Gus Malzahn likes Auburn's first day in pads

March 22, 2014

GusMalzahn
Things are moving fast for Auburn and Gus Malzahn at spring practice (Lauren Barnard photo)

By Charles Goldberg
AuburnTigers.com

AUBURN, Ala. -- It wasn't a Saturday scrimmage at Jordan-Hare Stadium, but it was "a very physical" first day in pads this spring practice, and Gus Malzahn seemed pleased with that. 

"I thought our guys were excited to be out there, looking forward to the physical part of it," said the Auburn coach. "It was good for our coaches to evaluate our guys, especially the young guys, and the older guys making sure they're improved. 

"Overall, I was pleased with our attitude, not just today, but the two previous practices, too. Overall, I thought it was a solid first week." 

It was the rite of spring, the first day in pads and all, and it came in practice No. 3 for the SEC champs. There is much to do, like finding replacements for players sure to go in the NFL draft, such as Greg Robinson, Dee Ford and Tre Mason. But Malzahn said he likes last season's understudies who are being given a chance to impress this spring. 

If nothing else, Auburn is farther along in Year Two of Gus Malzahn than last season, as in… 

Quarterbacks Nick Marshall, Jeremy Johnson and Jonathan Wallace.
"I thought all three of them did some good things at times. I think they've all had good weeks, not just today. You can tell they're more comfortable, and they should be. We're farther ahead, obviously, than we were at this time last year. It was a solid week, I think, for our quarterbacks." 

Knowing the system better.
"I like where we're at as a whole group. Their approach to practice. The way they respond to coaches. The effort and the focus. We still need to improve. We're never going to be satisfied. That's probably been the thing I've been most pleased with, is our guys are understanding how to practice as a whole." 

Running backs Cameron Artis-Payne, Corey Grant and Peyton Barber.
"I believe Corey Grant was the first one with the running backs, but they're switching off every day." 

Top-rated junior college transfer wide receiver D'haquille Williams.
"He's off to a good start as far as his ability to learn and effort and everything that Coach Craig and Coach Lashlee are asking him to do. He's made some very good 1-on-1 plays, too. 

Junior college transfer safety Derrick Moncrief.  
"He's rotating in there with the first group. He's a long, athletic guy. I've been impressed with his attitude. He's wanting to be coached and he's wanting to play with effort. It'll just be a matter of him getting more and more comfortable." 

Defensive end LaDarius Owens isn't practicing because of an injury and could miss the spring.
"He's a veteran guy, though. We kind of know what we're getting with him. It gives these other guys a chance."

Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: