BY AARON BRENNER | email@example.com
AUBURN, Ala. – Intrasquad scrimmages aren’t privy to reporters or the general public, but from the sound of it, Auburn’s offense was ahead of the defense in Saturday’s final Jordan-Hare Stadium tuneup a week before A-Day.
“We didn’t do as well as we wanted,” senior linebacker Jake Holland said. “I would say the offense probably won today, if we were keeping score.”
According to head coach Gus Malzahn, the 86-play scrimmage was evenly distributed between rushing and passing plays.
While quarterbacks Kiehl Frazier and Jonathan Wallace were only briefly available for questions afterward, and neither offered much insight to their performance, the running game took off with a couple of long touchdown runs by junior Corey Grant.
Effective blocking continues to be the prime emphasis.
“That’s who we’re going to be. That’s who Auburn is,” Malzahn said. “We’ve been very physical up front, and that’s been by design. I’m sure our guys, their bodies are probably talking to them, but we’ve got to get our hard-nosed edge back, and that’s where it starts.”
After its third three-practices-in-four-days stretch of the spring season, Malzahn announced Monday’s practice would be rescheduled for the second straight week.
That means A-Day will be the team’s 13th practice, giving the Tigers two final wrap-up field meetings after April 20.
Speaking of which, the spring scrimmage’s format is expected to be unveiled Tuesday or Wednesday.
“We’re going to try to make it as game-like as possible,” Malzahn said, “not only for ourselves but for our fans.”
From the infirmary: “Star” safety JaViere Mitchell missed multiple practices with a concussion, but he was back out there Saturday. Running back Tre Mason, defensive tackle Angelo Blackson and offensive lineman Devonte Danzey were also in uniform.
“Nothing serious. Nothing that’s going to stop me,” said Blackson, hampered by his shoulder after starting 10 games last year. “I was pretty much feeling good today. I’m going to finish the spring out and get ready for A-Day.”
Mitchell and Mason did not play in the scrimmage, but Blackson did return to live action. The only obvious scholarship player not in uniform was defensive end Keymiya Harrell, who remains out for the rest of the spring and attended Saturday’s practice on crutches.
Staying in school: Holland didn’t seem bothered by Ellis Johnson’s comments a day prior, when the defensive coordinator and linebackers coach was disgruntled about Holland’s multiple absences from practices and meetings due to a can’t-miss class.
Holland takes a mandatory construction sciences course within his major on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings, a direct conflict with practices. He’s missed three so far, but isn’t more than mildly frustrated.
“I just put in more time at home with the playbook. If there’s anything I need to come back for during the day, I’ll do that,” Holland said. “It’s really not a huge issue – I’m a veteran, I pretty much have this defense down as far as the installs go.
“I had no other choice but to take this class, so I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do.”
Coates sings Kumbaya: Sammie Coates made headlines three times his redshirt freshman season, and two of them were negative.
He was beloved for catching a Hail Mary pass from Frazier to end the first half against Louisiana-Monroe, but fell out of the fans’ favor the next week for dropping a catchable deep ball the first series against LSU.
His most significant moment of the year came Oct. 9 in the team auditorium, when Coates stood before reporters and challenged the team’s veterans, saying, “They put it on the older guys, but they aren’t showing much. Coach always talks about leadership, and nobody’s trying to be a leader. They talk about it all the time, but you don’t see it.”
Six months later, Coates is more concerned with running his routes and exploding out of the breaks, rather than calling out teammates.
“I just let that go, let the past be the past, and look forward to this new day, this new beginning,” Coates said. “I want everybody to be together and be a family.”