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.

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