Friday, January 15, 2010

Taylor Interview Pt. II

When Auburn returns for spring practice, receivers coach Trooper Taylor knows he will be without Tim Hawthorne, who left the program.

He expects everyone else to return. That includes WR Philip Pierre-Louis, who spent the better part of the season in the doghouse either for off-the-field problems or performance issues. Pierre-Louis was suspended for the first four games. When he returned, he was used exclusively as a punt returner except when he was briefly used as a defensive back during the Furman game.

Pierre-Louis struggled in the role, fumbling or muffing several punts.

Taylor said he hopes PPL can regain confidence in the punt return game and could be used "on some bubble screens." That said, Taylor said the sophomore has no margin for error.

"His box is about as tight as a matchbox and he can’t step outside those lines," Taylor said. "He’s either going to be an Auburn man or he’s not. He’s not going to get very many chances to do that."

WR Derek Winter will also return, though largely as a special teams contributor again.

"He knows that his window’s not as wide as others’ but he knows that he will have a niche on this team," Taylor said.

Taylor also vowed to fight to get Anthony Gulley back on offense and back in the mix at receiver. Gulley moved to defensive back during the final few games to help Auburn at a position at which it was dangerously thin.

Taylor saw enough from Gulley in limited offensive action to know he wants the ball in his hands.

One player Taylor seems willing to concede is Mario Fannin. Some recruits are tagged with the "Athlete" tag, but that is always dropped once they get to campus. Fannin, through his first four years, has stuck with it.

He has played tailback, receiver, tailback, H-back, receiver, tailback and back to receiver.

Now? It looks like he's moving back to tailback. Taylor said that with Auburn's depth situation in the backfield, running backs coach Curtis Luper could use Fannin more. The Tigers have a pair of tailback commitments in Michael Dyer and D.J. Howard -- who canceled last week's trip to Clemson and seems set on going to Auburn -- and could get another from Marcus Lattimore.

When spring begins, though, Auburn will have three tailbacks -- Fannin, Onterio McCalebb and Dontae Aycock. All three should get opportunities to prove they can be an every-down back, but all three need to impress lest they serve as placeholders for Dyer or one of the other freshmen.

Fannin finished second on the team in receptions and will probably be used in a variety of ways. For the time being, though, the "ATH" next to his name largely becomes an "RB."

"He really just substituted for that lack of experience and confidence we had in those other guys," Taylor said. "Now that we have some confidence in those guys we can use him more as a tailback. He has that type of ability."

No comments: