Thursday, August 20, 2009

Thursday's notes

When Auburn trotted its first-team defense onto the field Wednesday, it included walk-on linebacker Ashton Richardson.

For those scoring at home, that means the Tigers were down to three scholarship linebackers. One of those, true freshman Harris Gaston, is behind the walk-on.

“(Defensive coordinator Ted) Roof and I are in constant discussion about the, ‘what if’s,’” Auburn coach Gene Chizik said. “We’ve got 14 more weeks before we get a break, give or take, so we’re very conscious of that and you have to have a plan if that happens, and it very well could. We’ve got a plan.”

Depth was already a concern before starting weak-side linebacker Eltoro Freeman injured his right hand and his hamstring. With Freeman out – along with Spencer Pybus and Adam Herring – the Tigers turned to true freshman Jonathan Evans.

Wednesday, Evans missed practice with an injury as well.

Auburn briefly tried to move Dee Ford from end to linebacker, but quickly pulled the plug on that experiment. Chizik said there is nobody else the Tigers would consider moving to linebacker.

Roof said Thursday that he can see the light bulb going on for Gaston, “but it’s still not a bright light.”

“Those type of candidates aren’t on our team,” Chizik said. “They’re somewhere else right now.”

Roof said he has never encountered a depth problem like the one Auburn currently faces. Chizik and Roof are currently trying to see if any surprise candidates emerge as capable fill-ins.

“In this league, to think we’re going to play 11 straight weeks and we’re going to run out with the same lineup – that’s probably not a reality,” Roof said.

Roof said the Tigers are also double-training linebackers to play the different spots.

If not? Well, the backup plan means taking one linebacker position off the field altogether.

“Obviously, we can play some nickel and things, which we got, to help us,” Chizik said. “Take a line backer out and play with two instead of three. Other than that, there are really no other options right now.”

Not that Auburn is any better off at cornerback. The Tigers have just four scholarship corners. One, Harry Adams, is a true sophomore who split time between corner and receiver this spring and summer. Another, Demond Washington, is a JUCO transfer who spent last season playing tailback.

So Auburn is instead turning to a third safety, sending Zac Etheridge to the nickelback spot.

“Zac is kinda one of those hybrid guys that is in between a safety and a corner,” Chizik said. “Typically your nickel guy is a third corner. But as we alluded to earlier, we’re not stacked up at corner either.”

‘DADDY WALT’: As a senior, Walt McFadden has proudly accepted his leadership position.
However, it has come with a surprising consequence.

“I’ve taking them under my wing but they’ve been calling me ‘Daddy,’” McFadden said. “I’m trying to get away from that. I’m still their age, you know? We can still have fun together, you know?”

Adams has been the guiltiest party.

“Harry Adams (says) ‘Daddy Walt. Daddy Walt. How do I stop this? How do I make this a better situation to defend this receiver better?’” McFadden said. “I feel old over there.”

ON THE MEND: Offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn said receiver Terrell Zachery is nursing a minor injury that kept him out of practice on Wednesday.

It’s not expected to sideline Zachery for long.

“He’ll be back very soon,” Malzahn said. “We just want to make sure all of our guys are 100 percent when we get to the first game.”

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