Assistant Head Coach Trooper Taylor said the players placed on the scout team took the news well.
Twenty five Auburn players received the news Tuesday that they had been assigned to the scout team. While this has to be a big disappointment for some of the highly recruited newcomers like LaDarius Owens, Eric Mack, Dakota Mosley, Ryan White, and Joel Bonomolo, it is a positive thing for the team as a whole. In fact, it is a reflection of just how much of an impact the top five recruiting class is already having on the status of Auburn’s depth over the 2009 season.
“Last year” coach Trooper Taylor said, “we couldn’t get 70 on a trip, and now we’re trying to decide which 70 will be on the trip.” This year (because of the 30 new recruits) some of the scholarship players have even had to be placed on the scout team.
The scout team is usually made up of freshmen and walk on players. However, several older scholarship players have been assigned to the unit, players such as Phillip Pierre-Louis and Travante Stallworth. This has to be particularly discouraging for players like Pierre-Louis who has done so much to make it back, only to wind up on the scout team. Yet this move could be a positive for Phillip. He will have more time to completely heal from his ACL injury, while keeping his game up during the week in practice against the number one’s.
Although Trooper Taylor said he thought the players took the news well, there has been at least one defection after the names were released. It was reported Wednesday that junior Mike Slade has left the team. Auburn fans may remember that Slade was the player that finished the Ole Miss game last year for an injured Zac Etheridge.
While this is certainly disappointing for those affected, the guys need to look at players who have served time on the scout team in the past. Players such as first round draft picks Jason Campbell and Ronnie Brown, and present players Aairon Savage, Zac Etheridge, Michael Goggins, Byrom Isom, Mike Berry, Mike Blanc, Terrell Zachary, and Craig Stevens.
The latest scout team success story comes from offensive tackle A J Greene. He recently described his outlook on scout team duty in the following manner, “When I came in, I wanted to be there. I took it as a positive. I wanted to go against the first team and get better.” And he did get better, it was announced Wednesday that he is the new starting right tackle. Seems his out look, dedication, and hard work has paid off.
So, the scout team assignment does not necessarily mean that these players will not get to play any this year. Players have a chance to play on special teams, and there is always the possibility of moving up as a result of injuries or when a player ahead of them does not perform as expected.
The coaching decision of deciding who to put on the scout team is a tough one. But this year, the extra players makes it a good problem to have. It is definitely a far cry from last year when players had to play entire games without any back up and sometimes pull double duty on special teams as well. Defensive Coordinator Ted Roof said the other day that he hopes he will be able to play 22 defenders in a game; and in 2009, “We would have been happy to play 14.” Nevertheless the Tigers are still a couple of recruiting classes away from being where they need to be on depth.
Coach Chizik said “Last year, It was real challenging to find a two deep position, real challenging. We’ve improved some on that.” Well when you have to assign veteran scholarship players to the scout team, yes that’s an improvement.
Although the Tigers have some new depth, fans should not expect too much of the newcomers beyond spelling the first team for breathers. Very few teenage players can come in and make an immediate impact on the field their first year. Nonetheless it’s a heck of a better situation to start off the year, than what the coaches had to deal with a year ago.