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September 3, 2013

Auburn football: With breakout game behind him, Corey Grant hungry for more (w/video)

BY RYAN BLACK | rblack@ledger-enquirer.com

@wareagleextra | Like the blog on Facebook

AUBURN, Ala. — It took until the game ended for Corey Grant to finally realize what he had just accomplished on the field last Saturday.

Junior running back Corey Grant scored on a 75-yard touchdown last Saturday against Washington State. He also finished as the Tigers' leading rusher, with 146 yards on just nine carries. (Todd Van Emst/Auburn University)

Junior running back Corey Grant scored on a 75-yard touchdown last Saturday against Washington State. He also finished as the Tigers’ leading rusher, with 146 yards on just nine carries. (Todd Van Emst/Auburn University)

He had just finished off a tour de force performance, running for a game-high 146 yards on nine carries against Washington State. It was the type of game Auburn’s junior running back admitted once doubting he could achieve.

Who’s to blame him?

His circuitous, frustrating path to Saturday would do little to boost anyone’s confidence. His Opelika, Ala., upbringing wasn’t able to keep him rooted around Auburn following his prep career, as he committed to arch-rival Alabama in the summer of 2009.

“It was a tough decision,” he said. “I loved (then-Auburn offensive coordinator) Coach (Gus) Malzahn and his offense.”

It was a decision he would come to regret. Yes, part of the reason he committed to the Crimson Tide was because the team promised to take advantage of his skill set, predicated on the blazing speed that made a two-time state champion in the 100-meter dash and a one-time state winner in the 200 meters.

But the other factor had nothing to do with football: He simply wanted to get away from home.

“So I did that,” he said. “Then I realized that it really wasn’t for me.”

He spent one season with Alabama, taking a redshirt in 2010 before transferring to Auburn. Once he joined the Tigers, however, he had to sit out yet another season to satisfy the NCAA’s rules on transfers.

In 2012, he finally saw the field, though it was solely in mop-up duty.

That’s why Saturday meant so much to him.

“Everybody always says hard work pays off,” he said. “I see that it does.”

Grant flashed the speed that made him a high school track star in the second quarter, taking a handoff around the left side and racing untouched for a 75-yard score. Nearly three years had passed since his last touchdown — which, he recalled, came when he was still an Opelika Bulldog — and he was ready to revel in the moment. It was a celebration deferred, as the play was reviewed to make sure he didn’t step out of bounds. Grant didn’t have to worry, as the touchdown stood.

Let the pandemonium begin.

“It was exciting,” he said. “My teammates know what I’ve been through. For me to do that and for us to do that together, it was an exciting moment.”

Left tackle Greg Robinson couldn’t contain his excitement, either.

“Really, when he broke off to the sideline I was cheering him on,” he said. “They all knocked him down in the end zone, but he felt good about it and it’s good for the hard work to pay off.”

Malzahn was also pleased Grant showed his stuff against Washington State. Not that it came as any surprise to him.

“I was here before, and I knew what he could do,” Malzahn said. “But he wasn’t eligible that year. You saw him on the scout team. He’s got a chance to really help us (this season).”

Offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee echoed Malzahn’s thoughts. The coaching staff had seen everything he could during spring practice, which carried over into fall camp. One aspect of Grant’s game revealed itself Saturday that even Lashlee didn’t see coming.

“He (made) some cuts that were impressive that maybe we didn’t know he could do,” Lashlee said. “His speed is definitely a weapon for him. As you were able to see on Saturday, he helps us have a potential one-play drive or a guy who can make those explosive plays and flip the field and help you get chunks (of) yardage.”

Perhaps the most impressive part of Grant’s explosiveness?

He hasn’t lost his lightning quickness despite putting on 30 pounds of muscle since high school.

“I actually feel a little bit faster,” he said, noting the last time he ran the 40 he was unofficially timed at 4.29 seconds. “Working with (strength and conditioning) Coach (Ryan) Russell, he knows what he’s doing and he helps us a lot with our speed – (especially) maintaining your speed as you get bigger.”

The added strength will be an asset when he has to face off against some of formidable defenses the SEC has to offer as the season progresses. He shied away from any talk of being “an SEC-type running back” just yet. It’s only been one game, after all.

Those are the types of designations that only come with time, and only on the basis of multiple games like he put together Saturday.

“Hopefully I can prove that later in the season,” he said.

VIDEO: Gus Malzahn says Tigers have ‘got a lot of work to do’

BY RYAN BLACK | rblack@ledger-enquirer.com

@wareagleextra | Like the blog on Facebook

AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn spoke to reporters for more than 15 minutes during his weekly Tuesday morning press conference.

For your viewing pleasure, press conference has been broken into two segments.

Malzahn, Part I

Malzahn, Part II

 

VIDEO: Auburn tight end C.J. Uzomah and defensive end LaDarius Owens

BY RYAN BLACK | rblack@ledger-enquirer.com

@wareagleextra | Like the blog on Facebook

AUBURN, Ala. — Tight end C.J. Uzomah and defensive end LaDarius Owens met with media members on Monday night. Each talked about how they felt Auburn played against Washington State as well as what they’ve seen on film of this week’s opponent, Arkansas State.

The videos are provided below.

Uzomah

Owens

VIDEO: Coordinators Rhett Lashlee and Ellis Johnson discuss their respective units

BY RYAN BLACK | rblack@ledger-enquirer.com

@wareagleextra | Like the blog on Facebook

AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn’s two coordinators — Rhett Lashlee (offensive) and Ellis Johnson (defensive) — had a lot to say Monday night. So much, in fact, that we had to split each of their press conferences into two videos apiece.

The videos are provided below.

Lashlee, Part I

Lashlee, Part II

Johnson, Part I

Johnson, Part II

September 1, 2013

VIDEO: Postgame reaction from Auburn’s players

BY RYAN BLACK | rblack@ledger-enquirer.com

@wareagleextra | Like the blog on Facebook

AUBURN, Ala. — Due to some technical difficulties with my flip camera — which I won’t detail here — we sadly have no video of Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn’s postgame press conference with media members.

Let’s look on the bright side, though: He didn’t say anything particularly interesting, which you’ll see when I post my “quote roundup” later. I know that might not suffice for some, but that’s how it is.

Not to worry, since we still recorded video of five different players, consisting of quarterback Nick Marshall, running back Tre Mason, wide receiver Sammie Coates, “Star” Robenson Therezie and cornerback Chris Davis.

Marshall

Mason

Coates

Therezie

Davis

August 31, 2013

Auburn football: Last-minute notes prior to kickoff

BY RYAN BLACK | rblack@ledger-enquirer.com

@wareagleextra | Like the blog on Facebook

AUBURN, Ala. — You’ve heard just about everything there is to know about Auburn’s season opener.

The Tigers will try to run the ball a lot. Their opponent, the Washington State Cougars, will take to the air early and often.

Now, the only thing left is kickoff.

Here are a few last-minute notes before the Tigers’ finally begin their 2013 season:

  • A few changes to the starting lineup for the Tigers: Robenson Therezie will start in place of Justin Garrett at the hybrid safety/linebacker “Star” position. Another change on defense has Columbus native Gabe Wright replacing Jeffrey Whitaker at tackle.
  • Washington State had some lineup alterations, too: Marcus Mason will start at running  ahead of Teondray Caldwell, while Cyrus Coen will start at “Sam” linebacker. Also, safety Isaac Dotson will don jersey No. 36 instead of No. 31 which was originally listed on the Cougars’ roster.
  • The temperature was 86 degrees one hour prior to kickoff, with hazy skies and little-to-no wind.
  • Finally, for those bird-watching: Nova will fly from the flag pole in the northeast corner of the stadium at the 16:00 mark on the game clock.

And be sure to check out my first on-camera appearance of the season. Apologies in advance for any awkward pauses. I’m still working myself into midseason form.

August 30, 2013

Auburn football: Best of the week

BY RYAN BLACK | rblack@ledger-enquirer.com

@wareagleextra | Like the blog on Facebook

AUBURN, Ala. — Now just one day away from Auburn’s season opener, we can look back at the week that was.

We’ll do this every Friday for the rest of the season, linking to the best quotes, stories and videos from Sunday through Thursday. It’s obviously an abridged version of the immense number of items produced during the week, but this is supposed to be a short and breezy read, hitting on (what I consider) the highlights.AU logo

Enjoy.

BEST QUOTES

Left guard Alex Kozan, on how Gus Malzahn notices things other coaches would not:

“For instance, if we were to run a zone play … most coaches would look at what their quarterback is doing, what are the running backs’ and receiver’s eyes doing. Where are their eyes? He’ll notice what the right guard’s foot placement is. Things like that. A lot of coaches will leave that up to the line coach. He’ll pull you aside 15 minutes later and say: ‘Hey, on that play, what were you doing?’ That’s impressive, I think, for any football player who has the opportunity to work with him.”

Malzahn on whether he’s placing any extra pressure on himself to win his debut game as the Tigers’ head coach:

“It doesn’t matter if it’s the first game or any game. I want us to play. I want us to do things right, to be disciplined and protect the football, play hard. It’s no different than any others, but I think it’s common sense. We’ve got a team that had great struggles last year, so definitely it’d be great to get off to a good start.”

BEST STORIES

Backup quarterback Jonathan Wallace is willing to do ‘anything’ the team the coaching staff asks of him.

The Tigers are still waiting to find a go-to receiver. Head coach Gus Malzahn said it won’t happen until one of them can ‘prove it on Saturdays’ this fall.

BEST VIDEOS

Alex Kozan (Tuesday afternoon)

Gus Malzahn (Wednesday night)

August 29, 2013

VIDEO: Gus Malzahn meets with reporters for final time before season opener

BY RYAN BLACK | rblack@ledger-enquirer.com

@wareagleextra | Like the blog on Facebook

AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn met with reporters following Wednesday’s practice, marking the final time he will talk with media members prior to Saturday’s season opener against Washington State.

Check out video of his post-practice press conference below.

August 28, 2013

VIDEO: Jake Holland and Alex Kozan meet with media

BY RYAN BLACK | rblack@ledger-enquirer.com

@wareagleextra | Like the blog on Facebook

AUBURN, Ala. — Senior linebacker Jake Holland and redshirt freshman left guard Alex Kozan took to the podium on Tuesday as Auburn continues its preparations for Saturday’s season opener against Washington State. Check out video of their interviews below.

Holland

Kozan

August 27, 2013

VIDEO: Gus Malzahn previews season opener

BY RYAN BLACK | rblack@ledger-enquirer.com

@wareagleextra | Like the blog on Facebook

AUBURN, Ala. — Gus Malzahn met with media members on Tuesday morning to discuss Auburn’s game against Washington State on Saturday, which marks the season opener for both teams.

Malzahn spoke for more than 16 minutes, so we split the videos right down the middle.