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Scrimmage video, 4/4

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Early scrimmage information, 4/4

Hey everyone. We have no pictures, no video, no stats, no score.

I'll still pass along the information I have about the Tigers' first real spring scrimmage.

  • I think the defense won. I think TB Onterio McCalebb fumbled during the final drive. I think Auburn's "scoring system" rewards five points to the defense for recovering a fumble and that five-point surge was the difference. I don't know that, though.

  • I think Kodi Burns threw one touchdown pass.

  • I think Neil Caudle threw one touchdown pass, possibly a long one, to Terrell Zachery.

  • Gene Chizik told the offense to slow down at one point. Auburn's defense was having a difficult time gathering its pre-snap bearings. The head coach said: "Today, we weren't trying to fool anybody."

  • Eltoro Freeman, the junior-college linebacker, may have played as the top option on the weak side today. Defensive coordinator Ted Roof neither confirmed nor denied that report. Freeman had been working exclusively on the strong side.

  • Quarterbacks went live -- ie were eligible to be tackled -- at times today. That was done to help offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn make more keen personnel assessments.

  • I think former Prattville High tailback Justin Albert had a good day. Several players mentioned him.

  • Chizik confirmed that OL Kyle Coulahan has left the team ... ostensibly to concentrate on academics. I don't expect him to return.


    *"9" (formerly known as X): Tim Hawthorne, Quindarius Carr
    *"2" (formerly known as Z): Terrell Zachery, Philip Pierre-Louis
    *"5"(formerly known as Y, inside slot): Darvin Adams, Derek Winter

I'll update with more information as it becomes available.

I'll have a video, but that won't debut until at least 3 p.m. CDT.

Photo credit: Todd Van Emst/Auburn University

More detailed practice commentary

Hey everyone. Let's get to business.

MORE DB DEPTH ON THE WAY: As many of you have discussed, the (no city) Press-Register reported today that former LSU cornerback Phelon Jones is aiming to make the jump to Auburn. He requested and received his release from Les Miles. The next step, Jones' father said, is to request a scholarship from the Tigers.

If you think a step is missing -- ie asking Auburn if that would be OK -- you and I think alike.

WHERE IS GABE?: A few HOTTIES have emailed asking for the real story about Gabe McKenzie's "medical" issue. He has missed the team's first six spring practices and it seems likely he'll miss the other nine, too.

Short answer: I don't know enough to write about it.

AS FOR REACTION FROM CURRENT PLAYERS ABOUT FOOTBALL: We can do that as well. You're probably more interested in that.
  • Wes Byrum technically is the No. 2 kicker right now ... behind sophomore walk-on Chandler Brooks. Byrum still is trying to shake off the effects of a miserable 2008 season. "I kind of got lost with all my technique. I started changing around, fooling around with stuff that didn't need to be fooled around with. Once I started to change too many different things, I came apart. I've been working on the offseason on getting back to how I know I can do it."

  • Byrum on his spring performance: "I'm not hitting the ball my best, I know I'm not. I'm knocking them through right now, but I'm not satisfied with the makes because they're not how I know I can kick. I know I have a lot more work to do."

  • Assistant coach Tracy Rocker (defensive line) always mixes positive reviews with critical assements: "I think at times you see greatness. You're trying to break the up and down situation on defense. You see a great play, you see a bad play, you see a great play. If we could just be consistent for four to five straight plays, then there are things you feel good about. But I feel good about the process. It's going to take time."

  • Special teams, at least during the past few years, wasn't a primary emphasis during The Tuberville Era. That's clearly changing. Auburn now has a dedicated special teams coach in Jay Boulware and the team is spending more time toward honing their efficiency there.

    Here's what P Ryan Shoemaker had to say about Boulware: "He really is a hands-on coach. He likes to dissect film. He watches our technique. He dissects everything we do. It’s worked out very well for us. I think it really has helped out in some things. We’ve had technique issues and I like the way it’s going."

  • We have a T'Sharvan Bell sighting. The redshirt freshman was one of Auburn's hyped 2008 signees, but missed two-a-days with a broken foot. That led to the inevitable redshirt season.

    Here's what assistant coach Phillip Lolley (cornerbacks) had to say about Bell: "He was a quarterback in high school and he knows what offenses will try. He sees things that a lot of guys don't see because of what he was asked to do in high school; option, attacks, play action. He understands when guys cut their splits down, what routes they might try to be, progressing too and he's just a smart kid. He just picks up things very quickly."

Photo credit: Todd Van Emst/Auburn University

Questions? Comments? Post directly to the blog below or email me at

A nice honor for Drew Smith

Hey everyone.

Drew Smith, a walk-on senior on the Auburn basketball team, today won a Brad Davis SEC Community Service Post-Graduate Scholarship.

He was one of two SEC peeps (the other being South Carolina hoopster Brionna Dickerson) to get the scholarship, which is worth $6,000.

Here is a run-down of Smith's accomplishments:
Smith is a four-year letter winner for the Tiger basketball team and is on target to earn his Bachelor of Science degree in Biomedical Sciences in May.

The Trussville, Ala. native has been an Auburn Academic Top Tiger and a member of the SEC Academic Honor Roll for three years. He is a member of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, the National College Athlete Honor Society, the Chi Alpha Sigma Honor Society and the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society.

Smith has also been the recipient of the Freshman Presidential Scholarship, the Valedictorian Scholarship, the Auburn College of Sciences and Mathematics Academic Scholarship. He received the Tiger basketball team’s Academic Achievement Award in 2008.

In the community, Smith has been active through his work as a four-year member of Auburn’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and participating in various other activities. He has served as a counselor and camp pastor for the First Baptist Church of Trussville’s Youth Retreat, been a mentor for children from Project Up-Lift and Boys and Girls Clubs, organized toy drives for Toys for Tots and took part in activities for youth at local YMCA camps.

Smith has also served on his Fellowship of Christian Athletes’ leadership team, taken part in canned food drives and participated in Coaches 4 Cancer. He founded and led a ministry for local students and the community at Auburn entitled, “The Backyard.”
The award is named for Davis, an SEC official who died of cancer in 2006 at age 49. He was a cool dude who often served as the instant-replay czar at Auburn football games.

Video practice report, 4/2

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Thursday practice report

Hey everyone. I am back from a series of interviews held with Auburn newsmakers. Let's have at it.
  • People were talking about TB Onterio McCalebb again today. CB Walt McFadden said: "He was like lightning today. You should have seen him."

    We can't. Thanks, anyway.

  • Assistant coach Curtis Luper is high on sophomore TB Eric Smith. You may have forgotten him in your daydreams about Mario Fannin, Ben Tate or McCalebb. Luper told reporters to "ask Mike McNeil about (Smith); he hasn't tackled him yet."

  • Assistant coach Phillip Lolley said the staff uses colors to designate depth-chart levels. The first team is "orange," the second team is "blue" and the third team is "white."

  • Chandler Brooks, recently identified as the team's top spring kicker, seemed shocked to be in that position Thursday. He attempted to make the team in 2008, but didn't earn a call-back. Things changed in February. He also wears cheap, yellow cleats because "I don't have much money right now."

  • Punter Clinton Durst, who caused an off-season stir by threatening to leave school if a scholarship wasn't offered, is back on the team without a scholarship. ``I made a few mistakes," he said.

  • Assistant coach Tracy Rocker said the team no longer differentiates between strong- and weak-side ends. They're interchangeable. The top three ends, the orange group, includes Antonio Coleman, Hot Carter and Mike Goggans. The top inside group includes Jake Ricks, Mike Blanc (aka the Happy Haitian) and Zach Clayton.

    Rocker also praised the hustle of redshirt freshman Derrick Lykes, who is trying to crack the inside rotation. I've heard this from a few people, so I think it's worth noting.

  • Luper is coordinating punt returns right now. Not sure why he'd be doing that since Jay Boulware is the special-teams czar. We'll check in that another time. Luper said Thursday that his finalists for the Big Job are: Neiko Thorpe, Ben Tate, Mario Fannin, Onterio McCalebb, Walter McFadden. He named them in that order.

  • Someone actually asked WR Terrell Zachery about his weight today. I guess that's noteworthy. He is 205 pounds.

Photo credit: Todd Van Emst/Auburn University

Questions? Comments? Post directly to the blog below or email me at

(some) Auburn ticket renewals go online

Hey everyone. Sorry I haven't been around today. We held some meetings at Advertiser Headquarters and they demanded my undivided attention.

We may be in talks with a corporate entity interested in sponsoring the HABOTN. That's all I can say about that.

AS FOR TICKETS: Auburn finally has taken steps to streamline its ticket-ordering enterprise for some folks. I have included a screen grab from the new site above.

Forms now are available online for
  • Tigers Unlimited Members who have made their contribution as of March 31st
  • Active, full-time faculty/staff
  • Retired full-time staff
  • Faculty/staff who ordered football season tickets last year.
You can peep the new site here: Tigers Unlimited stuff

This is all part of a "go green" initiative.

SCHEDULE UPDATE: Auburn is practicing now. I'll provide information and video around 8 p.m.

More commentary from Tuesday

Hey everyone. As I noted in earlier comments, I will not be attending Gene Chizik's Clichéfest this afternoon.

In lieu of that, please read some interesting things said by players on Tuesday.

  • WR Quindarius Carr on the spotty depth at his position: "There’s not that many out there. It’s a fast-paced offense so we’re constantly going back and forth. We don’t have that much of a break. We’re just getting into conditioning. There’s only like three or four of us. It’s alright so far."

    **HABOTN NOTE**: Non-injured scholarship receivers is a group that currently includes Carr, Tim Hawthorne, Darvin Adams, Derek Winter and Philip Pierre-Louis.

  • QB Kodi Burns predicting his run responsibilities in Gus Malzahn's offense: "The quarterback definitely in this offense has to be able to run the ball. I will run some in this offense as well. I don't know if it will be as much as last year, but the quarterback in this offense definitely has to run the ball."

  • WR Tim Hawthorne on things that are different with this new group of coaches: "It’s too early right now, but, overall, there’s a lot more structure. The coaches know what they’re going to teach and they know what they want us to learn. They have a set plan. I guess it’s more comfortable that way."

  • LB Josh Bynes on defensive coordinator Ted Roof and his linebacking background: "Look at him. He looks like a linebacker. (Hearty guffaws all around) He's got the big legs, big upper body. From working with him, he's been a very very good coach and he's doing the things possible to get us better on defense as linebackers. He wants us more physical and get us instead of just being there and being a guy getting blocked. It's about us making an impression on the offense that 'Yeah, we're going to come at you hard and come at you fast and come at you physical on every play.'"

  • G Mike "Big Snacks" Berry on the Tigers' new offense: "Compared to the old offense, we're probably going to run the ball. Grimes, the first day we met him, he told us he wants us to be the toughest O-line in the nation. I'm glad we're getting back to running the ball."

Photo credit: Todd Van Emst/Auburn University

Radio Appearance Forthcoming

Hey everyone. I will be appearing on WMSP's afternoon show, dubbed the "MAX Roundtable," this afternoon for two hours beginning at noon CDT.

We'll be discussing Auburn and other stuff.

Listen live in Montgomery on AM 740.

Listen live elsewhere at

Video practice report, 3/31

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Here is a list of my recent videos (in case you somehow missed one):

Tuesday report, 3/31

Hey everyone. Practice still is an hour away, but we've already spoken with players today. It's a scheduling miracle.

Here are the best things I heard:
  • Big Snacks Berry (above, No. 66) is always fun to see. I asked him if Jeff Grimes, the Tigers' new OL coach, verbally decimates players. He paused before answering: "No really. Not the Nall way. I've not seen him do that." That got a big laugh.

  • Berry on Grimes: "He's more supportive."

  • I asked Berry if Gus Malzahn is a nerd. I then rephrased with bookworm. He laughed. He said Malzahn "definitely knows his stuff," but didn't refute my hypothesis.

  • Berry confirmed that he's the only offensive linemen who hasn't gained weight. He's at 305 and he's aiming to weigh ... no more than 310.

  • I had a good talk with Craig Stevens. He said the long arms keep blockers from "getting up in you and holding," which means he can shuck aside their advances more easily.

  • Stevens said he used to crave big hits in high school, but his coach admonished him for frequently missing tackles. Since then, Stevens has played with a more calculated approach. That may explain why nobody few people outside the Complex appreciate his contributions.

  • Josh Bynes said Stevens does things "nobody else sees," but didn't elaborate.

  • I asked Bynes about Onterio McCalebb, who said the other day that "9 out of 10" linebackers can't catch him. Bynes seemed amused by the quote. "He's gotta get by the front seven first."

  • Bynes is jealous of Stevens' arms: "I hope I can get some big guns like that someday, but I've got him in the legs."

  • Bynes said Eltoro Freeman is prone to "act a fool" (ie celebrate like mad) after making a big play. Not that Bynes minds: "I ain't going to knock his hustle down. He's fitting perfectly. He's going to be a very good linebacker."

  • Vance Smith, who recently moved from TE to OL, still seems shocked by the move. He made the decision and seems OK with it. At the same time, I think life in the trenches puts new strains on his body that he's not yet prepared to handle all that well.

  • Smith currently weighs 262 pounds. He's trying to gain five pounds per week until to get himself in a better position to brawl with defensive linemen.

Tuesday schedule update

Hey everyone. The rain we're seeing in central Alabama can't stop a round of Auburn football interviews.

A select group of players, including the surprisingly esteemed Craig Stevens, will be available around 4 p.m. CDT. I'll be providing notes and a video afterward ... hopefully no later than 5:30.

I'm scouting a 6-year-old striker in Montgomery at 6:30, so, you know, I'll be efficient.

Bonus video, 3/30

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Here is a link to the splendor: Bonus video, 3/30

WARNING: Eltoro Freeman alert.

More from Sunday's post-practice scene

Hey everyone. Since there isn't anything of note happening on the Plains today, let's take a deeper look at the topic being discussed on Sunday night.

  • Defensive coordinator Ted Roof again heaped praise on OLB Craig Stevens. I've always found this off. Will Muschamp used to gush over Stevens. The praise was slightly less effusive from Paul Rhoads, but it was clear he liked Stevens. It's confounding to me; I rarely notice Stevens at all.

    Muschamp always told me that Stevens' long arms give him an advantage when shucking blocks. I get that. What I don't get is how I never see Stevens make a big play. Do you?

    "He’s a salty veteran, is what he is," Roof said.

  • Roof said MLB Joshua Bynes needs to be more physical. The junior-to-be isn't known for his hitting at this point and Roof wants that to change. ``That’s where he’s got to improve in his game, and I thought he made a stride today to do that. He got better today. That's the goal."

  • Here's how Roof grades his players: "We've got three grades for every play -- you can get a two, one or a zero. A two means you’ve done your assignment and you used good technique. A one means you got your assignment but you didn’t use good technique. A zero means you didn’t get your assignment done. You add up the number of points you have divided by the number of plays and that’s how you get your grade."

  • So who has the highest grades? "I think Craig Stevens has been a good producer for us," Roof said. ``I think our safeties have done a good job, Mike McNeil. Of course, Zac is not in contact but he’s doing a good job. I’ve been really pleased with Zac Etheridge."

  • G Byron Isom confirmed reports that Onterio McCalebb, perhaps the most reserved interviewee I've ever met, is actually hyper on the field. "Yeah, I see it a lot. I saw it out over there today. I like seeing that out of him. He should be a big emphasis on our offense right now."

  • Add Isom to the list of players who weren't happy with Franklin's insistence that the offensive line lose weight last season. "Ut was a big surprise, but we just went ahead with it. We were undersized a lot last year. Most of the time we were outweighed by 20-30 pounds going against those big d-tackles in the SEC. It came into play a lot."

Video practice report, 3/29

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Auburn practice report, 3/29

Hey everyone. Practice has ended. They went approximately 2 hours.

Since I can't watch practice, I'll just have to rely on what I'm told.

Here's what I heard:
  • TB Mario Fannin was wearing a protective boot on his right ankle. He didn't practice today. Fannin said he "turned it" during practice Saturday and expects to be back later this week.

  • TB Onterio McCalebb has an incredible story. He spent 20 minutes tonight talking about his rise out of poverty. He spent part of his adolescence living in a trailer that didn't have power. He moved around frequently because his mother had nowhere to live and his dad wasn't involved. I'll report on this in much greater detail sometime soon.

  • I asked DE Antonio Coleman about McCalebb's acceleration: "He's fast as (expletive deleted)."

  • TB Ben Tate said the team's fastest player is a toss-up between McCalebb, CB Walt McFadden and CB Neiko Thorpe. Tate confirmed an earlier report (received at Pro Day via Pat Sims) that he ran a 4.4 in the 40-yard dash two weeks ago. Tate said Fannin also ran a 4.4.

  • Add G Byron Isom to the list of linemen who were exasperated with the Franklin-inspired weight-loss program. Every linemen (aside from Big Snacks Berry) has gained weight since last season. Most of them are up at least 10 pounds. Isom is up 15 ... to 300.

  • LB Eltoro Freeman went on a memorable rant about why he signed with Auburn last year. He said one bad season wasn't enough to erode his respect after all the support Auburn had shown him through the years. It reads better in quote form. I'm working on it.

    UPDATE: Here it is ...
    "When I signed with Auburn University in 2007, I didn't sign with coaches. Tuberville wasn't on my scholarship, Coach Willis wasn't on my scholarship. Auburn University was on my scholarship. So when I didn't qualify, Auburn, they didn't drop me, they still kept in contact, they still kept on encouraging me. When Auburn had a down season, I sat back and thought about that, they were with me when I was down, so I decided to stick with them when they were down. Plus, it's a great place. I wouldn't want to be nowhere else."

Photo credit: Todd Van Emst/Auburn University

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