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August 27, 2013

Auburn football: No stranger to change, Alex Kozan focused on becoming part of ‘physical’ offensive line

BY RYAN BLACK | rblack@ledger-enquirer.com

@wareagleextra | Like the blog on Facebook

AUBURN, Ala.Alex Kozan has seen how quickly things change in major college football.

After redshirting last season, Alex Kozan has put himself in position to start at left guard this fall. (Todd Van Emst/Auburn University)

After redshirting last season, Alex Kozan has put himself in position to start at left guard this fall. (Todd Van Emst/Auburn University)

Auburn’s redshirt freshman guard recalled how intense the recruiting process was for him, one of the top players in Colorado in the Class of 2012. Now, many of the coaches who pushed hardest for his signature are no longer employed by the universities they once touted so strongly. One of them, of course, is Auburn, where Gene Chizik’s staff was let go after the Tigers’ dreadful 3-9 season.

Kozan said it’s just a sign of the times.

“Football is constantly changing,” he said, “and it just speaks to competition at this level.”

That’s why Kozan immediately began to acquaint himself with the techniques offensive line coach J.B. Grimes brought with him. Though they differ from the concepts Jeff Grimes — the Tigers’ former line coach and no relation to J.B. — taught, Kozan believes his skill set makes him equally adept at both.

“I think both schemes fit me,” he said. “I wouldn’t say one particular offensive style fits me best. It’s definitely good to learn different offensive styles because you never know who you could be playing for one day if you make it to the NFL.”

Kozan became accustomed to learning new offenses at the drop of a hat during his high school days in Castle Rock, Colo. Each year, he never knew what kind of system the team would lean on.

“We had an offensive coordinator who mixed it up every year based on our personnel,” Kozan said. “One year, we were straight veer-option, then the next year we were a spread offense. I’ve been around different offenses throughout my career.”

Sitting out last season gave Kozan the opportunity to take stock of himself. Upon arriving at Auburn, he immediately saw how many things he needed to learn. Used to being able to physically overpower nearly every player he faced off against in high school, Kozan quickly realized he wouldn’t be able to rely on strength alone.

“There’s different techniques you’ve got to use in order to block those three-techniques and nose guards, as big and strong as they are,” he said. “A big problem I had was not being able to stay low enough. I’d always played so high in school because I was strong enough to overcome that. Learning how to play with technique makes you a more sound a fundamental football player.”

Kozan said his improved flexibility was thanks to Ryan Russell’s strength and conditioning offseason program. But he believed sharpening his mental game was every bit as important as any physical gain.

“Well, I just tried to come out every day and try to get better,” he said. “The main thing I try to do is not make the same mistakes I made the previous day, so once you make a mistake, learn from it and keep progressing forward.  … If you make mental mistakes, the offense can’t function right.”

It didn’t take long for Auburn’s coaches to notice the progress Kozan has made since the end of last season. Grimes praised him during fall camp, and head coach Gus Malzahn did the same at Tuesday’s press conference.

“Alex Kozan’s a guy that (has) really improved since the first day of spring,” Malzahn said. “He’s getting more mature. He’s a strong guy. We were a little concerned about his mobility early, but he’s answered that question. He’s gotten a lot faster and quicker. He’s had a very good fall camp.”

The admiration was mutual. Malzahn simply sees the game differently than his peers, Kozan said.

To prove his point, the guard provided a detailed example of what he meant.

“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?” Kozan said. “(Malzahn) will 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.”

A near-lock to start at left guard, Kozan has high hopes for those laboring on Auburn’s line this fall. His goal is to see it develop into a feared unit, one that will give Nick Marshall time to throw as well as pave the way for the Tigers’ stable of running backs.

Kozan and his fellow linemen will get their first opportunity to do so this Saturday.

“I’d say the biggest thing we’re trying to be is a tough, physical team that teams look at every week and say,’We have to get ready to play Auburn this week. They’re tough and they’re going to come strap it up against us every single play, (they take) no plays off and they’re going to execute.’”

August 18, 2013

Auburn football: With playing time in sights, cancer survivor Shon Coleman trying to ‘get better every day’ (w/video)

BY RYAN BLACK | rblack@ledger-enquirer.com

@wareagleextra | Like the blog on Facebook

AUBURN, Ala.Shon Coleman admits he occasionally lets himself reflect on the past three years of his life.

How could he not? A lot has happened during that time, after all. He signed with Auburn as one of the most-highly recruited offensive tackle prospects in the country in the class of 2010 and then became a non-entity, sidelined while fighting against a form of cancer known as acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

Redshirt freshman Shon Coleman is on the verge of breaking into Auburn's two-deep depth chart on the offensive line heading into the fall. (File photo)

Redshirt freshman Shon Coleman is on the verge of breaking into Auburn’s two-deep depth chart on the offensive line heading into the fall. (File photo)

The cancer went into remission just weeks after starting chemotherapy treatments in April 2010, and he continued to receive weekly injections following that diagnosis to ensure it wouldn’t return. It never did.

His return to the field came much later, though, as Coleman was finally cleared to practice with the Tigers in April 2012, working back into form ever since.

It’s the versatility and natural ability he showed during his high school career that has him on the verge of breaking into Auburn’s two-deep depth chart, likely the first in line to play whenever starting left tackle Greg Robinson needs a breather this fall.

“I feel comfortable on both sides, really,” he said. “I pretty much got so used to both sides that I can switch up and have everything down pat.”

Moving from side-to-side on the line doesn’t bother Coleman. In fact, he rather enjoys the challenge.

“I like it,” he said. “Being able to know both positions will only make me a better player.”

Coleman will have four more years as a Tiger to develop his skills after the NCAA awarded him another season of eligibility this spring. But that also means the same players he graduated with in 2010 are entering their senior seasons in college. Coleman acknowledged it was a strange feeling, noting he could “barely remember what year” he joined the Tigers.

His class standing has no bearing on how teammates view him, though.

“I don’t get the ‘freshman treatment’ — at least I don’t think I do,” he said. (That) stopped last year when I started playing.”

And competing now is more fun than it’s ever been, Coleman said, thanks to head coach Gus Malzahn.

“His offense is one of the greatest things that’s probably ever happened here,” he said. “I’m really supportive of that. The whole team is supportive. We’re ready to go out there and win.”

When Malzahn was hired, he brought in J.B. Grimes to lead the offensive line. Coleman attributed all the improvements within the unit and in his own game to the fiery Arkansas native’s tutelage.

“Coach Grimes is a really good coach,” Coleman said. “He’s the best teaching coach in America. He’s made us work on the little things that matter.”

His compliments paled in comparison to Grimes’ view of Coleman. A 30-year coaching veteran, Grimes has seen a lot of great offensive linemen over the years at Virginia Tech, Texas A&M and Mississippi State, among others. Few have had Coleman’s gifts, Grimes said, specifically the long arms that help him recover even after taking a bad step.

Coaching has nothing to do with it.

“When they can take that bad step or a guy gives them a head move inside and they bite on it and then they go back outside, but he’s still long enough to get that outside hand on him, that’s God,” Grimes said. “God has taken over there. That ain’t coaching. That’s the good Lord giving a guy the ability to do some things that a normal human being can’t do. I really believe Shon Coleman is one of those guys.”

Coleman doesn’t mind Grimes bragging on him. He just knows his talent alone won’t merit playing time. Accolades are irrelevant once the ball is snapped. Coleman’s words resonate more than it would from others his age, of course.

It’s a perspective forged through his off-field adversity.

“I try not to get caught up in (praise),” he said. “Whatever is said, it doesn’t really matter. I just try to go out there and just get better every day.”

August 10, 2013

Auburn football: Hospitalization doesn’t stop J.B. Grimes from doing job

BY RYAN BLACK | rblack@ledger-enquirer.com

@wareagleextra | Like the blog on Facebook

AUBURN, Ala. — When you know your body, you listen to it.

Auburn offensive line coach missed the team's scrimmage on Wednesday due to a medical issue that required a minor surgery. (File photo)

Auburn offensive line coach J.B. Grimes missed the team’s scrimmage on Wednesday due to a medical issue that required a minor surgery. (File photo)

That’s what J.B. Grimes did. Auburn’s offensive line coach has always prided himself on his health. The 58-year-old lifts weights and runs every day. But when Grimes out doing his daily workout regimen earlier this week, he detected that something was amiss.

“I knew that something wasn’t right,” he said, “and sure enough, something wasn’t right.”

Grimes declined to disclose the nature of his ailment; whatever it was, it required a minor surgery on Wednesday morning that forced him to miss the Tigers’ first scrimmage of fall camp, which took place that afternoon.

“I’m dumb enough to think that I was actually going to be at that scrimmage on Wednesday afternoon,” he said with a laugh. “I thought there was a chance I could make it back for that. But the doctor put the (kibosh) on that. He said, ‘No. Tap the brakes there.'”

The hospitalization didn’t keep Grimes from doing his job, though. He sent an order to the rest of the coaching staff from his hospital bed: Bring my laptop.

How else could he grade the scrimmage?

“I was feeling a little loopy,” he said. “I was able to grade the tape and administer ‘pluses and minuses’ and all those kinds of things. Actually, what I did was grade about half of it on Wednesday night, and then I got up early and graded the rest of it at home early Thursday morning. And I was still able to get back up there and observe practice Thursday morning.”

After viewing the film, Grimes said he saw “some inconsistencies” that would be easy to correct.

“I always say it like this: That’s the reason they put coaching in the game,” he said. “If they went out there and did it right — absolutely perfect in the first scrimmage — they wouldn’t need us (coaches). So, there’s just some things that we’ve got to fix fundamentally.”

Now “feeling great,” Grimes is ready to move on from his brief hospital stay, as he returned to take part in the Tigers’ second practice on Thursday.

He’s just hoping for better weather the rest of fall camp.

“You always get good tape indoors, but it’s great tape out in that stadium,” he said, disappointed Wednesday’s scrimmage was moved indoors due to inclement weather. “You just see things better out in that stadium. So it’s disappointing we couldn’t do it in the stadium, but we still got great teaching.”

August 9, 2013

Right tackle position still two-way tussle between Avery Young and Patrick Miller

BY RYAN BLACK | rblack@ledger-enquirer.com

@wareagleextra | Like the blog on Facebook

AUBURN, Ala. — One week into fall camp, Auburn isn’t any closer to knowing the identity of its starting right tackle.

Auburn offensive line coach J.B. Grimes said Friday that Avery Young and Patrick Miller are neck-and-neck for the starting right tackle spot. (File photo)

Auburn offensive line coach J.B. Grimes said Friday that Avery Young and Patrick Miller are neck-and-neck for the starting right tackle spot. (File photo)

The two candidates battling for the job were both starters at the position last season. Avery Young was in the starting lineup for Auburn’s first three games of 2012 before going down with a shoulder injury. Patrick Miller then stepped in and started the final nine games, and held down the position during the spring while Young recovered from surgery on his injured shoulder.

Getting back on the field and becoming reacclimated with the speed of the game is the most important thing for Young now.

“It’s no different than shooting a 3-point shot,” offensive line coach J.B. Grimes said. “If you go through a full year and you don’t shoot threes, your percentage shooting threes isn’t going to be a real good one the first time you go out there on the court. So we’ve just got to knock the rust off.”

Both Young and Miller have seen time with the first-team offense during fall camp, but Grimes said focusing on that would be a case of misplaced priorities.

“The No. 1 thing is just to get them both reps and evaluate,” he said. “It’s not, ‘Who’s No. 1 and who’s No. 2?’ It’s how many reps they’ve had. That’s the key component right now.”

Grimes wouldn’t put a cutoff date on naming a starter. That would be overstepping his bounds, since he said that would be left up to head coach Gus Malzahn. Grimes hopes one player has clearly separated himself by the end of next week, though.

He also said the coaching staff will at least begin putting together a tentative depth chart heading into Saturday’s scrimmage.

“Trying to figure out, ‘Hey, who are the top guys? Who (makes up) our two-deep (depth chart)?'” Grimes said. “And that will probably take place tomorrow and Sunday. We’ll have a huge personnel discussion this afternoon and (discuss) what happens if this guy goes down, who’s going to do this, and what are the different scenarios you would do.”


**NOTE: I walked in during the middle of this answer, but I assume Grimes had been been asked what gains he had seen from the unit since the spring. (The paragraph breaks are my own.)

“So you’re able to see each day, each scrimmage how much better they got, and it culminated in the A-Day Game. And I’m looking at small defects. I’m looking at those things like extension and steps and pad level, hand placement and footwork, eyes — things like that. And there was just an unbelievable amount of improvement from the first day we went to the field to the day we played the A-Day game. And we’ll make those same kinds of improvements during the course of this year, because we get 29 practices. We only get 15 in the spring, so we almost double-up our practices before we play our first ballgame.

“Now the whole key for us right now is the discipline to carry the coaching and carry those details out on the field and not let yourself fall prey to doing your own thing when the play starts. One of the key coaching components is this: To make it as black-and-white as you can pre-snap. Before that ball is snapped, you know what you see in front of you. You know exactly where that foot, those eyes, those hands are going to go pre-snap. It makes you a more efficient player when all hell breaks loose when the ball is snapped. Then, instinct takes over. But if you can keep it black-and-white pre-snap, that’s the essence of coaching. And that’s the essence of coaching: being able to buy into those things.

“The biggest thing that we have to work on now is the discipline of taking that to the field when I’m not out there with them. I’m not going to play a down. I’m just going to watch. So hopefully they’ll have the discipline to be able to do that.”

(Yes, believe it or not, that constituted one response from Grimes. I’d wager Malzahn could have answered 10-12 questions in that same span.)

August 8, 2013

Been busy lately? Links to all recent Auburn content in one place

Auburn A-Day Jordan-Hare Stadium

BY RYAN BLACK | rblack@ledger-enquirer.com

@wareagleextra | Like the blog on Facebook

AUBURN, Ala. — Look, we all lead busy lives.

So believe me, it wouldn’t hurt my feelings if you’re not caught up with everything that has been posted on WarEagleExtra.com since Tuesday. That’s more than understandable given the prodigious production of content over the better part of 48 hours. To wit: There have been a whopping 19 items added to the blog during that span.

But there’s no reason to scroll through page after page to read every story and watch every video — especially when we’ve compiled them all right here in one handy dandy post.

Whether it’s a notebook, practice report, a player profile or a video interview — or perhaps something else entirely — you’ll find it below. (And for your convenience, each item is sectioned accordingly.)


8/6 — Tigers cut Tuesday practice short to focus on first scrimmage of fall

8/7 — Defense believes it won first scrimmage of the fall ‘hands down’

8/8 — Malzahn pleased with toughness of quarterbacks, disappointed with energy at Thursday morning practice


8/6 — Tigers don full pads for first time, Demetruce McNeal inactive once again

8/7 — Offensive line coach J.B. Grimes absent from first scrimmage of fall


8/7 — Quarterbacks run read-option, Cody Parkey works on point-after attempts and field goals


8/6 — Ellis Johnson hopes defenders ‘will start to polish things up’ in coming days

8/6 — Rhett Lashlee says coaching staff ‘learned a lot more’ about offense during last two practices

8/6 — Gus Malzahn: Tigers ‘very physical’ in shortened Tuesday practice

8/7 — Senior H-back Jay Prosch glad to be ‘able to hit somebody’ in first full-pads practice

8/7 — Junior wide receiver Jaylon Denson predicts newcomers at position will play ‘a lot in the fall’

8/7 — Gus Malzahn: Tigers treated scrimmage ‘just like a regular football game’

8/8 — Running back Corey Grant ‘saw a lot of positive things’ from quarterbacks during scrimmage

8/8 — Safety Jermaine Whitehead excited enough for season he would ‘play in the parking lot’ if need be

8/8 — Gus Malzahn: Film of scrimmage provided ‘some good information’ on quarterbacks


8/6 — Rhett Lashlee: Quarterbacks ‘are bringing themselves along nicely,’ but battle still far from over

8/6 — Tigers still trying to sort out playing time at linebacker

8/7 — Kris Frost fighting to establish himself as Auburn’s starting middle linebacker (w/video)

8/7 — Quarterbacks take licks and dish them out as no-contact ban lifted during scrimmage

Auburn notes: Malzahn pleased with toughness of quarterbacks, disappointed with energy at Thursday morning practice

BY RYAN BLACK | rblack@ledger-enquirer.com

@wareagleextra | Like the blog on Facebook

AUBURN, Ala. — Gus Malzahn was not happy Thursday.

Auburn coach Gus Malzahn (right) and coordinators Rhett Lashlee (left) and Ellis Johnson (center) broke down film of Wednesday's scrimmage along with the rest of the coaching staff. Malzahn came away impressed with the quarterbacks' resolve under pressure. (Photo by Todd Van Emst)

Auburn coach Gus Malzahn (right) and coordinators Rhett Lashlee (left) and Ellis Johnson (center) broke down film of Wednesday’s scrimmage along with the rest of the coaching staff. Malzahn came away impressed with the quarterbacks’ resolve under pressure. (Photo by Todd Van Emst)

Auburn’s head coach had just walked in from the team’s morning practice, the first of two sessions scheduled for Thursday. Known for his punctiliousness, there may have been a valid reason Malzahn was running late to his post-practice meeting with reporters.

He was too busy lighting into the Tigers for what he considered a lackluster effort.

“I pulled the team up afterward and just told them that, bottom line, (I) wasn’t happy with the way we responded,” he said. “I didn’t feel like our approach was good and we’re going to have to make sure we are mentally and physically ready to practice each time.”

The morning practice was spent correcting mistakes made in Wednesday’s scrimmage. Malzahn and the rest of the coaching staff broke down film of the scrimmage and passed along their critique along to the players.

“We just felt like it was important that each one of the guys understand the expectations for each position the coach has,” Malzahn said, “and make sure the expectations were clear. ”

Malzahn came away from his film study pleased with the way the quarterbacks handled pressure.

“We had some guys hanging in the pocket. All four of them showed toughness and that’s one of the No. 1 things that you look for in a quarterback,” he said. “Can they hang in the pocket when the pressure is on? And they all took pretty good licks. I think we got some good information.”

Each of the four quarterbacks competing for the job — Kiehl Frazier, Nick Marshall, Jonathan Wallace and Jeremy Johnson — had their share of gaffes, though, as the defense picked off multiple passes.

The signal-callers weren’t necessarily at fault for all of them.

“There was some pressure, there was some routes on some that weren’t right, so it wasn’t all the quarterbacks,” Malzahn said, “but at the same time, the bottom line is the quarterback is the most responsible person for any kind of mishaps. ”

Those miscues helped the evaluation process, since Malzahn said the coaching staff is specifically looking at how each quarterback responds under duress.

“We’re going to try to put those guys in the same situation, not only today, but in our next scrimmage,” he said. “The plan will be after that next scrimmage, hopefully we can start to narrow some things down.”

One aspect that livened up Wednesday’s scrimmage was “going live” with the quarterbacks, which gave defenders free rein to knock them to the ground. With another scrimmage on tap Saturday, Malzahn was asked whether he would institute a similar strategy.

“I don’t know yet,” he said. “I’m still trying to work through that. Me and (offensive coordinator) Coach (Rhett) Lashlee will decide that sometime tomorrow.”

Freshmen defensive linemen making their mark

Quarterbacks were far from the only players auditioning for playing time during the scrimmage. That’s the the case at nearly every position, after all.

“It’s very good to see how the (newcomers) react and see how much they improve,” Malzahn said. “We have pretty good information on our old guys (after) going through spring, but they’re also getting good reps.”

Malzahn noted the highly-touted trio of freshmen defensive linemen — Carl Lawson, Montravius Adams and Elijah Daniel — have also been showing signs of progress.

“They’re getting a lot of reps,” he said. “I know (defensive line) Coach (Rodney) Garner is getting a good look at them. Saturday will be big trying to figure out these guys — who can handle it mentally and who can’t.”

McNeal, Grimes on the mend

Demetruce McNeal, who has yet to take part in fall camp following a minor surgery caused by an infection, did not participate Thursday morning. Malzahn didn’t expect him back for Thursday’s afternoon session, though he said the senior safety “possibly” could be suited up for Saturday’s scrimmage.

McNeal has missed 12 straight practices dating back to the spring.

Offensive line coach J.B. Grimes was also absent Thursday morning. He missed Wednesday’s scrimmage after undergoing an unknown medical procedure earlier in the day.

Malzahn confirmed Grimes would be back with the Tigers for their second practice Thursday.

Quick hits

Malzahn said there were “a couple of guys banged up” coming out of the scrimmage, but nothing serious enough to hold a player out. … Thursday’s second practice will be split into two halves, with one part focused on special teams and the other on the further installation of offensive and defensive schemes. Malzahn said the Tigers will likely practice in “shells” (helmets and pads), but won’t put on full pads.

August 7, 2013

Auburn notes: Defense believes it won first scrimmage of the fall ‘hands down’

BY RYAN BLACK | rblack@ledger-enquirer.com

@wareagleextra | Like the blog on Facebook

AUBURN, Ala. — Jermaine Whitehead had no doubt which unit won Wednesday’s scrimmage.

Of course, the junior safety admitted he’s far from an impartial observer. Nonetheless, he said it was a no-contest in favor of the defense.

“Hands down, we won,” he said. “I don’t care if (the offense) put up a hundred. We won.”

Senior linebacker Jake Holland was pleased with the defense's performance in Wednesday's scrimmage. (Photo by Todd Van Emst)

Senior linebacker Jake Holland was pleased with the defense’s performance in Wednesday’s scrimmage, calling it ‘a progressive day.’ (Photo by Todd Van Emst)

While he was being a bit factitious, Whitehead walked off the field feeling good about the unit’s performance. However, he reined in his enthusiasm a bit when asked for a letter grade.

“I’d say, B, B-minus” he said. “But I won’t know until I watch the film. I think we made some great plays. I think it was probably way better than a B. But being hard on myself, I always want to get better, so I never give (things) an A.”

Jake Holland was more restrained in his assessment of the scrimmage.

“I felt like today was a good day,” he said. “There were mistakes made, but there were some good plays, too. … I thought it was a progressive day. I thought we got better.”

The senior linebacker was just happy to get back on the field, seeking to further distance himself from the Tigers’ disastrous 3-9 record last year.

“It’s definitely a different feel,” he said. “Our calls and adjustments, we’re able to get them in really fast and play really fast. That’s allowing us to make plays. That’s helping us a lot.”

Whitehead agreed.

“We all seen great strides especially from the spring,” he said. “I think we learned the defense, it kind of (sunk in) on us and we got a chance to run it and perfect it. Some day we (will run) it to perfection. We missed a play or two a day, but we’re going to get it perfect. We’re going to get it right.”

Offensive line coach J.B. Grimes absent

A key piece of Auburn’s coaching staff was missing from Wednesday’s scrimmage.

Offensive line coach J.B. Grimes was absent after having an undisclosed medical procedure performed earlier in the day. Tigers head coach Gus Malzahn said Grimes won’t be gone for long, though.

“He’ll be back tomorrow,” Malzahn said. “It shouldn’t be a problem.”

To fill the void, Malzahn stepped in to help the offensive line “a little bit more” during the scrimmage. He wasn’t alone, as offensive graduate assistant Johnny Brewer pitched in, too.

“And of course, (offensive coordinator) Coach (Rhett) Lashlee was on top of them a little bit more,” Malzahn said. “I think we just all combined. We’ve got good leadership and (junior center) Reese Dismukes. It wasn’t an issue today.”

Indoor scrimmage doesn’t hinder Tigers

Jordan-Hare Stadium was originally the intended venue for Wednesday’s scrimmage.

Mother Nature had other ideas.

Rough weather moved into the area before the Tigers stepped on the field, soaking the playing surface. Though it cleared up, Auburn decided to move the scrimmage back to its indoor practice facility.

It wasn’t ideal, but Malzahn didn’t think his team was negatively affected by holding the scrimmage indoors.

“I was curious to see how our kids would react,” he said. “I know there’s nothing like going into our stadium but I was really impressed with the way our players were excited to scrimmage.”

Whitehead proved to be the embodiment of that sentiment.

“Football is football,” he said. “We’ll play in the parking lot. I want to play football.”

Quick hits

Safety Demetruce McNeal sat out the scrimmage, marking the 11th consecutive practice he has missed dating back to the spring. He is day-to-day after having minor surgery caused by an infection. … There were no injuries to report following the scrimmage. “I think everybody made it out pretty much OK,” Malzahn said. …. The Tigers will likely have two practices tomorrow, according to Malzahn. “We’ll have another good practice,” he said. (Then) we’ll focus on some special teams in the second practice.”

Auburn Practice Report, 8/7: Offensive line coach J.B. Grimes absent from first scrimmage of fall

BY RYAN BLACK | rblack@ledger-enquirer.com

@wareagleextra | Like the blog on Facebook

AUBURN, Ala. — Reporters were permitted to watch approximately 20 minutes of practice on Wednesday, which was scheduled to be Auburn’s first scrimmage of fall camp. Here are some thoughts and observations from the media’s short viewing window on Day 6 of the Tigers’ preseason.

Auburn offensive line coach J.B. Grimes was not seen at the team's practice on Wednesday.

Auburn offensive line coach J.B. Grimes was not seen at the team’s practice on Wednesday.

  • The Tigers were set to scrimmage at Jordan-Hare Stadium. However, a patch of bad weather rolled through the area, soaking the field and forcing the team to move to the indoor facility.
  • No doubt the biggest news of Wednesday centered around an absence — and no, it wasn’t Demetruce McNeal for once. (More on him later.) Offensive line coach J.B. Grimes was not in attendance. Though details obviously weren’t available immediately, Gus Malzahn will likely field a question about Grimes in his post-practice presser.
  • The team’s quarterbacks put blue jerseys over their usual “no-contact” orange uniforms as the viewing portion ended. Was it a possible precursor to the signal-caller’s being subject to contact during the scrimmage? We’ll see.
  •  In other quarterback notes, the quartet worked on read-option plays with running backs, doing things such as faking handoffs and getting outside the tackle box. They also tossed the ball around with each other, as Nick Marshall paired up with Jeremy Johnson while Jonathan Wallace and Kiehl Frazier comprised another tandem. (And for those interested, walk-on Tucker Tuberville also took part, throwing back-and-forth with junior wide receiver Jaylon Denson.)
  • It’s time for our daily McNeal update: The senior safety was out for the sixth straight practice, and 11th consecutive time dating back to the spring. He had a helmet and jersey on, but did nothing other than holding on to a football and occasionally flinging it around. McNeal is recovering from a minor surgical procedure caused by an infection.
  • Cody Parkey didn’t miss any of his point-after attempts or field goals. And he wasn’t kicking off a tee, as the Tigers lined up and simulated live PATs and field goals, with defenders rushing toward the ball.

Video will be posted soon.

August 5, 2013

Practice video: Offensive line attacks blocking sled

BY RYAN BLACK | rblack@ledger-enquirer.com

@wareagleextra | Like the blog on Facebook

AUBURN, Ala. — On the fourth day of Auburn’s fall camp Monday, media members got the chance to see offensive line coach J.B. Grimes run his unit through some drills. Below, Grimes instructs the linemen to attack the blocking sled using a two-step technique — leading with an “off-center right” step, and following it with a “half-bucket left” step.

Auburn Practice Report, 8/5: Demetruce McNeal sits out fourth straight practice

BY RYAN BLACK | rblack@ledger-enquirer.com

@wareagleextra | Like the blog on Facebook

AUBURN, Ala. — Reporters were permitted to see about 20 minutes of practice on Monday, which marked Day 4 of Auburn’s fall camp. Here are some thoughts and observations from the media’s short viewing window.

Auburn coach Gus Malzahn gives his players directions before it begins on of its fall practices. (File by Todd Van Emst)

Auburn coach Gus Malzahn gives his players directions before it begins one of its fall practices. (File by Todd Van Emst)

  • Safety Demetruce McNeal continues to be the headliner during the media’s short stay at practice. For the fourth time in as many days of fall camp, the senior did not participate in drills while reporters were in attendance. Including the final five sessions of the spring, it marks the ninth consecutive time the College Park, Ga., native missed an Auburn practice. As he did Saturday, McNeal had a helmet on. However, with the team practicing in “shells” (helmets and pads), the safety was sans shoulder pads. In his post-practice meeting with media member’s on Sunday, Gus Malzahn said McNeal was “getting better.” But apparently not good enough to be cleared to practice just yet.
  • Avery Young was with the first-team offensive line, working at right tackle. Young and Patrick Miller have seemingly been going back-and-forth at the position (in the first-team lineup) during the first few days of fall camp.
  • The defense was working on its “dime” package, which included two of the hybrid safety/linebacker “star” position players on the field at the same time in Justin Garrett and Robenson Therezie. Other members of the first-team defense (in that particular formation) had Dee Ford and Kenneth Carter manning the two ends and Angelo Blackson and Gabe Wright inside. The linebackers were Kris Frost and Cassanova McKinzy and the secondary consisted of cornerbacks Chris Davis and Jonathon Mincy and Jermaine Whitehead and Josh Holsey at safety.
  • Malzahn stayed around the quarterbacks for a few minutes, but then drifted over to watch the defense running through its various formations. The quarterbacks once again practiced their footwork today as well as executing proper handoffs. Jonathan Wallace and Nick Marshall worked with Cameron Artis-Payne, Tre Mason and Corey Grant, while Kiehl Frazier and Jeremy Johnson were paired with Johnathan Ford, Peyton Barber and Patrick Lymon.
  • Punt returners were mostly the same as it was during the portions of practice reporters saw Friday and Saturday. Wide receivers Quan Bray, Trovon Reed and Marcus Davis were back, as well as cornerback Chris Davis. There was one new member, however, as another receiver — true freshman Tony Stevens — joined the fray. Kick returners mostly stayed to form, too. Mason, Grant, Ford, cornerback Jonathan Jones and wide receiver Ricardo Louis were seen fielding kicks, with one new addition in Therezie.
  • Right guard Chad Slade got an earful from offensive line coach J.B. Grimes during one drill. As the line was practicing its footwork once the ball is snapped, Slade didn’t have his feet in the proper position — and Grimes let him know it. “Check your splits!” said Grimes, before moving the junior’s feet where they needed to be. “I’m trying to help you!”
  • The media once again walked out as the team finished up its stretching drills with strength and conditioning coach Ryan Russell. If there’s one thing I’ve come to appreciate while Russell leads drills, it’s that he has an incredible amount of energy. It’s no wonder the team has touted his offseason workout program at every opportunity.