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March 27, 2013

Gus Malzahn’s first practice is fast, but says “we didn’t play fast enough today. We weren’t really even close, but we’ll get there”


BY AARON BRENNER | abrenner@ledger-enquirer.com


AUBURN, Ala. – Go. Hurry. Run. Move.

Auburn football players wearing orange (quarterbacks), blue (offense) or white (defense) better get used to hearing those simple, direct orders. A lot.

This was just the first of 14 caffeinated, cock-a-doodle-doo workouts in preparation for A-Day, the intrasquad scrimmage on April 20 when the public can see how far the Tigers have come.

And the Tigers have a long way to go.

“I knew it would be a process, but our expectations are high,” head coach Gus Malzahn said. “We didn’t play fast enough today. We weren’t really even close, but we’ll get there.”

A semi-shocking “not fast enough” assessment, given two things: the 30-minute window for media to peruse practice, and the post-session reports from eight Tigers.

“For the first day, that was fast,” senior receiver Trovon Reed said. “I only can imagine that as we get better as a team, they’ll keep pushing us, and it could get extremely fast.”

Less than an hour into hitting the field for the first time as one unit, Auburn was already working on the hurry-up, no-huddle, hike-it-in-three-seconds formations.

The entire offensive unit would huddle near the sideline, then take a mad dash to the ball, spotted at the 40-yard-line. They simulated four handoff plays with no switching personnel, capped by coaches yelling ‘Score! Score!’ and all eleven players mock-celebrating in the end zone.

The entire exchange was followed by some up-downs on the sideline. A need for speed – and discipline – clearly setting the tone from day one.

“We’ve got to finish everything, because we’re a fast-paced offense now – we can’t show no weaknesses,” junior receiver Quan Bray said. “I did see a lot of heads spinning out there, but it’s just day one, so we’ll get a lot better.”

One time when the managers, wearing referee shirts, weren’t prompt with handing out the necessary equipment for a particular drill, running backs coach Tim Horton barked, “Let’s go, let’s go.”

Practices figure to be extremely organized, and fixated on a tight schedule to accomplish as much as possible while establishing a mindset of supersonic pace.

“Our main focus right now is learning how to practice and being able to process things by practicing them fast,” Malzahn said, adding there’s no true ‘first team’ or ‘second team’ to open spring.

“It’s about learning how to line up correctly, learning how to process information quickly and having great body language and hustling. We’ve got a ways to go as far as learning how to practice at the tempo that we want. But that’s to be expected. We will get better each day at that.”

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