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March 28, 2012

Notebook: Chizik pleased with practice

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Gene Chizik said Auburn's Wednesday practice was an improvement over Monday, as the Tigers went full pads for the second time this spring.

"I was real pleased with practice today. I felt like today, the really tried to really focus in on the physicality part of the game. It was much better today, which I expected, so I was pleased in that regard," Chizik said. "Again, there's still a lot of new language, a lot of new concepts that our whole team is trying to grasp. We've got much, much improvement in front of us, as we know, but today, in terms of quality from the physicality part of the game, I was pleased."

Chizik said the new systems have brought about a new language that will continue to be a process for the players to learn.

As for Clint Moseley and his sore shoulder that kept him from throwing on Monday, Chizik said Moseley was back at it on Wednesday, saying "we're still being very judicious in what we're doing with him with the soreness of his arm, but day by day he's getting better."

Other news and notes include rising sophomore corner Robenson Therezie missing Wednesday's practice due to being "banged up" during Monday's practice. Chizik said, "he's getting better."

Rising senior corner T'Sharvan Bell is eager to return to practice, sighted on Wednesday in shorts and a helmet. Bell had surgery last November on a torn ACL and MCL and Chizik is proud of Bell's efforts to get back.

"I'm really proud of him. He's really taken to his rehab really well. He's taken it personal, and he's taken his rehab to a new level," Chizik said. "Again, as I said earlier, one of the things that has been at least positive, if there's any positive about that, is he kind of knows the mental part of the game, which is usually the biggest struggle. He's making huge, huge strides. He feels confident about it. He's working hard to improve every day."

Grimes, Pelton encouraged

After a less than stellar day of practice during the Tigers' first day in pads on Monday, both offensive line coach Jeff Grimes and defensive line coach Mike Pelton were encouraged with the improvements made on Wednesday.

"I think we're definitely making progress, but like I'm sure everybody's said, we have a long way to go before we're where want to be," Grimes said.

Pelton felt like the players weren't real thrilled with the first day in pads on Monday, but returned on Wednesday with a solid practice.

"Today, I thought there was some improvement," Pelton said. "It's a new system, new techniques we're trying to learn. I saw them trying to do what we were asking them to do from the physical standpoint. Everybody knows the game is won on the offensive and defensive line, being physical up front. I saw an improvement there. By now means am I saying we're where we need to be. As long as they're progressing."

For Pelton and a defensive line that returns every starter from a year ago, the new attack under Brian VanGorder will have a different focus in 2012.

"A lot easier. To me, it's a defense that as a defensive lineman, you want to play in it. It emphasizes all get-off, it emphasizes penetration, it emphasizes going and playing football," Pelton said. "There aren't a lot of checks in this defense. It basically lets them play. To me, it's a lot easier to play, it's a lot easier to play as a defensive linemen. I can turn them loose and let them play."

Holland and Bates teaching the youngsters

Rising junior Jake Holland and senior Daren Bates are setting an example for the younger linebackers, new position coach Tommy Thigpen says. Thigpen, taking over at the linebacker position, is proud of the way Holland Bates have set an early example.

"Jake has played well, as well as Bates," Thigpen said.

Holland has worked at first-team middle linebacker, while Bates has worked at weakside linebacker through the first four spring practices. Thigpen has especially been impressed with Bates mental game and his ability to quickly fix mistakes.

"Bates is the guy right now that I'm pleased with where he's at. He's a big picture guy," Thigpen said. "He gets the back end part of it, the passing part of it. Now he's playing in the box, and he's real comfortable. He makes a mistake and he knows exactly what he did wrong."

Like the lines, Thigpen is stressing verbiage, communication, and alignment to his linebackers early in the spring.

"Just getting guys comfortable with the calls and understanding where they are supposed to be on the football field. We were better than yesterday, but still not there yet," said Thigpen. "We are really harping on each guy knowing the big picture, getting guys lined up and knowing where everybody is supposed to be at."

Thigpen expressed that some younger backers, like Kris Frost, Anthony Swain, and Chris Landrum are struggling and their heads are spinning, but the focus is to show improvement in one aspect each day.

"They will get better, they got better today in some aspects, and others they didn't," Thigpen said. "Each day we tell them what can you work on today, your footwork, communicating. I saw some improvement, but I saw some things we'll have to work on after we watch the tape."

Quick Hitters

**Thigpen said Jawara White is coming along:

"He's getting comfortable, he moves like a linebacker does, quick twitch, big body, we just have to get him up to where Jake and Bates are at. I think 'Rah-Rah' is doing a good job of running around and doing what we asked him to do, but to take the challenge. Yesterday, he came into my office and he was on the board just drawing up plays, and that's what it's going to take. Just coming in and watching the tape and being comfortable learning and knowing where everybody is at."

**Thigpen had some interesting, and positive things to say about VanGorder:

"Fantastic. He's a football guy. Not everything is everything. You can't put everything in the same bucket, physical guy, and holds everybody accountable. I enjoy that, I enjoy the intensity, I enjoy the fact he asks a guy a question and if he doesn't know it, he gets called out. You have to speak football in the classroom, the language has to be on. That's one thing our guys are uncomfortable about, they walk in, you've been able to come in and mess around and just saying things, but it's not the right verbiage. It's getting everyone, coaches included, to talk his language and his scheme."

**Thigpen said Frost is still learning and adjusting after missing an entire year of playing football:

"He's a year off, he's got a long way to go as far as getting himself lined up. He's been away from the game for a year and it looks like it. He's a prideful kid and a prideful guy, everyday he has to come in and watch tape and take a marker and go to the board and draw plays. He's always done it off ability and it was easy in high school, but now it's not about ability. He has to get himself lined up and execute when it's time."

**Upcoming senior receiver Emory Blake says learning a new offense is exciting this spring:

"It's very different. Coming into the spring, not knowing the offense, as from last year, coming in and knowing it like the back of your hand is very different. But I think it's healthy for us to get something fresh and new in here and bring some excitement, actually. I'm excited, personally, for our team and offense as a whole."

**Blake is impressed with Loeffler's detail-oriented coaching style:

"It's awesome. Malzahn was very detail-oriented, too, but to watch him, specifically with the quarterbacks is amazing. If their shoulder is down and it should be up, or if they're not taking the right step, or anything like that, it's just amazing to watch him critique their dropbacks and their throwing motions."

**Rising sophomore safety Erique Florence is already singing the praises of new defensive backs coach Willie Martinez:

"He's an animal. He come back, and he tell us from Day 1, you've got to have swag. You've got to do this, you've got to do that. He's a guy that we definitely can relate to as being so young. And he brings stuff to the table that we never thought of. He kind of relates football to other stuff. He kind of touch home with us. He'd tell us this, and then he'd tell us why we need to do this, and all. So we kind of believe in him, and we're going to do whatever he tells us."



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