The Auburn defense got the best of the offense in the second scrimmage of the spring Saturday morning.
"We got them in the first half," said redshirt freshman receiver Trovon Reed. "In the second half, they came out with the energy. They must have had something in their water that we didn't have. The defense -- all of the sudden, everybody on the sidelines was jumping and screaming and we were looking at each other like: Hold on; who they have over there?"
With a week to go before the annual A-Day game, the team worked on several aspects of the game.
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"We went out and kind of had a blitz period there and had some blitz pickup," said head coach Gene Chizik. "Had a great special teams period early on, got in about half a scrimmage, worked some special teams in the middle and then came back and finished the scrimmage up here at the end."
The first scrimmage featured explosive plays through the air and in the ground game, but today's offense vs. defense meeting was a different story.
"We probably didn't protect the ball like we needed to today," Chizik said. "But there were a lot of different reasons for that in terms of continuity and who was in there at center and quarterback and tailback and things of that nature. But overall, pleased with the day. I thought the energy was a little low at the beginning, and it picked up as practice continued to move on. So again, 10 days into it, a lot of work left."
Quarterback Clint Moseley worked with the first team today since it was his turn in the rotation with Barrett Trotter. Moseley wasn't pleased with the day's work.
"Today was obviously dominated by the defense," Moseley said. "We've got a lot of things to work on offensively, but I've got to give a lot of credit to those guys. They came out with a lot of energy. They played really well.
"It was encouraging from a team standpoint, but offensively it was one of the most discouraging days this spring for sure. Probably the most discouraging day. But it's all about learning from our mistakes and getting better. And not panicking."
Moseley said a lot of mistakes were made on his side of the ball.
"Just a lot of missed assignments from guys that shouldn't be missing assignments, including myself," Moseley said. "Just a really bad day. We lacked energy, execution, all of it. Just disappointed our coaches today."
As for the defense, coordinator Ted Roof said he saw some positives and negatives throughout today's scrimmage.
"We made some big plays, but we gave up some big plays," Roof said. "We've got to keep working til they can't make those explosive plays against us. We've just got to keep pounding a rock and become a more physical football team each and every day as far as emphasizing stopping the run and taking the ball away."
Specifically, Chizik wants to see better tackling.
"There's no question about it," Chizik said. "We're getting guys in the right spots and our angles of approach aren't great right now and we're letting some balls get back across the field on us. And our offense has done a great job with their vision and actually being able to get the ball back across the field. But our tackling, I think defensively, needs to improve over the next five days."
Big day for receivers
Chizik isn't known for singling out players players with praise, but he had positive things to say about junior receiver DeAngelo Benton after the scrimmage.
"DeAngelo has really made a lot of strides in my opinion," Chizik said. "He was responsible for a couple of explosive plays today, which was really good to see. We're counting on DeAngelo to help us next year. He's got to step up to the plate. He has not arrived there, at all. But I believe he's trying to take his game to a different level than he's played it since he's been here. That's a good thing to see. He's got a lot of room to grow, but I think he's made some significant strides in 10 days, in my opinion."
Benton, once the nation's No.3-ranked high school wide receiver and later listed as the nation's top prep school wide receiver, is often the butt of receivers coach Trooper Taylor's jokes since he is the oldest player on the team at age 23. Now that Benton is making plays on the field, Taylor is praising Benton, but he isn't leaving out the jokes.
"I told him it's about time (he makes plays)," Taylor said. "He's about three days older than water. No, DeAngelo did a great job today. He left a couple out there, but for the most part he did a nice job. He's becoming a guy we can count on. The biggest thing is he's healthy. All those things I said about him coming in, the potential is still there. I told him the worst compliment I can give you is you've got potential. That means you haven't done anything yet. It's time. It's time."
Another player coming off injury that is impressing coaches this spring is Reed. Reed, who was sidelined with a knee injury throughout the fall, is now practicing at full speed.
Reed is playing the "3" spot slot receiver role this spring.
Taylor is thrilled with Reed's many talents.
"Catching that bubble screen," Taylor said. "He ran the reverse. He can do some wildcat. He gives you a lot of options and I like that. It's kind of like you watch UCONN, they get it in the man's hands who is going to do something. We're going to try and get it in that man's hands. Every time he touches it, he makes something special happen. He broke about two or three tackles today and did some things."
Since he has so many skills, Reed will likely move around in the offense.
"I tell him he's a hide-and-go-seek guy," Taylor said. "If you play hide-and-seek and you hide in the same spot, they gonna find you pretty quick."
*** True freshman center Reese Dismukes ran with the first team today. Just five months ago Dismukes was playing high school football, but he said he is trying to get used to the fast paced Auburn offense.
As for the line overall, Dismukes believes it has a lot of work to do.
"I feel like as an O-line, having to replace so many guys, we're a little behind, but we're going to get there," Dismukes said. "Coach (Jeff) Grimes is a great coach, one of the best. No doubt that we will get there. It's just the fact that Brandon (Mosley)'s the only one that's coming back, and A.J. (Greene) being hurt, coming back too. We've got to have chemistry as an O-line. We have it now, and we're working on calls and all that stuff. We're starting to work out and feel better and starting to groove a little more. We've just got to keep getting better."
*** The first scrimmage featured some snap issues by the center. Offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn said the centers did better this week.
"With the twos we had a center in there that hadn't played a lot, had been playing guard (Jared Cooper)," Malzahn said. "And we had a center out today, so that didn't help (Blake Burgess). But with the ones, the snaps were sufficient (Dismukes)."
*** Although today was Moseley's day to work with the ones, Malzahn said Trotter rotated in with him throughout the scrimmage.
"And Logan Paul got the twos," Malzahn said. "So we got a chance to see both quarterbacks primarily with the ones. That helps you evaluate those guys too."
*** Overall, there hasn't been any movement in the quarterback race.
"The quarterbacks are very sporadic right now, in general," Chizik said. "The consistency of the quarterback position, and being able to manage the team, is obviously two most important things they can do. When I say managing the team, I'm talking about protecting the football and keeping us out of negative plays. We've done a fair job of that. It's been a little bit up and down.
I think they're both working really hard. It's very important to both of them, and I appreciate that. But we're not as consistent as we need to be at that position."
*** Although it hasn't been confirmed by coaches, junior Anthony Morgan is said to have injured his knee last week in practice. Chizik wouldn't get specific about what's bothering Morgan, but did say the injury isn't long term.
"He's banged up and beat up," Chizik said. "It could be before the end of spring practice before he's back, I don't know."
*** The defensive linemen may be young and mostly inexperienced, but Chizik is pleased with their progress this spring. Understandably, he wants to keep an eye on their health.
"The interior guys have taken on a lot of double teams and taken on 600 pounds for 10 days," Chizik said. "They're a little beat up because of our depth. We're going to have to watch that and make sure they can survive through the spring because there have been very physical practices.
"They've made some strides. It's a great learning process for them.
"I think Corey Lemonier has made some significant strides. I think Dee Ford has, too. And Craig Sanders. There are some guys at defensive end I think are coming along. Our inside guys are a little beat up right now, but they're getting some great experience that they need."
*** The Tigers' next practice will be Monday at 9 a.m. A-Day is set for Saturday, April 16 at 2 p.m. CSS will broadcast the game.