One of Gene Chizik’s goals during bowl preparation is giving younger players extended looks heading into spring practice.
Redshirt freshman QB Tyrik Rollison won’t be among them.
Rollison will not practice with the team during bowl preparation nor will he travel with the team to Tampa, Chizik said Saturday after Auburn concluded its first bowl practice.
Though Rollison wouldn’t have played anyway, his suspension is a big deal because he is one of four or five quarterbacks vying for senior Chris Todd’s starting position this spring.
Neil Caudle and Barrett Trotter already have an early advantage because they went through spring practice last year. Now fellow redshirt Clint Moseley could have an advantage as well if he gets extra reps with the top two offensive units during bowl preparation.
RETURNING TO PRACTICE: LB Eltoro Freeman was back at practice when Auburn started preparation for the Outback Bowl on Saturday.
The sophomore linebacker missed Auburn’s regular-season finale against Alabama with an ankle injury. He was not available for comment after practice.
Chizik said Freeman looked “much better” than during preparations for the Iron Bowl.
“I think he’s made some strides – he’s got a ways to go,” Chizik said. “He’s not a full 100 percent, but compared to where he was a couple of weeks ago I think he’s made significant strides. He needs to continue to do that if we’re going to play him in that bowl game the way we need to play him.”
Freeman’s injury is a big deal because Auburn lacked depth at linebacker to start the year. Now the Tigers are without scholarship LBs Adam Herring, Spencer Pybus and Harris Gaston. That means Auburn is down to four scholarship linebackers, including Freeman and true freshman Jonathan Evans.
The depth situation has meant Craig Stevens and Josh Bynes have played an inordinate number of plays this season.
Stevens said Freeman looked good on Saturday.
NO CONTACT: Mario Fannin partook in Saturday’s practice, but did so while sporting an orange non-contact jersey.
The H-back is still recovering from a stinger he suffered during the Alabama game.
Fannin suffered the injury toward the end of the first half when he caught a short pass and LB Rolando McClain immediately met him with a big hit.
Fannin didn’t go down, but looked like he might have gotten knocked out on his feet.
“I didn't get knocked out,” Fannin said. “It was just more when I got my stinger on my left side, it just kind of made me stop and I wanted to make sure I still had the ball until they blew the whistle.”
The rest of the Auburn team got at least some physicality in the first day back.
“Just trying to bang some of the rust off and kind of get back to work in a shorter version of practice,” Chizik said. “We got some work in on both sides of the ball, and special teams.”
DAVIS COMMITS: Woodlawn athlete Chris Davis committed to play for Auburn on Saturday, giving the Tigers 23 to date.
Davis is likely to play cornerback and will also probably get chances as a return specialist as well. He chose Auburn where he will almost certainly play defense despite getting looks elsewhere, from schools like South Carolina, to play receiver.
WILDCAT TWIST: Offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn made a surprise move in the Wildcat formation against Alabama when Ben Tate took snaps as the triggerman.
There might be more alterations on tap when Auburn plays Northwestern in the Outback Bowl.
RB Onterio McCalebb took a few snaps as the Wildcat triggerman, working with both Mario Fannin and Ben Tate in the formation.
Kodi Burns, a converted quarterback, has taken virtually all the Wildcat snaps this season, giving Auburn a throwing presence out of the formation as well.