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.

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