BY AARON BRENNER | firstname.lastname@example.org
AUBURN, Ala. – This isn’t third-grade field day. Nobody’s getting gold stars for effort, especially when even the effort goes missing at Auburn spring practice.
“This was probably the first time that I wasn’t pleased overall with attitude, effort, our approach to practice,” head coach Gus Malzahn grumbled after Wednesday’s session. “And I told the guys afterwards, we’ve got to do better.”
The Tigers appeared sluggish, and perhaps a bit rusty, during the media’s 30-minute viewing window. Auburn took Monday off, leading to its longest layoff of the spring to date of three days – though Malzahn wasn’t using that as a pardon.
“I don’t think it had anything to do with the break. If anything, we should have been a little fresher,” Malzahn said. “The midway point (is) when you find out about leadership, and that’s really good today, because we’ll find out how we respond next practice.”
Senior safety Trent Fisher, one of 14 scholarship seniors on the roster, said the team had a decent off-field workout Monday, but insisted the Tigers bounce back this weekend.
“It starts right now. You’ve got to go home, you’ve got to eat and hydrate and make sure you’re body’s right on Friday to get after it,” Fisher said. “The second we hit the field during the warm-up, we have to be on. We have to be getting after it.”
Malzahn was somewhat surprised by the step back, given how happy he was when reviewing Saturday’s scrimmage on film.
“We’ve still got deficiencies, and we’ve still got a long way to go. But we improved up to that point,” Malzahn said. “So that’s why today, as a coach, you’re wanting to keep improving, and we didn’t do it today. So that’s definitely something that’s a red flag right now.”
Mental toughness was a post-practice topic, especially with Wednesday’s temperatures rising toward the 80s into the late morning.
“I think we just had an off day,” senior fullback Jay Prosch said. “It’s just going to make us come back harder for the rest of the spring.”
‘Star’ safety Justin Garrett, one of the spring’s breakout players, tweeted simply, “Bad practice no excuses” Wednesday afternoon.
Waiting game: Auburn pulled at least two individual from the high school coaching ranks on board to aid with recruiting during the winter, but that was before the NCAA Division I Board of Directors suspended two amendments allowing unlimited recruiting efforts by off-field support staff on March 18.
Ex-Carver coach Dell McGee is now on the Auburn payroll, looking to bank a base salary of $84,000 according to Open Alabama Financial Reports. Chip Lindsey, formerly of Spain Park, will make $95,000 annually – provided both men stay with the university through some uncertain times.
Neither McGee nor Lindsey has been formally announced as an athletic department employee. An Auburn spokesman declined an interview request for McGee.
NCAA schools have until May 17 to request an override of the suspended regulations, meaning Auburn, Alabama and any other schools who added parts of this arms race are in wait-and-see mode.
“Right now, we’re just going day by day. They’re taking care of our players,” Malzahn said. “We’re not thinking about the future right now as far as that goes.”
Tre Cooled off: Junior tailback Tre Mason did not participate in any drills except for stretching in front of the media. He appears to be limited by a left leg injury, which he has fought throughout spring.
“Nothing serious, put it that way,” Malzahn said. “At the same time, a little banged up, there’s no doubt. Just want to make sure he’s 100 percent healthy before we put him back in there.”
Mason rushed for 1,002 yards last season, so his absence gives more reps to junior college transfer Cameron Artis-Payne and former Alabama player and walk-on turned scholarship back Corey Grant.
“At the same time, (Mason’s) a little bit ahead of the others as far as knowing the offense,” Malzahn said. “So it’s probably not a bad thing that the guys are getting the majority of the reps right now.”
Beat up, banged up: Defensive tackle Angelo Blackson is still out, while ‘star’ safety Javiere Mitchell is also hurting, which allowed cornerback Robenson Therezie some run with the second unit.
“He’s a very good athlete,” said Malzahn of Therezie, who’s also worked in as a returner. “Just trying to find ways to get our athletes on the field.”
Loud noises! It’s not too soon to simulate the atmosphere at Tiger Stadium or Kyle Field. That’s why Auburn’s piping in sound for a few drills in April.
“You know, that’s crowd noise, attention, hand signals, communication where you can’t talk,” Malzahn said. “You go on the road in this conference, and that happens every week. It’s just a discipline that makes them concentrate just a little bit more.”