Spring Drills Are Here!
It will be interesting to see the changes in the receiver drills
(Photo by Acid Reign)
War Eagle, everybody! The calendar has ticked over into March, severe weather season is here, and Auburn football spring drills are back. For this year’s team, it’s out with the old, in with the new. Particularly on offense, it was revealed that things will be different in Tuesday’s first practice.
Departing from the Tigers are Stephen Davis, Jr, Deon Mix, Cameron Toney, and Markell Boston. Boston was apparently booted from the team, and the others are likely leaving due to a lack of playing time. Auburn fans wish all of them well.
Joining the team this spring are quarterback Jarrett Stidham, offensive lineman Nick Brahms, linebacker K. J. Britt, cornerback Malcolm Askew, tight end Salvatore Cannella, and linebacker Chandler Wooten. Stidham is the favorite of many observers to win the starting quarterback job, and instant impact from Cannella is expected in the receiving corps. Stidham, Britt and Askew all were present for Sugar Bowl practices a couple of months ago.
I was a loud critic last spring, and again during last season, of the passing skeleton drill we saw last A-Day. I’ve included a picture from last spring, above. Receivers would run their route, stop, and then the quarterback would throw it. I wondered then, what good that drill was. During the season, I wondered if that’s how they practice all the time, as the passing game fell apart in November.
From all indications, everything has changed under new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Chip Lindsey. Even during the media-access portion of the drills, timing routes were worked on. Coach Lindsey worked extensively with his guys on ball placement. Air-raid drills are a different animal than what we have seen in the past at Auburn. Receivers and backs will be doing a lot of running and catching if Lindsey does it like we’ve seen at other schools.
There were some intriguing things revealed in the starting lineups, including returning starters being moved around. Interesting, but little is more meaningless than who is the starter at the beginning of spring. The starting defensive line was Marlon Davidson at end, Dontavius Russell and Derrick Brown at tackles, and Jeff Holland at buck. I figure Davidson and Russell are pretty much locks to hold their position, and Derrick Brown is just too talented to keep off the field for long. What the Tigers must do is build depth behind these guys.
At linebacker, Auburn started with 3 at the beginning, Darrell Williams, Tré Williams, and Deshaun Davis. That’s the same starting lineup as last season. Montavious Atkinson is probably the first guy into that rotation. When the Tigers went nickel, Daniel Thomas was in first. Thomas came out of nowhere last November and was picking balls off in the Iron Bowl.
The secondary looked familiar, as well. Carlton Davis and Javaris Davis started at the corner spots, and safeties were Tray Matthews and Stephen Roberts.
Probably the biggest roster changes noted on the first day were on the offensive line. Apparently, Austin Golson will remain at center at least through spring. Starting guards were Marquel Harrell and Mike Horton. Darius James stayed at left tackle, and all-star Braden Smith moved out to right tackle. Horton was probably the best of the backups last season, and it’s good to see him move into a bigger role. There was talk that James might move to guard, but he apparently took his offseason workouts very seriously and is even more of a physical presence this year. Stay where you are, young man! The NFL pays left tackles very handsomely.
The Tigers started out with Jason Smith, Nate Craig-Myers and Eli Stove starting at receiver. Of note is the fact that tight ends weren’t really featured till later in the opening salvo. Chandler Cox was the starter at H-back. Finding depth behind Cox will be important this year. The receiving corps should be bolstered later in the year when Kyle Davis and Darius Slayton return from injuries.
The running back spot looks great right now. Everyone is healthy coming in, with Kamryn Pettway leading the way and Kerryon Johnson as a 1-A. Kam Martin looks bigger and stronger, and Malik Miller is back after an injury derailed his season last year.