BY AARON BRENNER | firstname.lastname@example.org
AUBURN, Ala. – The three-headed leadership of Auburn football isn’t really interested in labeling anybody a ‘first-team’ or ‘second-team’ player.
“Our whole depth chart’s in pencil,” defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson said following Friday’s practice, the second of 15 this spring. “Nobody’s really done anything right now to say they’re a starter.”
Johnson’s statement was similar to head coach Gus Malzahn and offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee’s sentiments, though all three expressed anticipation at Saturday’s return to Jordan-Hare Stadium, which will be the first practice in full pads.
“A lot of guys look great in helmets and not great in pads and vice versa,” Malzahn said. “You can do a lot of teaching, alignments and techniques with just helmets only, but until you get the pads on, that’s where you can really judge a player a lot better than helmets only.”
That pencil won’t turn into pen until after A-Day on April 20, though coaches will begin putting the pieces together midway through spring sessions. Saturday, when practice will start two hours later than during the week and the weather should be warmer, will provide their first glimpse at who’s looking to contribute on Saturdays in the fall.
“I think the first 30 minutes we put on pads, we’ll see a couple of those guys jump out in a positive way,” Johnson said. “And we’ll see some who we’ll be like, well, we know there’s probably no hope down the road.”
Focus and feet: Lashlee’s looking for two areas of fast improvement in his two scholarship quarterbacks working out this spring, junior Kiehl Frazier and sophomore Jonathan Wallace.
The first-year quarterbacks coach, who has former Auburn quarterback/receiver Kodi Burns by his side as an graduate assistant, wants Frazier and Wallace to establish a quick tempo for the entire unit while working on their footwork.
“Both of them are really locked in, they’re eager, they’re trying really hard to do everything I’m asking them to do, which I appreciate,” Lashlee said. “They kind of know with where they should be going with the ball, but when things get sped up, can they play fast but slow everything down mentally? Footwork and throwing on time will be key for both of them as we move forward.”
Center of attention: Junior Reese Dismukes is entrenched as the team’s starting center, but there’s some shifting in the competition for his backup.
Juco transfer Devonte Danzey and redshirt freshman Alex Kozan are getting most the snaps, though Kozan is still working on accurate shotgun hikes. Said Malzahn, “We’re just trying to get some depth at that position.”
Dismukes’ backup last year, Tunde Fariyike, is settling in at right guard. “We know he has the ability to do that,” Malzahn said. “But we’re giving those other two a chance to see what they can do in the spring. He’s focusing at guard right now.”
Not so fast: Junior cornerback Robenson Therezie dabbled with the running backs last season, and on Wednesday told reporters he was planning on being a “part-time” offensive player.
Lashlee reeled in the Miami product’s mindset, at least for now.
“I remember when we recruited him that he could do special things with the ball in his hands. Right now, he’s 100 percent defense,” Lashlee said. “Any time we can get a guy who can run with the ball in his hands, it’ll be fun. Hopefully he steps up and helps us on defense.”
Back on the team: A three-star signed linebacker in the class of 2009 who left the team after 2010, Harris Gaston is back in drills as a senior walk-on.
“We’re giving him a chance to play linebacker,” Malzahn said. “He’s in the drills. Every job’s open and it doesn’t make any difference to us if it’s a freshman, a senior or a walk-on.”
Gaston had three tackles in nine games the championship season of 2010. He joins defensive ends Dee Ford and Nosa Eguae as the lone “fifth-year” players remaining from the class of 2009.