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March 31, 2012

Notebook: Scrimmage produces good and bad

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Auburn held their first scrimmage of the spring on Saturday, as the Tigers put their new offense and defense on display in a closed atmosphere inside the Auburn Indoor Practice Facility.

Gene Chizik led his team through the 60-70 play scrimmage and was pleased with the outcome.

"I thought today was a productive scrimmage day," Chizik said. "We did some different situations before we scrimmaged. It was a good all-around day because we still covered our special teams work. We did a little bit of situational work before we went and scrimmaged later in the practice. The scrimmage I thought was productive on both sides of the ball with some good teaching moments. There are going to be some good things that show up and some bad things and a lot of correctable things."

Chizik noted that were positives and negatives in the Tigers' first scrimmage, which is to be expected at this point in the process of learning two new schemes on either side of the ball.

"Offensively, there were a lot of positives," Chizik said. "We tried to run the football in a physical manner. We had a few explosive plays that were good to see. As well on defense, we saw some positive things. I saw some explosive things on defense -- turnovers and sacks. We saw a few three-and-outs. We are really trying to teach situations and football. I think our kids are getting a grasp of it; they aren't there yet. On both sides of the ball, there were good things that happened and a lot of things that will be corrected."

Loeffler sees good and bad

Scot Loeffler didn't know quite what to expect from his offense in terms of communication and execution during today's scrimmage, but one thing he wanted to see was effort and toughness. Loeffler felt like that was accomplished on Saturday.

"Obviously after five days of installation, there were some really good things and some things we've got to clean up, but we were overall happy with the effort and the how the team played," said Loeffler.

"I was just hoping that we got the snap to be quite honest with you. What we were trying do is try to be able to run the team for the first time without coaches out there. They did a good job managing the team. We were overall happy with the overall procedure and being able to call the play out there by themselves. They did a good job with that."

Loeffler saw good and bad from the quarterbacks that included rising sophomore Kiehl Frazier and freshman Zeke Pike. Rising junior Clint Moseley did not participate in the scrimmage.

"Yeah, just like I said, not to be generic or boring, there were some things they did quite well in the scrimmage and some other things, like all the rest of the guys, we need to improve, clean up and just continue our growth," Loeffler said. "For the first time they did a really good job in and out of the huddle. It's new terminology. That's one of the areas we were extremely pleased with. They did a wonderful job getting in and out of the huddle, lined up correctly and that was a big plus considering it's all new for these guys."

One of those "good" things was a explosive pass play from Frazier to senior Emory Blake on a play-action half roll-out that beat rising sophomore safety Erique Florence.

Frazier remembered the play well.

"Yeah. Emory got deep on one, I think Erique, his eyes were probably in the wrong place or something, so 'EB' got behind him," said Frazier. Another big play was a Frazier pass to Sammie Coates, who took a 10-yard pass and broke a tackle and turned into an explosive play.

"I made some plays I was proud of and I missed some I should have made," Coates said. "That made me kind of mad. I did a pretty good staying on my blocks for a good little while. I dropped in-traffic passes that I have to pull in."

Moseley said his throwing has been limited the last week nursing a sore shoulder and turf toe, working instead on his drops under center, footwork, and trying to rest and rehab to return to action. Moseley is trying not to let frustration creep in after only one week of practice.

"It's not anything I'm happy about, but, at the same time, it's spring. Everybody is learning the offense. I don't think any huge decisions are going to be made this spring," Moseley said. "I'm just really focusing on the little things -- the technical parts of playing quarterback."

Loeffler refused to name specific players that stood out, but enjoyed the physical nature his offense put forth.

"Obviously we still got to watch the tape, but it looked like the effort was outstanding. We'll assess the tape and actually see the things we didn't see when we were on the field," Loeffler said.

Loeffler credited all the running backs for having a good day, especially rising sophomore Corey Grant who said he broke a long touchdown run.

"It was an A-gap play. Jay (Prosch) the fullback, he blocked his guy, the line did their job and it was right there. It was just up to me to hit the hole," Grant said.

Grant is excited to be at Auburn around family and friends after transferring from Alabama. His main focus last year was to prepare for the 2012 season.

"It really was important for me. I just wanted to come in and work," Grant said. "I knew I wasn't going to be able to play and I knew that time that I had just to sit out, I could get bigger, faster stronger and use that for when the spring - like now - came around I'd be ready."

VanGorder sees improvement

Brian VanGorder said Saturday's scrimmage was chocked full of inconsistencies, but felt like the defense took a step forward in terms of the mechanics and communication across the defensive side of the ball.

"We were much better today, it looked like guys were understanding their assignments," VanGorder said. "It was a good day, a good step forward for our defense. As a coach, you always want more. When I talk about mechanics I talk about how we break the huddle, where we put our eyes out, our communication was better.

"From our first day in pads to what I saw today, I thought the contact was much better. It has a ways to go, but I saw some good things taking on blocks."

Auburn's defense allowed explosive plays to the offense on several occasions, with VanGorder saying that was the biggest negative from the day's action.

"The explosive plays, some third-down snaps early in the scrimmage, those two things stood out to me," VanGorder said. "Can't give up explosive plays on defense. We did that today, a couple of big passes and a big run, can't do it and play good defense."

One of those explosive plays was given up by Florence, who simply let his eyes wander on a play-action.

"I was hanging on the backside and I got caught with my eyes in the wrong place. It was the only touchdown they got, it was something I knew I should have had. it made me mad," Florence said. "We allowed two explosive plays, but only one was converted. We strive in limiting explosive plays and making the offense drive."

VanGorder did note the third-down defense improved as the scrimmage went on, going on to say football is about situations and practicing all the situations and hoping the emphasis on third-downs pay off.

"They should be trained and understand those situations. A third and three is different than a third and long. Our corners were in a cover-2 and we're running up to flat routes and we give up a seven route behind them," he said.

"At the beginning, the third down explosive plays, they were able to complete some explosive passes and we made some mistakes in coverage. Later on we were able to get that corrected," rising junior linebacker Jake Holland said.

VanGorder was hesitant to name specific names, but did mention three young players in defensive lineman Keymiya Harrell, linebacker Kris Frost, and linebacker Jawara White that stood out.

"I was pleased with a number of our young guys," VanGorder said. "Harrell played fast, Frost did some good things, 'Rah Rah' did some good things in the middle. It's important that we not only establish a group of starters, but depth is so important in the SEC. I was encouraged by that."

Frost, who is recovering from an injury that sideline him all of 2011, is still adjusting to being back in action, but VanGorder is pleased with his progression.

"He's had a tough first week, the last couple of days he's settled down," VanGorder said. "You see guys that are struggling, but are high-character guys usually get over it and speed that process up. It's important to him."

VanGorder said playing without veterans like Nosa Eguae, Gabe Wright, and Kenneth Carter in places more significance on the young guys stepping up to the plate.

"There's competition all over the place in regards to every position," VanGorder said.

Quick Hitters

**Florence said the defense forced two turnovers: A forced fumble by Frost, and an interception by Robenson Therezie on a tipped pass.

**Grant likes new fullback Jay Prosch:

"It's made a big difference. A big, physical guy. He's strong, big. Most guys aren't going to overpower him. He works hard and he knows everything that he does."

**Coates is excited about being back in the action:

"It feels like I'm a football player now since I'm out there and not on the sidelines just watching. I feel good about where I am and how I'm doing."

**Holland likes the direction of the defense after the first scrimmage and looking forward to improving in week two:

"I feel really comfortable, even though we are learning a new defense. Everything is coming together and I'm excited about the future. Improving, just techniques. We are installing every day and as we install more things we need to make sure we do what we need to do and recall everything we've done so far."



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