Saturday, August 15, 2009

Notes from the Saturday scrimmage

Two days after learning Chris Todd is the starting quarterback, Auburn’s offense scored five touchdowns during Saturday’s scrimmage at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Todd and the first-team offense scored on three of those drives. The senior quarterback threw a touchdown pass to Montez Billings on a corner route that covered approximately 20 yards.

Todd didn’t have the only smooth transition on Saturday. Kodi Burns, who moved to receiver once the coaching staff decided to start Todd, scored on a touchdown from the Wildcat formation.

Receivers coach Trooper Taylor said Burns’ run was approximately 50 yards.

“He did good today. He scored a touchdown today and stiff-armed a guy on the way in there,” Taylor said.

Tailback Ben Tate also chipped in with a rushing touchdown.

Taylor said the first-team unit ran five series. It scored touchdowns on three.

“We were able to run the ball to set up the pass and we were able to pass the ball to set up the run,” Mario Fannin said. “Everything worked out great.”

Offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn, who watched his offense win a second consecutive scrimmage, seemed more focused on the details than the scores.

“We had zero turnovers. That was really a bright spot,” Malzahn said. “Two penalties: One motion and one hold on our second group. That’s very good to see.”

The offense turned the ball over three or four times in the first scrimmage.

The second-team offense posted a pair of touchdowns as well.

Eric Smith ran for a touchdown and No. 2 quarterback contender Tyrik Rollison threw for another.

“I thought tonight was a productive night, I really did,” Auburn coach Gene Chizik said. “This deep into camp you worry about injuries and you worry about where you are mentally. They’re beat down and they’re tired.

“Really good response tonight, I thought. Really focused. I thought we a got a lot accomplished.”

Chizik didn’t seem overly concerned about the defense’s rough day. He said the theme for the second-team unit mostly focused on finding depth at key positions.

TAKING CHARGE: Todd sat in front of reporters staring blankly at the ceiling, trying to recall throwing an incompletion.

He couldn’t remember one for sure.

Fannin said the first-team offense completed every pass it attempted, helping the offense’s explosive effort on Saturday.

Cornerback Walt McFadden, who watched his first-team defense allow three touchdowns on five drives, said he saw new swagger from the unit’s counterpart.

“You could see, it’s a whole different attitude over there, especially on the defensive side as well,” McFadden said. “We’re both happy that we’ve got a leader on that side of the ball. He’s taking charge. He’s leading the offense in the right direction.”

Todd said getting all the first-team reps helped him get into a better rhythm.

Malzahn agreed, saying Todd did a good job running the offense.

“The fact that you can keep a guy out there multiple reps at a time and the same drive, that’s big,” Malzahn said. “Your linemen get used to him. The backs will get used to him and the receivers will get down their timing with the throws.”

BATES IMPRESSES: For the second time in as many scrimmages, safety Daren Bates turned heads with his performance.

This time, he did so while working part-time with the first-team defense.

“I saw Bates throwing his body around,” defensive coordinator Ted Roof said. “That was good to see. He strikes people. He’s showing up and doing some good things.”

Chizik singled Bates out as one of the two freshmen he saw flashes from during the scrimmage.

“I just was trying to play ball, get around the football,” Bates said. “Just trying to get my chance out there and letting them see I can play out there. I’m a freshman and just ready to get out there and play.”

The coaches aren’t the only ones impressed by the true freshman.

“This guy’s a blue-collar football player. He’s a headhunter,” McFadden said. “He’s running around making tackles, making plays. That’s a guy sticking out on defense. You’ll see him soon.”
Chizik didn’t commit to playing Bates this year. He did, however, say the staff plans to give him “every opportunity to be on the field.”

ROLLISON STEPPING UP: Todd drew most of the headlines on Saturday, but Malzahn and Chizik both came away pleased with Rollison’s performance as well.

Rollison got most of the reps with the second-team offense and threw a touchdown.

“We’re still evaluating him. We’ll continue to do that,” Malzahn said. “He did a solid job. He made a really good on a throw and it went for a touchdown. He held the ball a little long a couple times, but that comes from experience. In high school, you can get away with that. We’ll get that corrected.”

Chizik said Neil Caudle also led a few drives.

Caudle and Rollison are currently battling for the backup quarterback position.

FREE RIDE: Chizik announced Saturday that he awarded three former walk-ons – punter Clinton Durst, holder Clayton Crofoot and receiver John Cubelic – with scholarships.

Crofoot played every game last year as a holder. Durst punted in 11 games. Cubelic has played in one career game.

“Every year, whenever we have opportunities to do that with our walk-ons, we’ll always reward them for playing a tough sport for free,” Chizik said. “That’s really hard to do. Whenever I can reward those guys with scholarships available, the ones who deserve it.”

DAYS OFF: Auburn now has two days off before returning to the practice field.

Chizik said the timing couldn’t be better for the Tigers, coming off 11 consecutive days of practice.

“They are due. Eleven straight days is really tough,” Chizik said. “They are ready to get two days off – the need it, and they deserve because they’ve worked really hard to this point.”

The first day off, Sunday, also marks Auburn’s annual Fan Day, which will be held from 2-4 p.m. The football, women’s basketball, soccer and volleyball teams will be in attendance to sign autographs at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

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