Sunday, August 23, 2009

Sunday practice notes

After getting arrested early Friday morning for disorderly conduct, Eric Smith is expected to turn himself in to the Auburn police on a separate charge.

The Opelika-Auburn News, with confirmation from the victim’s mother and the Auburn Police Department, reported Smith faces an assault charge. It is considered a Class A misdemeanor.

Auburn coach Gene Chizik, who on Friday did not say whether Smith was still on the team, declined comment about the situation when asked about it Sunday.

“As I’ve said the other day, I’m not going into the details of Eric Smith’s situation,” Chizik said.

RECEIVER PURGATORY: Less than two weeks before the season opener, two Auburn receivers still don’t know whether they will play.

Senior Montez Billings and redshirt freshman Philip Pierre-Louis are both facing unspecified issues.

Chizik has said Billings’ problem stems from an academic issue that kept the returning starter out of spring practice. The first-year coach has also declared that Billings will play sometime this season, he just wouldn’t specify when.

Receivers coach Trooper Taylor has been impressed enough with Billings during preseason camp that he said the senior would play immediately if he’s cleared.

Ultimately, Taylor said, that decision lies with Chizik.

“As far as I’m concerned, he’s really done everything we’ve asked him to do,” Taylor said. “Again, I didn’t set that rule. Coach did and he’s going to make that decision when he’s ready. As far as Tez’ work habits and what he’s been doing so far, I’m proud of him.”

Pierre-Louis missed the first two-plus weeks of camp. Taylor said Pierre-Louis was dealing with “personal issues.”

Being away from the team those week, Taylor said, has not left the receiver in a good position.
“He was behind,” Taylor said. “Any time you’re missing, you’re behind. What he does have is ability. He does have some talent.”

It isn’t yet clear if Pierre-Louis is available for Week 1 either. That could be bad news for him.

“It may be one of those things where it’s too far gone and he just waits a year,” Taylor said.

LOCKING IT UP: Of the receivers available, Taylor said he’s largely still evaluating which six he plans to rotate into the game regularly.

So far, he knows just two of those players – Terrell Zachery and Darvin Adams.

“They’ve basically locked their positions up,” Taylor said.

True freshman Voodoo Benton is considered a starting receiver with Billings’ unclear status. Freshmen Emory Blake, Anthony Gulley and Travante Stallworth are also expected to see time.

Taylor said converted quarterback Kodi Burns has made his job more difficult.

“With Kodi moving into the wide receiver room, that has opened up some doors and closed the slot for somebody else,” Taylor said. “He’s going to be out there. He’s proved that he can make some plays.”

RETURNING FOR RETURNS: Tendonitis in Zachery’s left Achilles kept the junior off the field for a good portion of last week.

The projected starter said he expects to return for Tuesday’s practice.

Zachery said he has also made the short list for kickoff returners. The Wadley native said he is working with Mario Fannin and Onterio McCalebb on returns.

ON THE MEND: With a few prominent players still missing time with injuries, Chizik doesn’t plan to place a deadline on when they must return to play.

Linebackers Eltoro Freeman and Spencer Pybus are of particular interest because the Tigers are so thin at the position.

“Obviously the earlier the better, but there’s no real deadline,” Chizik said. “One of the things about some of the guys who have played a little bit or at least been around is that they catch on much faster and obviously when they get in there, they don’t need quite as many reps as some of those other guys do. So you hope they have a great retention rate and they come back and pick it up real quick.”

RUNNING JOKE: Last week, senior cornerback Walt McFadden tried to illustrate how Chris Todd is versatile enough to make the runs he needs to make.

McFadden said Todd has even outrun some defenders in practice.

Pressed to name the defender or defenders Todd has gotten away from, McFadden offered up just one sacrificial lamb – 292-pound defensive tackle Jake Ricks.

Todd won the starting quarterback job, but he knows that has far more to do with his right arm than with his legs.

Sunday after practice, he joked with reporters that he had moved to receiver.

“Basically they saw so much potential with my athletic ability that I wasn’t fully being utilized at quarterback,” Todd said.

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