Friday, August 7, 2009

Your Friday post-practice notes

After spending the first two days with the younger players, Chris Todd replaced Neil Caudle in the first practice group Friday.

Todd drew strong reviews from offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn following the first practice. Now, after the first practice in shells, he seems to have pulled closer to Caudle and Kodi Burns, who he practiced with in the first group Friday.

“To truly evaluate them, we’ll have to rotate these quarterbacks,” Malzahn said. “You’ll see me continually do that. It means nothing as far as anything other than we’re evaluating. We want to see what they can do with some of the guys who are more experienced.”

Malzahn said Todd looked good again during Friday’s session.

Meanwhile, Burns – a veteran to quarterback competitions now – seems to know exactly how tight the competition has become.

“Everyday is important. I want to do good every single day, every practice, whether it’s a scrimmage or anything,” Burns said.

Malzahn said that while he wants to evaluate Todd, it doesn’t necessarily mean freshmen Tyrik Rollison and Clint Moseley will work with the veterans soon. Malzahn said he’s still in teaching mode with both players and he doesn’t want to overwhelm them.

Though Malzahn didn’t tip his hand, he indicated he is closer to a decision.

“We have more information than we did in the spring,” Malzahn said. “It was real good to see how they came back after the summer. We’ve seen some improvement and some have improved more than others.”

HELP FROM NEW FACES: Defensive coordinator Ted Roof knows he needs to find depth in a hurry.

He currently has six scholarship linebackers, two of which are true freshmen. The defensive line doesn’t have much more depth.

“It’s our job to develop depth and certainly I think it’s helped to split practices like we’ve been doing,” Roof said. “We’ve gotten to take a good, long look at those kids. They get more reps that way. I think that will pay off and some of those guys will have to help us.”

Roof seemed pleased with the progress made by freshmen Jonathan Evans and Harris Gaston.

He wants to see the newcomers in pads before he commits to anything, though.

“A lot of pretty bodies sometimes when they put the pads on, when they show up in shorts, you don’t notice them as much in pads,” Roof said. “And sometimes those ugly bodies that you don't want to notice in shorts, sometimes they show up in pads. So players come in all shapes and sizes, so when we put the pads on, we’ll see exactly where everybody is.”

MALZAHN’S WILDCATS: Add Mario Fannin to the group of skill players Malzahn is currently auditioning for the Wildcat formation.

Malzahn said Friday he is working Fannin and true freshmen Travante Stallworth, Dontae Aycock and Emory Blake at the position.

“After the first scrimmage we’ll really start zeroing in on that,” Malzahn said. “You have to have someone who can secure the ball. You have to have someone who can run and throw well enough to keep them honest.”

At both Arkansas and Tulsa, Malzahn employed the Wildcat offense. He was non-committal about how much he planned to use it this year, but said he used it approximately 10 percent over the past two years.

“If you’ve got a real Wildcat, the more it would be used,” Malzahn said. “Darren McFadden – we probably gave him double the reps. It depends on the guy.”

UP AND DOWN START: Receiver DeAngelo "Voodoo" Benton is working with the first practice group.

Friday he got a little extra work in, too, though not in the traditional sense.

Benton was seen doing up-downs during the second session viewable for the media, after the first group went into the locker rooms.

Kicker Wes Byrum did up-downs at the same time as Benton.

BLANC NEARING RETURN?: Mike Blanc was in shells and helmet during Friday’s practice, though he didn’t warm up with the team.

The junior defensive tackle wasn’t sporting the same wrap on his left hand/wrist that he wore on Thursday.

Blanc didn’t warm up with the team, but got his ankles taped toward the end of the session. He joined the defensive linemen when Auburn started breakout groups. He did not go through drills. Auburn coach Gene Chizik said Thursday that Blanc is fine.

BATES CLEARED: The Clearinghouse has cleared freshman safety Daren Bates, who participated in his first Auburn practice on Friday.

Bates worked with the second group.

“It was great to see Daren out there,” Chizik said. “Obviously he’s been waiting, so trying to kick all the rust off him right now. But it was great to have him out there running around and getting some reps. He did a nice job today.”

Receiver Ralph Spry and walk-on defensive back Woody Parramore were also added to the roster on Friday. Spry must sit out this year after transferring from Minnesota in the spring.

RECEIVING VOTES: Auburn found itself in the “others receiving votes” category of the USA Today Coaches’ poll.

The SEC placed five teams in the top 25, led by top-ranked Florida. Alabama is ranked No. 5. LSU, Ole Miss and Georgia are ranked ninth, 10th and 14th, respectively.

Auburn received 12 votes, making it the 14th team on the receiving votes list. The Tigers were behind South Carolina, but ahead of Kentucky, Arkansas and Tennessee.

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