March 29, 2014
Ricardo Louis makes the catch in Saturday's scrimmage (Lauren Barnard photo)
Senior defensive tackle Angelo Blackson said after Saturday’s scrimmage that much has changed for Auburn’s defense over the past year.
"We’ve come real far," Blackson said. "We are in a system and we understand the system. Guys aren’t having to think so much. We are lining up and playing football, and that’s the way it’s supposed to be."
On the defensive line, the Tigers return seven players who made significant contributions last season, plus fifth-year senior Jeff Whitaker.
"There is great competition between us," Blackson said. "At the end of the day, we are fighting for jobs. We all understand that. There is nothing wrong with being able to push the guy in front of you and nothing wrong with being pushed by the guy behind you."
Shon Coleman sees beyond the competition
Sophomore and cancer survivor Shon Coleman is competing hard with junior Pat Miller for the starting job at left tackle, but he says that opportunity is only part of what he has gotten out of being an Auburn football player.
"I’ve learned so much from the coaches," Coleman said. "I’m 22 years old now and older than most of the people on the football team. Just going through what the coaches teach us, the workouts, being more disciplined has really helped me grow as a man."
Passing game picking up the pace
Receiver Marcus Davis says the passing game is the same, only more of it.
"I think we can open it up a little bit more now that Nick is more comfortable and the receivers all know what to do," Davis said Saturday.
"I think we've made a lot of progress. We're just picking right up where we left off. I feel like everybody knows what to do and what to expect, so everything is going how it's supposed to be."
Davis' 23 catches were tied for the third most on the team last year.
"I know what to expect going into a game and I know how a defense plays, so I just expect to play faster," he said.
They are catching on
Gus Malzahn says Marcus Davis and his fellow receivers are giving Auburn more options.
"I think the biggest thing is the depth," Malzahn said. "We’ve got two to sometimes three at each position that at least has a good idea of what is going on. We’re trying to give those guys all a chance to show what they can do. That’s a good thing moving forward."
-- Charles Goldberg
Jeff Whitaker still making an impact
Jeff Whitaker was a backup defensive tackle in 2010 when Auburn won the national championship. And he’s still part of the Auburn football team.
Whitaker sat out last season after having knee surgery and has been cleared for his fifth season of eligibility. Senior Angelo Blackson says he Whitaker is invaluable on and off the field.
"Jeff is still getting back into the swing of it," Blackson said. "He’s in the mix, practicing with us every day. Jeff is a great leader. He’s been around, 2010, since that year. He’s one of those guys we can go to about anything. We look up to him."
Inside the offensive line
Auburn returns four of its five offensive linemen. But there are still young offensive linemen trying to make a move.
"I've been fairly impressed with all of them, and their attitude," Gus Malzahn said. "Being coachable, and trying to do what Coach Grimes is asking them to do, and today, they get a lot of reps. That's good. We got a lot of good information on the guys that played for us last year, and those other guys got an opportunity to get a lot of reps. Get in the mix, at least in a rotation, or depth, or something like that."
-- Charles Goldberg