Gus Malzahn Press Conference Review: First Fall Scrimmage
Head Coach Gus Malzahn during a recent practice. (Photo: Auburn Athletics/Wade Rackley)
Monday began week two of fall camp for Auburn Football, it was also the day that Auburn held their first scrimmage. Many things stood out to Head Coach Gus Malzahn, including defense.
Following the scrimmage at Jordan-Hare Stadium, Malzahn took time to recap the day, plus answer questions about camp and the scrimmage at the Auburn Athletics Complex.
Malzahn mentioned that the scrimmage began with special teams, working specifically on field goals, and having three live punt plays. Another key goal today was to work on the offensive line by rotating players, building depth.
The scrimmage itself went 100 plays, by design, with 50 plays dedicated to running the football, and 50 dedicated to passing. In those 100 plays, the first three teams were rotated.
A handful of players were held out of the scrimmage, including Kerryon Johnson and Kamryn Pettway.
"We really wanted to see the young guys work with the one's and the two's and see who that number three guy is. Kam Martin, Malik Miller, C.J. Tolbert all got a bulk of the reps with the one's and the two's. Devan Barrett got some work, along with (Jatarvious) Whitlow. It was really good to see what they could do and who could really step up. It's been a really close race."
Malzahn also said that Jarrett Stidham and Sean White rotated with the first and second group offense, with Malik Willis seeing time with the third team, but also getting snaps with the second team.
Will Johnson and Pettway go live?:
With Kerryon Johnson and Kamryn Pettway being out today, questions were raised about their health. Malzahn says there should not be worry, they could go live within the next two scrimmages.
"We haven't decided that yet, there is a possibility that will happen. They are both healthy right now. There are three other guys that are really good running backs in their own right to have an opportunity to run behind the first offensive line, and we will see what they can do."
Offensive line rotation:
Last week, Malzahn said that the starting offensive line would more than likely be named in week two of training camp. With one week down, Malzahn gave an update.
"There was a lot of rotation today. It's good for Coach (Herb) Hand and Coach (Chip) Lindsey to see how those guys reacted. There comes a time where you have to start putting the pieces of the puzzle together and putting the guys in specific positions. We are getting closer to that."
While most spots are wrapped up, like Braden Smith at Right Tackle, some spots are up for grabs. Malzahn discusses Austin Golson's role with the line.
"He's played some guard, and I think that he has played some tackle. Right now he is our starting center, and one of the best centers in college football. He has the flexibility."
Stidham and White:
Judging by Malzahn's words following Monday's scrimmage, the starting quarterback spot is still open.
"At times, they both made plays. There's nothing like a scrimmage, there is going to be all kinds of teaching things: down and distance, moving the football, pace, everything that goes with communication situations. It's going to be really good for both of those guys, including Malik (Willis), and Chip (Lindsey) to just sit down and get to thinking. That's the positive standpoint on when you are able to move the football in a scrimmage. All three of them did some good things, but all three of them have numerous things to work on."
What is the hold up? Going into spring practice, it seemed as if Jarrett Stidham had won the starting job over 2016 season starter Sean White. However, nothing has been released as official by the head coach. The 2013 quarterback race was brought up during Monday's availability, and how Stidham has participated in more practices and scrimmages than Marshall did prior to him being named starter.
"A lot has to do with Sean White. He was not able to go through spring, and you have a new offensive coordinator so it is probably more the other way than it is about having enough information about Jarrett (Stidham). This scrimmage was big, next Saturday's scrimmage will be big. Maybe we will see where we are at."
Along with offensive line, the wide receiver position screams depth for Auburn. Many young players such as Kyle Davis, Darius Slayton, and Eli Stove all could contribute in some capacity this season. But where? How many plays will we see Will Hastings play this year? Any newcomers?
"It is starting to become a little clear, I'd say. I know that Coach (Kodi) Burns is looking for a two-deep at each position. He has been stressing the mental toughness and the physical toughness aspect, and we have had guys to respond. We are getting closer. The scrimmage today was good, they got some opportunities to show what they could do in one-on-one situations with the ball in their hands, going up for a 50-50 ball. You take all those things in when you are evaluating them, but overall, I think that they are getting better."
Kyle Davis missed spring practice due to personal matters, how much has he improved in limited time with a new offense?
"He is starting to get back in shape. He's a very confident player, he is a big, physical guy. I think with him not going through spring, I like where he is at. He is pretty good at the 50/50 balls."
While Nick Coe is not a guy many Auburn fans remember from the 2016 season, he has had high praise from both his teammates and coaches. Malzahn weighs in on Coe's day.
"Nick, he got thrown in the fire today and I was he was really good to see what he could do. Everyone is talking about his physical tools, but he has to go out and do it. Today was a big day for him."