen out there, the guys that we’ve got are going to be competitive and go out there and compete.”
Taylor said Hawthorne has been a standout through the first week of practice and has been physical.
Another player working on the first-team offense, Wadley native Terrell Zachery, is looking for more consistent play.
“He’s doing well. Terrell is one of the guys that’s stepped up and made some plays,” Taylor said. “I tell you what he’s trying to do, he’s trying to lead. I know a lot of people say leaders are born, they can’t be made and all that kind of deal, but he’s leading by example, he’s not running his mouth. He’s going out there and getting things done.
“The big deal for Terrell is he’s got to be consistent. It can’t be one day good and the next day down. He’s got to learn to be consistent all the time.”
Zachery’s presence on the field, though, certainly helps his chances.
Three receivers – Philip Pierre-Louis, Tommy Trott and Montez Billings – have all missed at least a significant portion of contact drills with various injuries.
Pierre-Louis, still recovering from knee surgery, hasn’t been able to get in the mix full-time.
That, Taylor said, has affected his ability to judge the redshirt freshman.
“My big deal for him is he better get healthy because it’s not personal, but you can’t make the club in the tub,” Taylor said.
Taylor had another good line on Quindarius Carr, a sophomore who is trying to crack the receivers rotation.
“He looks the part but I told him right now he’s like a limo without gas,” Taylor said. “He looks good and I can’t ride him. So I need him to go ahead and get some gas in his tank and go.
“But it’s not because he doesn’t want to.”

CATCH AND RETURN: In addition to his receivers coach duties, Taylor is also heading the search for a punt returner.
So far that has meant finding players who can fulfill the basics.
“The one thing we want to do is not let that ball hit the ground and that’s something we’ve been really emphasizing,” Taylor said. “I’ve been really physical with those guys from the drill.”
Taylor said that, by attrition, he’s gone from nine prospects to four – Carr, walk-on running back Justin Albert, cornerback Walt McFadden and H-back Mario Fannin.
None of the four have any experience returning punts at the college level.
Fannin has apparently made good impressions on Boulware at the H-back position as well.
“ Mario is one of the most explosive players we have on our offense,” Boulware said. “That player in that position in coach (Gus) Malzahn’s has been a very productive player. Mario’s doing a great job with us. That player for Tulsa was a 1,000-yard receiver for them last year, so that’s what we’re looking for from Mario. We’re looking for that type of productivity.”

TECHNOLOGY UPGRADE: Auburn announced Wednesday that it would implement a two-way text message system called GuestAssist this season at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
The program allows ticket holders to efficiently communicate problems to event staff.
Auburn is the first NCAA program to use GuestAssist.
The number to text will be found on signs and can be heard during public address announcements.