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.