“It takes a special type of person to be able to do more than one thing like that,” offensive line coach Jeff Grimes said. “He’s smart enough conscientious enough and reliable enough that I’m completely confident in him handling that.”
Burgess cross-trained at guard in the latter part of camp while Reese Dismukes secured the starting center spot.
When Burgess found out he didn’t win the job, he took it well.
“I know he was down,” Grimes said. “He never let anybody see that. He came back the very next day willing to work and do whatever he could to help the team.”
Grimes said the starting five clearly did enough to separate themselves from the group — “We didn’t have to flip a coin for it,” he said. “The five guys who earned that job earned them” — but he said that could change over the course of the season.
“I’ve been in a lot of seasons where a guy isn’t performing well and another guy, maybe a young guy, comes on and beats the guy out and starts Game 4 or Game 5,” he said. “That could still happen.
“At this point, I feel very confident that we’ve got the right five on the field. Are there two or three other guys who are close enough where I’d feel OK about them in a game? Yeah.”
Grimes didn’t tip his hand about whether or not freshmen Greg Robinson and Christian Westerman, who made strong early impressions, would play.
“They’re still freshmen,” he said.
Here are some more notes and quotes from assistant interviews Wednesday night:
- Speaking of Dismukes, Grimes is putting a lot of faith in the true freshman to start. But he said Dismukes is a smart, confident player who was aided by enrolling early last winter. “He just gets it really fast,” he said. Grimes also complimented Dismukes’ “functional strength.”
- Dismukes will have some help, though. The guards on either side of him — senior Jared Cooper and junior John Sullen – have been in the system for three years. They can help him. “I want my center to do it, but there might be times when the center needs a little help,” Grimes said. “There may be a time on Saturday when one of those guys will recognize the front and the appropriate call before he does — or even correct him. That’s OK. It’s a collective effort up there. The bottom line is that, before the ball is snapped, that the five of us are on the same page.”
- A.J. Greene is another veteran Grimes has been proud of, even though he got beat out for the starting right tackle job by Chad Slade “One thing I can say about AJ is that he has a great attitude,” Grimes said. “The first week of camp, I think he was struggling a little bit, still didn’t completely trust that leg. Then he was beat up for a few days. The last week and a half, he’s really come on, had a great attitude, really been working to get better. He’s actually been encouraging to some of the younger guys because he certainly has some experiences they can draw from.”
- Wide receivers coach Trooper Taylor confirmed what we thought about junior Travante Stallworth, who is atop the depth chart at one of the receiver spots. “He’s crafty,” Taylor said. “He’s smart enough that he never lets his alignment stop him from doing his assignment.”
- DeAngelo Benton might be behind Emory Blake at one outside receiver spot, but Taylor says he plays a position where plenty of passes go, so he’ll have a big role. Trooper, who took his usual dig at Benton’s age, has been impressed with the junior’s work ethic this August, something that’s lagged in the past. “If you watch the kid practice, this kid sprints on and off the field, and it sent a message to the rest of them,” Taylor said. “It started out with just them, now everybody sprints out there now. It just became contagious. That’s what I like about him. He’s been on a long road.”
- Benton, by the way, had pink eye early in camp. Didn’t miss a practice. “That let me know his toughness is there,” Taylor said. (Also, that sounds gross.)
- Quan Bray didn’t make Trooper’s 7-man circle of trust last week. Sounds like he’s getting closer. “The playing time for him, his job will be a lot smaller until he proves that he can handle more and more and more,” Taylor said. “He better prove himself on special teams. He better prove himself when he does get his number called he can make those type of plays and do the things we need him to do. And I think he will. … Hopefully, by midway through this season, he’ll be a guy you can’t keep off the field.”
- Rumors that Jay Wisner is back. Trooper wouldn’t comment, saying, “That’s a Gene Chizik question.” Chizik had already come and gone for interviews without it coming up.
- Trooperism of the night about the season getting close: “It’s almost like Christmas. You get to open up your presents to see how it’s going to turn out. I just my hope my bike doesn’t have a flat tire.”
- Trovon Reed and Bray are the punt returners. “Don’t be surprised if you see them back there at the same time,” Taylor said. “They’re dynamic. We’re hoping that’s going to be a plus for us.”
- Auburn and Utah State have a coaching connection … sort of. Tigers special teams coordinator Jay Boulware coached at Utah in 2005-06 when current Utah State head coach Gary Andersen was the Utes’ defensive coordinator. The two weren’t particularly close — they haven’t talked since going separate ways in 2007 — but Boulware said Andersen does a “phenomenal job.”
- Grimes coached at BYU at that time. The Cougars played Utah in both seasons. “So we’re real familiar with what Gary does and what he likes to do,” Boulware said. “We feel we have a pretty good insight on what their plan is.”
- Running backs coach Curtis Luper was extremely complimentary of Tre Mason, who he said has a low center of gravity, great feet, great vision. Mason, the No.3 back, could play many roles, including returning kicks and playing Wildcat quarterback. “He gives us an added dimension,” Luper said.
- Luper knows Auburn is still short on tailbacks. He’d like more. “Last year we had two and a half. Mario (Fannin), Mike (Dyer) and I count Onterio (McCalebb) as a half. Now we have two, because I’m counting Tre as a half and Onterio as a half tailback and Mike. But we had Cam last year, so it remains to be seen who will take up the slack for him.”
- Defensive line coach Mike Pelton said freshmen Angelo Blackson and Devaunte Sigler are the two tackles who will go in first after starters Ken Carter and Jeffrey Whitaker. Fellow freshman Gabe Wright, from Carver, is behind Sigler. “Still playing a lot of them,” Pelton said. “11 o’clock game. 95 degrees. Hot. Don’t know the tempo of their offense. Gonna try to play a lot of guys. That’s the plan.”
- Blackson sounds like he’s got some great potential. “He’s one of those kids you wish you had 10 of,” Pelton said. “I’ll be excited to see him go out, see how he responds to the Auburn crowd getting that defense going and taking it to another level with a crowd behind him. It’ll be interesting to see.”
- Another freshman, Jabrian Niles, will not dress and appears likely to redshirt. “I saw some great things from him this fall,” Pelton said. “Right now he’s just not ready to get in there.”
- Boulware named five true freshmen who have caught his eye and will play on special teams: Jaylon Denson, Jermaine Whitehead, Robenson Therezie, Erique Florence and Justin Garrett.
- Luper called the act of taking freshmen down a few notches “de-recruiting.” And he says Auburn’s coaches have to do it all the time. “Because for so long it’s just about them,” he said. “It’s I, I, I. Me, me, me. … It’s incumbent upon us to make them good teammates. And some are more challenging than others.”
- How do they do it? Sometimes it’s letting the natural process take over at practice. “When they step on the field and get hit in the mouth the first time, they know it’s for real then,” he said.
- The bigger the signing day stunt, the more de-recruiting that takes place. That means you, Gabe Wright. “He hears it all the time,” Luper said with a laugh. “‘Nick who?’ He hears it ALL … THE … TIME.”