April 19, 2013
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN — Auburn has a plan for Saturday's 1 p.m. A-Day Game. It's real football.
The first-team offense will go against the second-team defense and the first-team defense will go against the second-team offense in something of a departure from recent spring games that were closely-managed scrimmages with a confusing scoring system.
Where will quarterbacks Kiehl Frazier and Jonathan Wallace be? Everywhere. Frazier and Johnson will alternate with the first and second teams, so don't be too quick to fill out your depth chart.
Defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson hasn't.
"We feel like we're 80 percent on top of who we think our two-deep will be," Johnson said. "But we've got some newcomers will come in and hopefully make an impact. We've got some guys whose progress was hot and cold during the spring."
They'll get a chance to find the right temperature in Jordan-Hare Stadium. Johnson promises a game atmosphere.
"We feel like our fan base deserves a somewhat entertaining scrimmage, and it's on TV, and we want it to be competitive," Johnson said. "We want it to be game-like in the field position movement and the substitution. At the end of the day, each position coach, selfishly, is hoping each player will get between 15 and 30 reps."
Auburn practiced game management at the end of Friday's practice, including declaring players injured to see if his substitute knew to come in.
"Offenses and defenses will be on separate sidelines, but within that organization, so we can organize them and coach them as a staff," Johnson said. "We're going to try to divide them on those two sidelines, first units and second units, and other guys will be rotators on each unit."
Auburn will practice next Tuesday and Wednesday to wrap up spring. Johnson gave an assessment on players, and the defense in general, after Friday's tune-up"
•On cornerback Josh Holsey getting time at safety:
"We needed to double teach him," Johnson said. "We've had some safeties banged up. Right now, (Trent) Fisher has a hurt ankle. I'm not sure in the spring game how many reps he can go. It's really getting thin at safety. It's probably something we should have done earlier because we want him to be a guy who can play corner or safety, to get our best 11 on the field. Heck, he may be one of those guys."
•Defensive back Demetruce McNeal missed practice again.
"Demetruce has got some off-the-field things he's got to clear up, and it's day-to-day. He could be ready to roll and he might not be there," Johnson said.
•On his defense:
"From a depth standpoint, I think our tackle spots and our linebacker spots and our corner spots will be the most solid. We're extremely thin at safety. And at defensive end, we have one natural pass rusher (Dee Ford). Some of those guys really have to make some progress. (Defensive end Ken) Carter has had a good spring. He's a natural inside guy, but he's had a good spring. His forte is not on the issue. But he's been solid.
"We've got to develop some depth at safety. We've got find who the best two linebackers are, and who the two best are. It's been a little more gray than black and white on that. We've got to find some guys to rush the passer on the edge."
"My issues with my linebackers right now is that I'm not too sure if some of them aren't too heavy. I always felt like you need four linebackers every game. I'd rather they all play about 35 or 40 or less."
•On playing veterans for an extended time Saturday:
"Their reps will be trimmed tomorrow unless we have bad luck on someone else getting hurt. From an injury standpoint, we're in pretty good shape defensively."
•On impact players:
Justin Garrett, again. "Justin Garrett has been the best player we've had on defense. He's probably made as many impact plays, and has played as well as any player on that side of the ball."
•On his cornerbacks:
"They've made the majority of our big plays on defense. That's probably been one of the brightest spots overall. That, and Justin Garrett.
•On the defensive tackles:
Johnson likes the play of Angelo Blackson, Jeff Whitaker, Gabe Wright and junior college transfer Ben Bradley.
"I haven't seen any 'wow,' dominating plays in there, but I think we've got a good defensive line. I like our tackles," Johnson said.
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