April 19, 2014
Cameron Artis-Payne draws a crowd at Auburn's A-Day Game (Wade Rackley photo)
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. -- Corey Grant had to make the most of his opportunities in Saturday's A-Day Game. The running back vying more playing time got just five carries, but rushed for a game-best 128 yards, including a 54-yard touchdown run in Auburn's spring game.
That's pretty good, considering Grant, and everybody else, said the spring game was devoted to the passing game.
"Last year we didn't do that that much. We knew we were going to pass, but when Coach called a running play, we were going to step up and get the job done," Grant said.
Auburn threw more than it ran. Following Grant on the stat sheet were Cameron Artis-Payne, with 12 carries for 97 yards and a touchdown, receiver Ricardo Louis, with two carries for 21 yards and Patrick Lymon, with nine carries for 28 yards.
Peyton Barber, who figured to be prominently in the mix, left the game after his first carry with some sort of leg injury. Coach Gus Malzahn said he'd be OK.
"We feel very good about our running game," Malzahn said.
What he didn't say was Auburn led the nation in rushing last season.
Introducing defensive MVP Kenny Flowers
Kenny Flowers introduced himself to an A-Day crowd of 70,645 fans.
"I wasn't a big factor last year. I feel like I can be that this year and show the people my improvement," Flowers said after he was named the A-Day defensive player of the game. He had seven tackles, of which 2½ were for a loss.
"It's great," Flowers said.
Flowers played. But a lot of potential starters on defense did not. The defensive line was thin all spring. Auburn even held out center Reese Dismukes as a precaution.
A fond farewell to spring
Gus Malzahn liked spring practice.
"We feel like we have improved," he said. "We have a lot of work to do. They understand that, but I think they have a good idea of the foundation of our offense and our defense. I think they have the tools now to have a summer, work and try to get better and improve by the next time we get together in camp."
Jeremy Johnson is doing well, too
Nick Marshall stole the quarterback show. But Gus Malzahn said don't forget about backup Jeremy Johnson.
"Jeremy Johnson had an excellent spring," he said. "Throwing the football and just really understanding the offense. Coach (Rhett) Lashlee has given him about 25 percent of our reps with the first group.
"We are very happy with where he is at in his progression. We feel like he can play for most teams in the country."
Johnson said, "They did what we were working on all spring, throwing the ball down the field vertically."
Johnson hit 9-of-21 passes for 130 yards and a touchdown. Jonathan Wallace hit 4-of-8 passes for 63 yards and a TD. Walk-on Tucker Tuberville hit 1-of-2 passes for 5 yards.
Here are your SEC champions
Gus Malzahn presented SEC Championship rings to his team at halftime. His players were on the field with him.
"It was a real neat deal," he said. "You look around and see your players and they all have smiles on their faces. Great memories. It was a real special moment to hand those rings in front of the crowd."
The kick is good
New place-kicker Daniel Carlson was named the special teams MVP thanks to a 50-yard field goal. He also hit a 27-yarder.
"We had a new holder and it is still coming along," Carlson said. "I think it was a good experience. It was good for everybody to get a feel for that."
•Auburn's A-Day was also awards day for the 2013 SEC champs.
Jay Prosch was honored with the Shug Jordan Award as top senior.
Reese Dismukes won the Ken Rice Award as the best blocking lineman. Nick Marshall won the Pat Sullivan Award as the top offensive player. Robenson Therezie won the Zeke Smith Award as the top defensive player. Cassanova McKinzy won the Mike Kolen Award as the leading tackler. Greg Robinson won the Great Southern Wood Lineman of the Year.
•Ronnie Brown and Carnell Williams received big cheers at halftime of A-Day Game after being inducted into the Tiger Trail through downtown Auburn. They were, of course, stars on the unbeaten 2004 team.
•The crowd also gave new basketball coach Bruce Pearl a nice hand between the first and second quarters.
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine