Spring Drills Begin!

By Posted on: March 20th, 2014 in Basketball, Football 12 Comments »
Spring Drills Begin

We have to earn it.
(Photo by Acid Reign.)

     War Eagle, everybody! It was an incredible day in Auburn Tuesday, as Auburn University announced the hiring of Bruce Pearl as the new men’s basketball head coach, and a wild all-day celebration followed. Lost in the euphoria and welcoming of Pearl was the beginning of spring football drills. Head coach Gus Malzhan had the right message with the above quote. The Tiger football team must earn it. Starting now, the SEC Tittle and improbable comeback of 2013 means little. A new slate of games awaits, and it’s a very tough schedule this fall.

     At the crack of dawn Tuesday, Auburn began a new grueling regimen. What was evident quickly on a day in shorts is that the off-season hasn’t been wasted. The team looks bigger and faster, and a quick look at reported weights on the roster bears that out. There are guys out there like Shon Coleman and Shane Callahan who’ve added more than 10 pounds of muscle. Likewise, a few guys who were overweight last season have trimmed down. Of particular note is that starting Star position senior Robensen Therezie has put on 8 pounds. In a defense without a true strong-side linebacker, the star has to sometimes make that tough tackle. At 212 pounds, Therezie should be even better this spring.

Position by position breakdown, after the jump!

     Auburn defensive line was the strength of the defense last season, and it returns a good number of players this season, although finding a few more ends is crucial this spring. Missing from yesterday’s practice was senior starter LaDarius Owens. Don’t know if that was a class conflict, or something more serious. Carl Lawson was running first team, in Dee Ford’s former spot.

     Auburn appears set in stone as to the starting linebackers, Cassanova McKinzy and Kris Frost. Building quality depth behind them will be a priority. There are plans to play junior Justin Garrett, who missed last season with injuries at both linebacker and star. Yesterday, he was working at linebacker.

     On the back end, Auburn will be missing starting safety Joshua Holsey, who’s recovering from a knee injury last season. While Holsey won’t be cleared till fall, he was taking part in non-contact drills, which was a good thing to see. While Auburn begins spring with 19 defensive backs on the official roster, a notable one who is not there is Trent Fisher, who has been a valuable special teams guy the past 3 seasons. Jermaine Whitehead and Jonathan Mincy likely have starting spots locked down, but Auburn will look at a lot of new faces this spring. At least on the first day, the most impressive-looking of the bunch was JUCO transfer Derrick Moncrief. At 6′ 2” and 218, he gives Auburn more size than we’re used to seeing at safety. Trovon Reed worked at corner for the first time, and looked like a natural. He has switched to number 25.

     On the offensive line, Patrick Miller appears to be getting first crack at replacing Greg Robinson at left tackle. Miller took first-team reps on that side, with Avery Young on the right side. Coaches have said that they’ll look at Miller, Shon Coleman and Robert Leff as possible replacements.

     Most years, I worry about Auburn’s numbers at tight end and h-back. This year, things look as good as ever. C. J. Uzomah has added another 6 pounds, and looks the part of a tight end at 264 pounds. He and fellow senior Brandon Fulse should give Auburn the best pair of blocking tight ends in the SEC this fall, and we also know Uzomah has a knack for making the tough touchdown catch in traffic. Ricky Parks has returned to the team at H-back, and looks to again be in the playing rotation like he was last spring. Gage Batten returns after backing up Jay Prosch last season to compete for a starting job.

     Even with Trovon Reed moving to cornerback, Auburn returns a deep and talented receiving corps this spring. In drills yesterday, newcomer D’haquille Williams looked impressive. He’s got size, moves, speed and hands, and might be a threat to take a starting job. Another guy who’s evidently taken a jump forward is Tony Stevens, who played sparingly last season. Stevens is Auburn’s tallest wide receiver at 6′ 4”, and he’s added about 8 pounds of muscle. Auburn has really increased the size of its receiver corps in recent years. Auburn can rotate through Coates, Williams, Stevens, Ricardo Louis, and Jaylon Denson and not have a guy shorter than 6′ 2”. Add in slot guys Quan Bray and Marcus Davis, and it’s a deep and talented group. On the injury front, Jaylon Denson was at practice, but did not do any drills.

     One of the bigger questions on most folks’ minds is who will replace Heisman Finalist Tre Mason? Taking first team reps was Cameron Artis-Payne, with Corey Grant on the second unit. Auburn only has 7 running backs listed on the roster, but more big-name talent will arrive in the fall. For spring, I think the big names will be Artis-Payne, Grant and redshirt freshman Peyton Barber. On A-Day, I’d look for CAP and Grant to be sat down early, and the majority of carries given to the younger guys. That’s the way it usually is. I’ll be looking to see if junior transfer Lawyer Tillman gets a few carries. Yes, we have a Lawyer Tillman on the roster again! He’s the son of former Tiger wide receiver who scored the winning touchdown in the 1986 Iron Bowl.

     At quarterback, Gus Malzhan has his first returning starting quarterback since Mitch Mustaine in 2005. Nick Marshall will go through his first spring at Auburn, and I think everyone is looking forward to seeing what he can do with a greater command of the offense. As Jay Coulter wrote yesterday, I think the offense will run much faster this season. Rounding out the spring depth chart are sophomore Jeremy Johnson, junior Jonathan Wallace, junior Ben Durand, and sophomore Tucker Tuberville.

     The Tigers return to the practice field this morning, and will have a full-pads practice Saturday.

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  1. AUwaterboy says:

    Good read.
    Enjoyed it very much Acid. Question: How many of the new recruits will be able to take part in spring drills?

    • Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

      …..Auburn actually had five early enrollees this year, most of whom I mentioned above. D’haquille Williams at X-receiver and Derrick Moncrief at safety have probably made the most noise, but offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee also praised receiver Stanton Truitt, tight end Chris Laye and center Xavier Dampeer today. Dampeer will probably sit behind Reese Dismukes, but the other three will probably play early. Williams is a likely starter if he stays healthy.

  2. zotus zotus says:

    Acid, the challenge for this coaching staff is to exorcise the demons of the collapse of 2011 & 2012 from Auburn minds everywhere.

    Of course, 2013 was magical … but, so was 2010.

    Most Auburn fans I know like magical … but, they love a consistently competitive SEC football team.

    The time is now. I’m confident this coaching staff is putting a huge emphasis, for this experienced team, to come hard out of the gate. As Coach Jordan used to say, “It’s time to go to the whip hand.”

    WDE!

    • War Damn Alan says:

      I think we all saw the collapse of 2011/12 coming beforehand. Well, maybe not collapse but we all knew there was no way the team would be as good without Cam, Fairley and Ziemba (as well as Clayton and others that were a huge part of the magic but didn’t get the recognition).

      We made it to the National Championship game last year and dominated for a good part of the game but I think most of the Auburn Family agrees that we will be vastly better this year in year 2 of the coaching systems with a returning quarterback to go through spring drills.

      The biggest difference between 2011 and 2014 is the returning offensive linemen. Its the one position that you just can’t fill with kids right out of highschool because of the physical development. This year we actually have FIVE returning starters (Patrick Miller actually one the right tackle spot before losing it while being in the doghouse). You can’t replace a big ole monster like Robinson but the O-line as a unit could and should actually be BETTER this year. You can’t replace the heart and will of Tre Mason but he just barely beat out CAP and pretty much shared reps with him (until through sheer will he made himself the best back in the country).

      It always comes down to chemistry and the attitude of the team. We’ve seen teams like USC and Alabama have the most talented players in all of history and should be able to beat some NFL teams (I’m repeating the media talking points…) that end up losing their bowl games. Then we have the 2004 and 2013 Tigers that “come from nowhere.” I think we will have one of the most all around talented teams on offense that Auburn has ever fielded so the pieces will be in place for a great potential if they come together. The defense could be great if they find the right pieces and depth in the backfield. There’s supposedly question marks on the two deep and defensive end but I think the entire D-line will be the strength of the defense again.

  3. Third Generation Tiger Third Generation Tiger says:

    What’s up with Trent Fisher? I thought he had one more year of eligibility?

    • Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

      …..Good question. I’m trying to find out. My guess is that he either has a degree in hand, or a tough senior year academically coming, and we all know football is a huge time commitment. I don’t think he got in any trouble.

      • Third Generation Tiger Third Generation Tiger says:

        The kid definitely paid his dues. I thought he should have played at least a little more than what he did.

      • Third Generation Tiger Third Generation Tiger says:

        Malzahn confirmed that Fisher is “no longer with the team”.

  4. wde1988 wde1988 says:

    Auburn must earn it starting in January… right after the game with FSU. We will see what this team is made of pretty early. Fall asleep at the switch with
    our schedule and you’re liable to be 3 down pretty quick and lucky to go to chick-fil-a bowl.

    Now we see where we stand. Dynasty or dreamer. Personally, a much better place to be sitting to enjoy the start of the season.

    So much happening in the SEC:

    Florida going to HUNH
    UGA has a new defensive coordinator
    Bama has kiffen

    My oh my.

    Future so bright i gotta wear shades!

    Go get it Auburn !!! Earn this!!!
    WDE

  5. sparkey sparkey says:

    Gus has changed so much since he’s been here. I hope he keeps it going again this time and in the 2014 season. I am enthusiastic about our chances but guarded. I’ve seen bunches of SEC teams that were supposed to dominate the next season after they won the SEC championship and for various reasons it didn’t happen.

    In other news, please keep me in your thoughts and prayers. I’ve got fluid in my lungs, bronchitis and a hernia. The one thing you don’t need to do with a hernia is cough and with bronchitis that is close to pneumonia the one thing you do most of all is cough. Hell, I even missed work yesterday which is not like me. Thanks, and God bless everybody.

    • Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

      …..And the yellow dust just started appearing on the cars today. Bummer. Fight on, Sparkey! We look forward to your comments around here, and I hope you are feeling better, soon!

  6. KoolBell KoolBell says:

    You stated: “Lost in the euphoria and welcoming of Pearl was the beginning of spring football drills.”

    Did you ever in your wildest dreams think that sentence would ever be written about Auburn football? I mean really, football took a backseat on opening day of spring practice? Incredible!