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April 17, 2014

Spring success


AUBURN | One spring practice remains for the Tigers this spring, their annual A-Day game Saturday, but coach Gus Malzahn already has a strong grasp on what his team has accomplished during the past month.

He likes what he sees.

Auburn held its final closed-door practice Thursday in helmets and shorts. The emphasis was on preparing for Saturday and clarifying what's expected from players between now and the first day of fall camp in August.

"We've been a little bit banged up, but we know a lot more about our team than we did last year," Malzahn said. "We have a lot more information. So we've been able to accomplish a lot even though we haven't had as many scrimmages as we did last year. We've still had some very good 11-on-11 work and been able to really coach up the finer points."

A-Day, which begins at 2 p.m. Saturday, will operate much the way it did last season. The offense and defense will be on separate sidelines with each group split into two factions - a white team and a blue team. The first two quarters will last 12 minutes while Malzahn said coaches will "re-evaluate where we're at" during the second half.

A running clock is an option.

What do coaches want to see? Offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee said he's expecting crisp execution and non-stop effort. Defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson said he's looking forward to another chance to evaluate his second- and third-team guys for possible promotions.

Malzahn has similar goals.

"You're always ... looking to develop depth and quality depth and I think over the course of the spring we've come close to doing that," he said. "We've gotten better in some areas, but like I've said it'll be good for our coaches to see some of those younger guys, how they react. Just from a coach's standpoint I want to see our guys flying around and getting after it and playing good, solid, hard-nosed Auburn football."


END GAME: Defensive end Carl Lawson went down with an injury Tuesday, which is expected to keep him out of the A-Day game. The Tigers, though, have created more options this spring by allowing classically trained tackles Gabe Wright and Montravius Adams to moonlight at end. "We've mixed and matched," Malzhan said. "We're trying to get more quality depth out there to use those guys in different situations."

A NEEDED REST: Malzahn said players will earn a useful reprieve from football work once A-Day ends. "It's getting toward the end of the year and finals are coming up and all that," Malzahn said. "It's been a long spring and it's been a very physical spring, which is good. It'll be time to kind of rest their body up a little bit and focus on finals."

UP ON THE CORNER: Malzahn said he's been impressed with what rising senior Trovon Reed has been able to accomplish since moving from wideout to cornerback this spring. "A lot of people recruited Trovon to play corner and he does have some natural skills," Malzahn said. "The fact that he's a veteran guy and he's been on the offensive side, he understands coverages, he understands the game and I think that's helped him. He's improved. Coach (Melvin) Smith has done a very good job with him."

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