With the first day of fully padded football in the books for Auburn, here are three takeaways from Tuesday's practice.
Gus Malzahn said the team put a lot of emphasis on situational drills from the red zone today. Last season the Tigers finished 89th in the FBS in red-zone efficiency, with more field goals made (11) than passing touchdowns (10).
Potential red-zone struggles could be a problem down the line for a freshman quarterback when facing the strong defenses on Auburn's 2019 schedule, led by teams like Alabama and Mississippi State, which both finished within the top 10 in red-zone defense.
Anthony Schwartz, who previously suffered a hand injury in fall practice, underwent a procedure to heal his hand.
“We’ll see exactly when his return is,” Malzahn said. “I’m not ready to say when it’s going to be. First game, we’ll see. ... We’ll see if it’s possible to get him back for the first game. I’m not going to say yes or no. I won’t know enough information for the next week or so as far as time back.”
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Meanwhile, receivers Eli Stove and Will Hastings are both questionable for the Tigers' first scrimmage Thursday. Stove reportedly suffered a minor knee injury earlier in camp.
“I don’t know if Eli will scrimmage or not," Malzahn said. "We’ll see. Eli’s in a good spot. Will, too, is a guy we just want to be smart with. We have a good idea of what both those guys can do.”
K.J. Britt, the junior set to take over for Deshaun Davis at Mike linebacker, was held out of practice for “nothing major at all.” He should be back by the next scrimmage.
Ja'Varrius Johnson and Matthew Hill are guys that Malzahn talked about as being able to replace Schwartz in the passing game.
Often forgotten in the mix of Gatewood and Nix is Cord Sandberg, who has taken on the role of “team dad” in the quarterbacks room. Though he may never take a big-time snap, his leadership in the locker room looks to be important for the young guns under center.
High praise was given to both Nix and Gatewood regarding their performances in the red-zone drills. During Tuesday's media viewing period, both took first-team snaps.
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