Coach Gene Chizik
“Today was kind of our introductory day: a little bit of Clemson work, a little bit of us work. Overall, I thought it was an okay day. I think they understand now how game week practices are going to work. That’s kind of where we’re at, just getting the process down of how we want to practice. We’ll pick it up and be better tomorrow than we were today.”
Overall, no decisions were made on any of the position battles that have lingered into the fall practice sessions.
Chizik thought two members of the highest-profile battle (Frazier vs. Moseley) did well today. “We’re in a comprehensive evaluation on that. When we feel like we can settle on who the No. 1 guy will be, we’ll pull the trigger on him.
The two days off didn’t sit well with Chizik. He cited sluggishness at the beginning of practice, but noted the tempo picked up towards the end.
Chizik said the overall health of the team is good and will continue to improve. They continue to ween guys back into the mix.
On Corey Lemonier: “We all know he’s a very effective pass rusher. He’s got to continue every week to work on his run game. Sometimes he’s on a tight end, sometimes he’s not on a tight end, which is new for him, but he’s getting better every day. I expect him to continue to improve.”
On Ryan Smith: “Ryan’s edge is that he’s a very smart player. He understands the game. At the safety spot in this defense, it requires some checks and things of that nature, which he is very comfortable with right now. He’s really improved on that, and that’s been his edge and that’s put him in a position where he’s challenging for a starting spot.
With nine returning starters, chemistry shouldn’t be an issue for the Tigers on defense. Chizik said the chemistry will increase as the season progresses, where the ebbs and flows of the year become a factor in how tight the guys bond. “The chemistry is there, but you never know how it will unfold in the ups and downs of a season. With some new faces, there will be some growth together that will need to happen, but I feel sure that that will happen.
Two of Auburn’s signees, Darrion Hutcherson (tight end) and Jaquay Williams (wide receiver) still are awaiting clearance from the NCAA to enroll. Chizik said, “It’s getting real close. We’re coming down to the wire, and some definitive decisions will have to be made shortly.”
Senior linebacker Daren Bates
Bates was glad to start preparing for Clemson. “That’s when you know it’s close to game time—when you start working on your opponent.”
“It doesn’t matter just because it’s Clemson. It could be Florida, LSU, whatever team we play, we’re going to play with an edge and a chip on our shoulder because we want to win.
Last year’s defeat (a 38-24 loss in Death Valley) still resonates with Bates. “We always think last year we should have won, could have won, but they were the better team that day. We’ll prepare the next two weeks to show that we can be the better team.
Last year’s defense gave up more than 400 yards a game. Bates said this year’s version will be playing faster and quicker, especially in new defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder’s aggressive scheme.
Sammy Watkins torched Auburn for 155 yards and 2 TD’s on 10 catches last season, but is suspended for the season opener following a drug-related arrest. Bates said anybody “would love to play against someone with his talent. We’re talking about playing Clemson, not just Sammy Watkins, so we’re going to prepare for their other big players.”
Bates said his new coordinator is a smart guy and knows his football. “He’s the smartest coach I’ve ever been around.”
Senior cornerback T’Sharvan Bell
An outside corner for the past three years, Bell confirmed he had been receiving a lot of reps at the nickelback position. He said Auburn will need to be 2-3 deep at the position because of the physicality required from the spot. Junior Chris Davis, himself and sophomore Jonathan Mincy have been taking the majority of the nickel reps.
Bell on Ryan White: “I told him, ‘I don’t know what happened, but you’re ballin.’ I can see a definite change in him. He gets it more. Maybe it’s because of his age it being his junior year, but I don’t care what it is, I like what I’ve seen from him.
With all of the familiar faces in the secondary, Bell said “you can give a guy a look, and he knows you mean business. There are a lot of guys who have played a lot of football, so we know what has to get done.”
Bell said VanGorder laid down the ground rules and wasn’t going to compromise anything from the first practice on. “It was going to be his way or no way. That kind of lit up everyone’s eyes and let them know he’s for real. That’s what we need. We need someone straightforward, who’s going to tell you the truth. As a young man, a lot of guys may not have father figures in their lives, so we need somebody to tell us this is how it’s going to be.”
Bell isn’t immune to VanGorder’s wrath even though he’s a senior. Bell said VanGorder will get on anyone. “I don’t mind when he gets on me because I know I should be doing the right thing. Those freshmen, those eyes get big and they start jumping around. He has to tell them to calm down. ‘He says I’m not mad at the player, I’m mad at the action.’”
Junior defensive back Ryan White
After being benched last season, players have said White looks like a changed player from last year. “I took corner for granted. I played a few games and fell into a slump and was benched. Since Coach VanGorder got here, I feel like I’ve got a fresh start, and I want to take good advantage of it.”
White wasn’t happy when he was removed from the starting lineup last year. “Immediately, you’re angry,” he said. “You have to look at the mirror, look at the film and see what I was doing. I’m not going to lie; at first, I thought the coaches were against me. But when I looked at the film, it was definitely me. It was an eye-opener for me.” White said he has focused on doing his own job, not trying to the job of 11 people.
White said Coach VanGorder is more intense and more detail-oriented than his predecessor, Ted Roof. “We get “ME’s”, mental errors. It could be a lineman, and if you’re at nine yards and are supposed to be at eight yards, you get a “ME”. And once you get so many “ME’s”, he pretty much doesn’t look at you anymore.”
White said fellow defensive back Chris Davis is the only one that can make it through a practice without a “ME.”