Fall Practice, First Scrimmage Edition.
Football season is not far away!
War Eagle, everybody! We’re a week into fall practice, and this year’s Auburn football team is starting to take shape. Of course, the biggest question remains at the quarterback position. Everyone wants to know who the starter is, and the coaching staff won’t say much.
I think the main indicator in this race is the fact that the coaches decided yesterday to make the quarterbacks “live” in the first scrimmage. In this day and age, if you have a quarterback you know you’ll play, there’s no way you want him hit in August. My guess is that this coming Saturday scrimmage may be the deciding factor in picking a starter. Of note from Wednesday’s scrimmage is that we heard more about interceptions than passing touchdowns. It’s not a good sign.
On the defensive line, it’s been pretty much as predicted, with solid but unspectacular play for the most part. They have been practicing against a pretty dominant offensive line. Finding pass rushers remains a priority. The name mentioned most here is true freshman Carl Lawson, who has shown the ability to get off blocks and destroy plays. He’s also a freshman, with all of the mistakes that entails. My thought is that he and Elijah Daniel will play early, and play a lot, just not in an every down mode.
Linebacker remains a work in progress. While the starting corps of Cassanova McKinzy, Kris Frost and star Justin Garrett is quite talented, the word thus far has been “inconsistency.” Fifth year senior Jake Holland had an excellent scrimmage yesterday, including an interception and a 70 yard return. He could well move back into the starting lineup by the start of the season.
Cornerback play has been pretty dominant. Jonathan Mincy and Chris Davis are solid, talented and veteran players, and Auburn’s less experienced receivers have had a tough go of it. Safety play has been less inspiring, although Jermaine Whitehead will be solid there. It’s difficult to really evaluate safety play when the bulk of the offense has focused on power running. We’ll be interested to see how well these guys can deal with Auburn’s dangerous H-backs and tight ends in the passing game.
By all accounts, excellent special teams play will continue this fall. Led by seniors Cody Parkey and Steven Clark, Auburn should have powerful legs, good coverage, and explosive return men.
Auburn looked good in the spring on the offensive line, and that remains true this fall. There is a battle going on at right tackle. Incumbent sophomore starter Patrick Miller is being pushed hard by sophomore Avery Young, who held the position the first three games of last season. Coaches believe Young has more upside than anyone else on the offensive line. Young is now healthy, and it’s going to be hard to keep him out of the lineup. Center Reese Dismukes has been consistently praised for his leadership and his focus.
The H-back/tight end position took a major blow at the start of fall camp, with the dismissal of Ricky Parks. This past spring, Parks had settled as the second team H-back behind Jay Prosch, and was poised to earn a lot of playing time. Instead, the Tigers are now struggling with ways to provide depth here. Walkon Gage Batten, a former linebacker is taking most of the backup snaps at H-back thus far. It looks like the main contributors here will be C. J. Uzomah, Jay Prosch, and Brandon Fulse. They’ll be on the field a lot this fall.
The only wide receiver to earn any significant mention thus far is Quan Bray, who was expected mainly to be a slot receiver subbed in at times. Starters coming out of spring drills at the outside receiver spots were Jaylon Denson, and Trovon Reed. Evidently, all have had a tough go of it thus far this fall, battling Auburn’s deep, physical cornerback rotation.
All three of Auburn’s top tailbacks from spring ball have earned mention this fall. We all know what Tre Mason can do when healthy, and junior-college transfer Cameron Artis-Payne was the star of A-Day. In yesterday’s scrimmage, the speedy junior Corey Grant broke off some big runs, with a lot of yards after contact. I think the team is in good hands here.
We are now back to the quarterback position, where there are few answers thus far. I personally feel that with performances being mostly equal thus far, the coaches will likely go with more experience. That would mean Khiel Frazier and Nick Marshall, who’ve played the most. Both are significant running threats, too. Again, Saturday’s scrimmage may tell the tale. We’ll certainly be hanging on every word till then! War Eagle, folks. Fall football is almost here!