Thursday, August 27, 2009

Billings out first four games

WR Montez Billings will miss Auburn's first four games because of an undisclosed academic issue.

The program released a statement early Thursday evening, giving at least a timeframe for Billings. The senior did not practice with the team during the spring because of the situation.

“This is unfortunate for Montez, but we’ve exhausted all avenues to get him on the field as soon as possible,” senior associate athletic director Rich McGlynn said. “While we don’t necessarily agree with the NCAA’s ruling, we have to respect and abide by their decision.”

Billings has practiced all preseason.

Billings' ineligibility, means healthy Tigers receivers have a total of 15 career receptions between them. WR Tim Hawthorne, who had eight catches last year, isn't expected to be ready for the season opener because of a broken foot.

On to practice notes:

We watched approximately 6-8 plays during an early practice team drill.

The team seemed split with 1s and 2s, with QB Neil Caudle taking snaps. Coaches set it up so every play was a third-and-5 situation. It was not an especially productive drill for Caudle.

The junior quarterback, competing for the backup spot, completed 2 of 6 passes. Both of them -- a slant to WR Terrell Zachery and a screen to RB Onterio McCalebb -- went for first downs.

However, his first throw missed the mark badly. CB Harry Adams jumped another slant route and nearly intercepted the pass and Caudle's throws were two high for receivers on two other occasions.

While Caudle took the reps, QB Chris Todd stood next to OC Gus Malzahn going over reads and audibles at the line.

Other notes:
  • RBs coach Curtis Luper was not pleased with McCalebb's execution on the screen pass. "You're too wide," Luper said. "You're making it too hard for him." Presumably, Luper was talking about the offensive lineman trying to get in front of the play and set up the blocks for the screen. In fairness, Caudle's throw was high and McCalebb made a nice play to catch it.
  • Players missing in today's practice: LBs Spencer Pybus, Eltoro Freeman and Jonathan Evans, TE Robert Cooper, WR Darvin Adams and OLs Andre Harris and Darrell Roseman. Adams is of particular interest since he is considered a starter. He seemed to favor his right arm. Freeman is also interesting because he had been in practice the last two days. He had a cast back on his right hand. He did not wear the cast on Tuesday. UPDATE: WRs coach Trooper Taylor isn't concerned about Adams missing the opener. Here's his comment: "He’s tough. He’s tougher than a $3 pair of boots, I can promise you.He’s tough. I treat rehab the same as I do practice: You don’t makethe club in the tub, and if he doesn’t want that window to close onhim, he better get better in a hurry. Some people have a hightolerance for pain. He seems to be one of those guys. I expect himback."
  • Players on the mend: S Mike McNeil is still working on the bike, but that's improvement over where he was as recently as last week. Hawthorne is no longer in a boot, though he isn't even working at Muscle Beach yet. S D'Antoine Hood was back in practice.

Part of DE Antonio Coleman’s preseason has included him relearning old tricks.

The senior hasn’t changed positions, but has varied the way he plays it.

During Tuesday’s practice, he spent part of the time rushing out of a standing stance. On one play, he sacked Todd.

“It just lets me get out in space and drop in coverage or come off the edge,” Coleman said. “I’ve done it before, but it’s been a couple years. I did it with (Will) Muschamp. We did some of it last year, but it wasn’t much at all. I’m just getting back used to it.”

Coleman said he doesn’t prefer one stance to the other. He simply wants to move around and pose different problems to opposing offensive lines.

Coleman, who turned down the NFL during the off-season to return for his senior year, is also banking on the fact that NFL teams want to use him in a similar hybrid fashion.

Chizik said Coleman is athletic enough to use in either manner.

“I think he kind of likes standing up. It’s a whole different perspective because you can see and you’re a linebacker some, you’re a defensive lineman some – you’re a hybrid,” Chizik said. “I think he’s kind of built for that and it’s good to kind of be able to possibly have those options with a guy like him.

“There are some others on our team that kind of really fall into that same body type category, but he’s done well in situations where we’ve stood him up, moved him down.”

SPECIALISTS NEARLY SET: As Auburn nears game week, special teams coach Jay Boulware said it appears both the starting kicker and punter are set.

Wes Byrum struggled through most of his sophomore season, but appears to have righted the course as a junior. He is the clear favorite over walk-on kickers Chandler Brooks and Morgan Hull.

“We’ll see how Byrum carries over,” Boulware said. “He’s done a phenomenal job for us this camp and he’s had a number of days where he’s knocked every field goal through at the top of practice, and that’s big. Last spring he couldn’t do that. So we’ll see where he ends up.”

The punting competition came down to Ryan Shoemaker and Clinton Durst. Shoemaker started as a redshirt freshman, but Durst displaced him last season.

Durst, a former walk-on, was given a scholarship during fall camp. Boulware said he would probably win the job.

FRIDAY PLANS: Though Chizik was hesitant to call Friday’s practice a “scrimmage,” he said he planned to work the team at Jordan-Hare Stadium as a final tune-up before game week.

“We’ll have a normal practice tomorrow where we’ll work more situations tomorrow more than anything,” Chizik said. “How much contact we’ll have, I don’t know. We’ll kind of reevaluate today and see where we’re at.”

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