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March 27, 2013

NOTEBOOK: No slowing down now

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AUBURN | Is it possible we all were wrong about the attack Auburn used from 2009-11?

It was billed as Gus Malzahn's offense, and he indeed was the man calling the plays, yet something always seemed amiss. He was the author of a book that espoused the virtues of maximizing the number of plays to an extreme.

While Auburn exhibited pace at times during the 2009 and 2010 season, things rarely moved at break-neck speed for more than short bursts.

Now we may know why.

Wideout Trovon Reed said Wednesday that former head coach Gene Chizik had a tendency to throttle down Malzahn's plans -- both in practice and during autumn Saturdays.

"Sometimes Coach Chizik slowed us down to get the defense (a rest)," Reed said. "Now, pfft, it's fast. Like, for the first day, that was fast. I can only imagine that as we get better as a team, they'll keep pushing up and it could get extremely fast."

There always were doubts about the real reason behind the Tigers' modest offensive pace during Malzahn's tenure as offensive coordinator. He always was diplomatic when asked about it, but the truth appears to be out at this point.

Regardless, Reed feels like the Tigers are headed in the right direction now.

"You can always keep a team off-balance," Reed said. "We do so much stuff - sometimes I'll be confused. I know if I'm confused, and I study it ever day, a defense is going to be confused. We've got an edge. We've just got to take advantage of it."

SETTLING IN: Jermaine Whitehead has spent time at cornerback, nickel and safety during his two seasons on the Plains. He struggled during his first trial at safety last fall, but said Wednesday that he's finally gaining next-level awareness in the back.

"I think the game is starting to make a whole lot more sense," Whitehead said. "I've got a year under my belt. I'm feeling better, feeling more comfortable every day. It's a new day and things are starting to turn around for me."

Whitehead is working at free safety.

NEW LOOK FOR 'MEAT': Demetruce McNeal finished second with 90 tackles last season as a box safety.

He expects that number to drop this fall.

McNeal said Wednesday that he's been deployed as a boundary safety, which entails more high-profile coverage assignments. Those will test the rising junior's abilities, though he's excited about the challenge.

"They throw it to the boundary more than they do to the field in this league," McNeal said. "So that's basically why they want me over there. It's not much more responsibility, but it's more of me being more rangy -- more than just coming down in the box so much (like) I did on the field side last year. Last year, I was in the box so much. That's why I had 90 tackles. But this time, they just want me to show my range and just try to get some more interceptions."

MOONLIGHTING: Robenson Therezie opened spring ball as a boundary cornerback, but his job may expand in April.

The rising junior said he's one of a handful of players being considered for the speed-back role handled by Onterio McCalebb since 2009. Therezie was nicknamed "Cadillac" in high school by his coach, who saw a resemblance to former Auburn tailback Carnell "Cadillac" Williams while carrying the ball.

"It will be a possibility," Therezie said. "I spoke with Coach Malzahn and it seems like a plan. I won't mind at all playing (McCalebb's) position."

Still, he's a defensive back by trade. And he's OK with that.

"I believe I'm going to be a cornerback, boundary cornerback, because I'm the type of guy to stop the run first," Therezie said. "Last spring, I've improved my cover skills. Boundary corner is my position and it fits what type of player I am. I feel like physical is my middle name."



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