Putting the Hammer Down!
There’s a shakeup on the offensive line, this week.
(Photo by Acid Reign.)
War Eagle, everybody. Spring proceeds on. Gone are the frosty mornings, having been replaced by mercurial, stormy weather and torrential rains. The days have gotten longer, and Auburn’s football team is still hard at work preparing for the 2014 season. In these last two weeks of spring drills, here’s what head coach Gus Malzhan had to say: “We’ve got two more weeks and we’ve got to put the hammer down and we’ve got to make sure we get better.”
The big news this week from spring drills is an apparent shake-up on the offensive line. Sophomore Avery Young has been moved from right tackle to right guard, and junior Patrick Miller has been moved back to his old stomping grounds at right tackle. That leaves senior Chad Slade as the odd man out in the starting lineup. Slade is doing reps at left guard this week, backing up Alex Kozan. Is this a permanent move by the coaches? They have been quoted as saying that the move is strictly to create depth, but I’m not so sure.
This past Tuesday’s practice footage featured a heavy dose of offensive line work, starting about 1:20 into this video clip. Folks, this is what it’s like to be an offensive lineman in camp. Coach Grimes definitely did not seem happy during this drill. My favorite section is where he tells the linemen (particularly Reese Dismukes) that they can cook their BBQ any way they want to; he’s not going to tell them what to do. Then coach Grimes barked, “But when it comes to this (expletive), we’re going to do it the way I want! You got me on that?” Several do-overs were to follow.
As with any physical spring, injuries have mounted a bit. Auburn has taken some lumps on the defensive line, with LaDarius Owens out for the whole spring, Tyler Nero not practicing since last week, and Keymiya Harrell limited after getting banged up in last Saturday’s scrimmage. Likewise, the linebacker corps has had Anthony Swain and JaViere Mitchell out the whole spring, which has made room for redshirt freshman Cameron Toney to take hold of the top backup spot.
I’m told that the real difference that will be seen this season on the Auburn defense will be in the secondary. Probably the most impressive guy this spring back there has been Robensen Therezie at the star position. Therezie broke his hand right off the bat, but has been back out there everyday, leading by example. He’s even fielding punts with a cast on that hand. Therezie may have some help this year, off the bench. Junior Justin Garrett is again looking good, and sophomore Mackendro Alexander has made a move the past offseason and this spring.
Auburn’s safety situation was scary last season, after the dismissal of Demetruce McNeil and the injury to Joshua Holsey at midseason. This year, it’s looking like the Tigers may have a bit more depth to play with. JUCO transfer Derrick Moncrief continues to impress, and I’d think he’s a virtual lock to start. Brandon King has been moved full-time to safety, and he’s said to be improving. With Jonathan Ford settled in there as well, and Holsey returning in the fall, Auburn should have some numbers in the playing rotation.
Safety is a position I’ll be watching on A-Day. I’m hoping to see plays on receivers and balls down the field, and help closing in on runners. Too often the past ten years, Auburn’s safeties have looked more like that uncertain 4-year-old playing in the outfield in his first T-Ball game, particularly down the depth chart.
The battle to replace Tre Mason at running back continues. By all accounts, seniors Cameron Artis-Payne and Corey Grant, along with redshirt freshman Peyton Barber are all getting first-team reps. When asked about the pecking order, Artis-Payne had the quote of the week when he said, “We haven’t gotten any updates so if you find something out, let me know.” Given how well the two seniors played last season when given the chance, I’ll be very surprised if both don’t get a lot of playing time, and play very well.