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March 27, 2013

Preparation trumps pace

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AUBURN | Reality became a 38-degree headwind Wednesday morning as all the talk about coach Gus Malzahn's new approach became action.

Very fast action.

There was no shortage of hustle during the Tigers' first spring practice Wednesday morning. After a short period of calisthenics, the offense was on the field working a full-speed drill aimed at executing plays as quickly as possible. Even subtle mistakes, like the time tackle Greg Robinson's splits were a foot too narrow, resulted in extra exercise for all members of the group.

It's indeed a new day.

"It's about learning how to line up correctly, learning how to process information quickly and having great body language and hustling. It's all that combined," Malzahn said. "How we did today? we've got a ways to go as far as learning how to practice at the pace and the tempo that we want, but that's to be expected. We will get better each day at that."

Malzahn said he generally was pleased with what he saw.

Though an offensive expert by trade, the Tigers' head coach spent plenty of time Wednesday watching defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson and his assistant ply their trade. Malzahn said he watched quarterbacks for less than 20 minutes and instead focused on gathering large-scale intelligence about his team's readiness.

Auburn didn't execute team drills at the proper pace.

Some elements of individual drills moved too slowly as well. Players and coaches planned ahead by reviewing practice plans ahead of time, but there was a difference between theory and actual practice.

Still, Malzahn saw the kind of toughness he wants.

"When I first got the job, it was evident we had some players with mental scars and all that. It's a new day," the coach said. "We've gotten stronger, we've gotten a little mentally tougher from the time we first got here. But when you start practice, you just start fresh and you kind of judge it day by day and how it goes. Like I told them, our goal is each day to get better and not just better at their position but better mentally and really understand how to practice."

Players said the pace wasn't a big issue Wednesday.

Wideout Quan Bray figured that time spent reviewing player expectations, working hard in the weight room and learning Malzahn's basic strategies would make a big difference on the practice field. He was glad to test -- and prove -- that theory.

"I think I've grasped the little that they've thrown at us," Bray said. "All you've got to do is get into the playbook and things fall into place."

Linebacker Kris Frost echoed that sentiment.

"It was a fast pace, but us being prepared and us really working on our preparation and getting involved with being focused in the film room carried over into today," he said. "It slowed everything down for us."

The Tigers will resume practice Friday morning. A-Day is scheduled for April 20 at 1 p.m. inside Jordan-Hare Stadium.



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