Friday, August 14, 2009

Notes from Friday's practice

Here's a glimpse of tomorrow's story in The Anniston Star:

A day after Auburn coach Gene Chizik announced Chris Todd as the Tigers starting quarterback, the rest of the team seemed unified behind the decision.

Several players said that alone makes this year’s quarterback race different from the one decided two games into the 2008 season.

“I’m proud of my coach. Last year at this time, we still trying those little games as to who’s going to be quarterback, who’s not,” senior cornerback Walt McFadden said. “He went ahead and just got it out the way for everybody to just know that Chris Todd is our quarterback.”

For more, read Saturday's Anniston Star.

Here's a look at the rest of notes from Friday:

With the starting quarterback now decided, the impetus is now on offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn finding his backup.

Neil Caudle is still in the mix, but in the immediate future the search means more reps for true freshman Tyrik Rollison.

“We have more information about Neil than we do about Tyrik, so we’re going to give Tyrik quite a few reps because we really need to see where he’s at," Malzahn said. "He’s a talented young man, but at the same time, it takes a lot to run this offense. We’re going to give him the majority of the reps right now. We’ll just have to see Tyrik, after we get him more snaps, see where he’s at and later on we’ll be able to have some kind of order after No. 1.”

Caudle remains confident about the spot because of his vast knowledge of the offense.

Still, Rollison seems to have the next shot at seizing the backup position.

That likely hinges on how well the true freshman adjusts to being more vocal.

“At my school I wasn’t like a verbal dude,” Rollison said. “All our things were off signals and silent and everything. Here our quarterbacks have to be verbal. They have to talk and speak up. They have to be loud. I got to transition to that from my high school to the college level.

“It’s pretty tough because I have to come out of my comfort zone of being quiet and going to talking where our quarterback as to be more verbal in our offense.”

BO KNOWS AUBURN: Legendary running back Bo Jackson spent both Thursday and Friday watching Auburn’s practices.

The former Auburn great spent a portion of the time watching the running backs. Ben Tate, who was named to the Maxwell Award list on Friday, said Jackson delivered a message to not just the tailbacks, but the entire team.

“Just to take this opportunity and to run with it,” Tate said. “Don’t let it pass you by. A lot of people don’t have this opportunity that we have, so basically just take advantage of it and do everything right while you’re here.”

Jackson currently has two kids in Auburn.

Chizik said it was “awesome” to have Jackson around the program.

“It’s just great to have guys that made Auburn great come back and talk to everybody about how special the place is,” Chizik said.

BURNS RULE: McFadden was befuddled when he saw Kodi Burns line up as a receiver on Friday.

That’s not because the senior cornerback expected Burns to line up at quarterback, but rather, Burns was still wearing the orange non-contact jersey.

“Today… it was kind of the first time I didn’t know ‘Can I hit him?’ because he still had the orange jersey on,” McFadden said. “I didn’t want to touch him a little bit but I gave him a little push and then I took my hands off him and I looked at coach Chizik and raised my hands. I was pretty scared of that.”

Auburn doesn’t know exactly how it will use Burns now that he is not a full-time quarterback.

Malzahn said Friday that Burns would continue to get snaps at quarterback, but that he would work primarily at receiver.

There’s also talk of using Burns as the Wildcat triggerman.

“He will be a part of that, there’s no doubt,” Malzahn said. “He will be a part of a lot of different things. That will give us flexibility to put extreme pressure on the defense at times. He’s a phenomenal athlete, and he can do a lot of different things. He’ll still keep taking reps at quarterback also. He’s just going to be a versatile player.”

PAIGE OUT: reported Friday that cornerback Taikwon Paige fell one short class of qualifying to play for Auburn this season.

Paige was the final player waiting on word from the NCAA Clearinghouse. Auburn’s final recruiting count finished at 22 players. The Tigers signed 29, including Aubrey Phillips, who chose Auburn in late July.

Running back Brandon Jacobs chose to play baseball after the Boston Red Sox selected him in the MLB Draft. The other six players – Paige, Terrance Coleman, Josh Jackson, Reggie Taylor, Izauea Lanier and LaVoyd James – are headed to junior colleges.

SCRIMMAGE GOALS: Defensive coordinator Ted Roof is looking for better tackling and more players getting to the football when Auburn holds its second scrimmage today.

He’s also focused on getting his defense to produce more turnovers.

That, Roof said, often dictates a defense’s success – and ultimately that of a team.

“If you look at statistics and you guys study them, and it’s not a coincidence that the two teams that played for the national championship were both in the top-five in the country in takeaways,” Roof said. “The two teams that played for the conference championship were in the top-two in the Southeastern Conference in takeaways. So I don’t think that’s a coincidence.”

MOVING AROUND: With Auburn desperately seeking help at the linebacker position, freshman Dee Ford is getting looks there.

Ford came to Auburn as a linebacker/defensive end, but had previously played exclusively at end.

“Dee is a really good athlete. Whether he can make that transition from putting his hand on the ground to moving back, that remains to be seen,” Chizik said. “That’s usually a more difficult move than putting them back and moving them down. Your vision is expanded and there’s all kinds of moving parts in there.

“Athletically, he’s a talented kid. We’re going to continue to look to see if he can help us there. He’s an impressive guy.”

Ford missed a few practices last week and was in an orange non-contact jersey on Thursday. Friday, he was back in a white jersey, indicating he’s ready for contact.

LACING ’EM UP: Part of what makes Trooper Taylor so popular is his ability to relate to the younger players.

Taylor is the vocal leader of the Auburn coaching staff, whether it’s getting players fired up during warm-ups or if it’s spouting off one-liners during receiving drills.

Taylor is also a hands-on coach – just ask the players he slams with the blocking pads.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that Taylor takes it a step further. He told reporters earlier in the week that he wears cleats while working with the team.

“I’ve always coached in cleats. I played in cleats, so I coach the same way I play,” Taylor said. “When I played, I was an enthusiastic guy as well, because I think you’ve got to have some fun, but also, when I demonstrate, I don’t want to be slipping down in flats and that deal.

“And then you never know when one of them will want to try you. If they want to try you, you better have some friction or you’ll end up underneath that stadium. And if I need to run away from one, I sure don’t need to slip down.”

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