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Scrimmage report, 4/10

Hey everyone. HABOTN spies, in concert with our friends from The Gold Mine, have snagged semi-exclusive photos from today's scrimmage.

Please enjoy:
Courtesy of Auburn's official Twitter page*, we know that Cam Newton scored on a short run, Mario Fannin scored on a 65-yard run and Demond Washington intercepted a pass.

*Auburn tweeting information from the scrimmage while concurrently barring media from the event is lame, weak, duplicitous and wrong.

*The scrimmage lasted 80 plays. "We got accomplished what we wanted."

*On Mario Fannin's long TD run: ``It was a really nice run. He caught a crease in the defense, did a really nice job cutting back across the pursuit. There were some really nice runs in there where the tailbacks -- their vision was really good."

*On the QBs: It appeared they were really high-percentage with their completion rate today.

*On the QB rotation: ``We rotated them basically with how the flow of the scrimmage went. If you were working with the orange group, you'd say with the orange group -- whether it was a three-and-out or an 80-yard drive."

*Chizik praised Emory Blake for making people miss today.

*On Cam Newton's short touchdown run being a harbinger of Auburn's future short-yardage plans: "He's a big, physical guy. You have your hands full trying to tackle him. Him running in the open field, that could be challenging for defenses overall."


*Walk-on DB Woody Parramore intercepted a pass.

*Newton rushed for a score and hit Darvin Adams on a screen pass for another.

*Demond Washington intercepted two passes. We believe they were both off Neil Caudle.

*We believe Clint Moseley threw a touchdown pass. That's based on anecdotal evidence.

*Coaches universally praised Emory Blake and DeAngelo Benton.

*Surprise, surprise -- offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn said he hasn't made a decision about which quarterbacks will leave spring in the top spots.

Choose Your Own Adventure -- Friday style

Hey everyone. My beloved 1999 Nissan Maxima failed on me today with what is believed to be a transmission problem. I couldn't accelerate without a shimmy. It was an unpleasant development. My car and I have shared 228,000 miles together.

I sure hope we have more time together. My friends say transmission repairs can get quite expensive, so this could get interesting.

So what is going on today at Auburn?

We have No. 3 LSU playing at Auburn in baseball. I'm sure we'll be updating that as the night progresses.

We have the excitement that's sure to accompany Saturday's closed scrimmage.

Sounds like fun. My next official assignment will be the scrimmage.

Lee Ziemba speaks out

Hey everyone. Offensive tackle Lee Ziemba stopped by for a chat moments ago. The interview took a turn for the terse when I asked about his penchant for penalties. His answers are blunt, revealing and important.

  • On his problem with penalties in 2009: ``I didn't think they were as bad as everybody makes it seem. Watch an NFL game. How many false starts do you see? Yeah, I messed up a few times. There's a lot of factors. It's a tough thing, but we're trying to get it fixed and corrected so it doesn't happen again. It's the game of football. It's a lot tougher than people think it is. It's not easy by any stretch of the imagination."

  • On if the penalty situation is overstated: ``Heck yeah. I hear it going to have supper with my girlfriend. Somebody stops me. It's ridiculous. Whatever. You get in this position, you're going to hear stuff like that. We're trying to get it fixed. I'm always trying to improve. I come here every day and work my tail end off to try and improve myself. That's my job."

  • On if he feels underappreciated: ``I'm not doing it for appreciation. I'm doing it because I love playing football and I love Auburn University. I'm not doing it for anything other than that. I don't feel underappreciated. I feel good. I love being here. I wouldn't change anything about it. Yeah, I need to work on penalties. I have to work on a lot of different aspects of my game that people don't mention. It's not like I'm trying to mess up."

Post-practice chatter, 4/7

Hey everyone. Practice ended a while back. Here are some things we learned.

  • As predicted in the earlier blog entry, Auburn held a short situational scrimmage this morning. All I know is that DeAngelo Benton caught a touchdown pass from an unidentified quarterback. That's what linebacker Craig Stevens said. Benton and his strong-armed accomplice beat Demond Washington for the score.

  • Guess what? Gus Malzahn still hasn't made any firm decisions at quarterback. They're still repping four guys and seem content to keep strolling down that path for a bit longer.

  • There have been some changes at linebacker, though I think they're being done in the name of versatility. Eltoro Freeman currently is Josh Bynes' backup at middle linebacker. Ashton Richardson, a walk-on, is behind Stevens on the strong side. Jess Curry is behind Jonathan Evans on the weak side. Big changes will come down during two-a-days when a few more scholarship guys (most notably Harris Gaston and LaDarius Owens) move into the fray.

  • Phillip Lutzenkirchen said he's been working at a hybrid/H-back position along with Robert Cooper and Eric Smith. The way he said it made me think the "tight end" may be a transient concept in Malzahn's offense. That's not to say there won't be tight ends. I just think that job description has become more broad and Lutzenkirchen is being asked to adjust.

  • T'Sharvan Bell said he loves playing cornerback. He had been at safety until late last season.

Practice report, 4/7

Hey everyone. Here is a quick glance at what's happening on the Plains right now. The tackle football team is practicing. I will be posting a photo gallery in a bit.

  • One of Auburn's top overall prospects, QB Christian LeMay of Butler High in North Carolina, is at practice. He looks good. Some observers believe he's the region's most highly regarded quarterback.

  • Bart Eddins (knee) and Philip Pierre-Louis (knee) were not on the field.

  • Officials are on hand, so it's reasonable to assume there will be a scrimmage of some kind this morning. I won't see it. You won't see it. My guess is that none of us will hear about it.

  • The wideouts went through their usual array of challenging warm-up catches off the JUGS machine without a single drop. Assistant coach Trooper Taylor was fired up about that.

  • Signee Shaun Kitchens attended practice.

  • Former players Antarrious Williams and Tommy Jackson also attended practice. They are widely known by their two-letter nicknames: AT and TJ.

  • ESPN analyst Craig James attended practice. He seemed out of place with his designer jeans. Maybe it's just me.

Click to enlarge
Darvin Adams.

DeAngelo Benton.

Christian LeMay of Butler High in North Carolina.

Clint Moseley getting dragged around by Malzahn's tether.

Antarrious Williams (left) and T.J. Jackson were in the house Wednesday.

ESPN's Craig James, former SMU tailback.

Shaun Kitchens, aspiring wideout, attended practice Wednesday.

I found Eric Smith!

Trooper Taylor running the offsides drill. He's trying to coax them to jump before he snaps the ball.


Auburn fans have a stake in The Masters

Hey everyone. Former Auburn golfer Jason Dufner, a 2000 graduate, will participate in the Masters tournament this week. He is the third Auburn guy to do so.

Who are the others? Glad you asked.

John Huston played Augusta National a bunch of times. Buddy Gardner participated in the 1986 Masters.

Dufner qualified for the tournament by finishing 66th in the Official World Golf Rankings last season. He's currently ranked 73rd. Dufner will tee off at 11:14 a.m. CST on Thursday along with Vijay Singh and Sean O'Hair.

Assessing the first half of spring ball

Hey everyone. So Auburn held its eighth spring practice (out of 15) on Monday morning, which means we're just a teency-weency bit past the half-way point.

Though I have only seen short portions of two practices, I nonetheless feel full qualified to make sweeping generalizations and other observations. If that bothers you, if you believe direct observation is critical to analysis, you're concurrently correct and welcome to end your relationship with this blog post right now.

Still on board? Good.

Several things have caught my eye so far. Some are "good" from an Auburn perspective. Some are "bad" from an Auburn perspective. That seems like an easy way to organize things.


  • Cam Newton: The scouting reports I hear vary from good to glowing, which is a little better than I expected. It's obvious that he can challenge a defense with his feet in a way Kodi Burns could not. Newton is faster, quicker and a better passer. Will be be a better overall quarterback than Chris Todd? I think so. Newton has better arm strength. I'll be watching Newton closely during the A-Day game to get a feel for the repeatability of his throwing motion and his accuracy. If those grade out well, Newton could be a star beginning ... now.

  • Onterio McCalebb's physical development: He has added 10 pounds since season's end. He won't soon be mistaken for Rudi Johnson or anything, but McCalebb (left) could be a franchise-type back if he can get to 195 pounds and retain that acceleration. He's still 15-20 pounds short of that threshold. I have knocked his durability in the past. You are correct. I didn't think he'd dedicate himself this doggedly toward adding bulk. Considering the other tailback options available right now, McCalebb will have a straightforward opportunity to become an All-SEC guy in 2010.

  • Emory Blake has a clue: He was an 18-year-old freshman last season and didn't earn enough playing time to truly shine during the season's second half. He could have. Blake is an intriguing mix of raw talent and intellectual refinement. I believe he'll emerge as that No. 3 wideout (barring injury) and looks like the next Courtney Taylor. Coaches are very high on the progress Blake has demonstrated since, say, October.

  • Ikeem Means' rise: You probably had no idea this kid was on the team until recently, which is entirely reasonable. The Wetumpka native was a true freshman in 2009 and participated almost exclusively on special teams. He's been given a shot at safety this spring and has moved into contention for a rotation spot this fall. Is he a star? Probably not. He's a walk-on with some talent and a hunger that drives him. He has a chance to become the next Adlai Trone, who walked on in 1998 and became a secondary staple in 2000 and 2001. This could be a great story -- and a great development for a team desperately seeking depth at safety.


  • Mike McNeil's leg: The Mobile native was a full-time starter in 2008. Things changed during the Tigers' first spring scrimmage of 2009 when he suffered a compound leg fracture. The injury still is giving him problems. Auburn is seeking qualified guys to start at safety and it's been assumed all along that McNeil would fill that role in 2010. Now I'm not so sure.

  • Has anyone seen Eric Smith?: Auburn isn't exactly bursting at the seams with depth at tailback right now. It's a perfect time for someone to establish themselves as the No. 1 guy going into two-a-days. One name I never hear is Eric Smith (right). I know he probably doesn't have the acceleration you'd expect from a featured back, but Smith has a remarkably diverse base of skills. He should be in the mix -- yet he isn't. All jokes about the SWAG Team and Fists of Fury aside, Smith is an intriguing talent. Can he get back in the coaches' good graces and become the impact player he should be?

  • More injuries for Bart Eddins and Philip Pierre-Louis: Eddins is expected to miss the rest of spring with another knee injury. Though this one isn't considered epically bad, it's still going to slow Eddins' development. He appears on the cusp of a starting job at left guard. I hate it for him. Same for PPL, who was carted off the field last weekend with what appeared to observers to be a serious knee injury. Doctors are expected to diagnose the injury today because swelling in the knee didn't subside quickly. PPL tore a knee ligament on the first play of his career in 2008, which robbed him of a full year of development. Coaches were impressed with his play of late ... and now this. There's a chance the injury won't require surgery, but that seems unlikely at this point.

Photo credit: Todd Van Emst/Auburn University

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

Auburn swimmer nabs prestigious honor

Hey everyone. Auburn swimmer Jordan Anderson was named the male winner of the Southeastern Conference's H. Boyd McWhorter Scholar-Athlete of the Year Award.

This is not surprising. Anderson was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship last fall and will spend the 2010-11 academic year studying at Oxford University. He has a 3.92 grade point average and plans to become a dentist one day.

Anderson gets more than a plaque and his name on the HABOTN. The SEC doles out $15,000 post-graduate scholarships, funded by AT&T and the Sugar Bowl, to each of the two winners.

(Tennessee track and field standout Phoebe Wright also garnered honors.)

Video d'Auburn, 4/5

Please enjoy.

No beat hacks were harmed in the production of this video.

Practice report, 4/5

Hey everyone. Auburn held its eighth spring practice today, which means we're now past the half-way point. How about that?

Here's what we learned today:
  • QB Neil Caudle (right) said Cam Newton and Barrett Trotter took more than their fair share of snaps today. I still stand by my assertion that Clint Moseley will be the No. 2 quarterback.

  • Chizik said no decisions have been made at quarterback. Offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn said last week that he's hoping to create a hierarchy soon.

  • Gene Chizik offered so additional insight into WR Philip Pierre-Louis' injury. We know he was carted off the field during the Saturday scrimmage. We know, based on PPL's tweets, that the knee still is swollen and he'll be getting scans today.

  • Chizik offered plenty of praise for walk-on S Ikeem Means, who played mostly on special teams last season as a true freshman. Assistant coach Tommy Thigpen had good things to say about Means last week as well. Sounds like Auburn has its next Adlai Trone.

  • OL Bart Eddins is expected to miss the rest of spring drills with a knee injury, though he'll likely return in time for two-a-days. This is true despite Chizik's assertion Friday that everything is fine with Eddins.

  • P Ryan Shoemaker has been kicking quite well lately. Assistant coach Jay Boulware (left) postulated that the arrival of signee Steven Clark this summer, a highly regarded prep punter, may be behind Shoemaker's surprising and dramatic improvement.

  • Assistant coach Jeff Grimes didn't offer much into the competition at right tackle, where newcomers Roszell Gayden and Brandon Mosley are competing. The loser of that battle will serve in a reserve role there and behind Lee Ziemba.

  • Grimes said walk-on G Jorell Bostrom, who is popular with some HOTTIES, will miss the rest of spring ball because of an arm/shoulder injury.

  • Grimes (right) said he's been impressed with the play sophomore John Sullen has been exhibiting at left guard.

  • Grimes on the chasm between Lee Ziemba now and where he could be: ``The difference between being a very good offensive lineman and being a great one, a lot of times, is ... the small technical details. He's a lot further along this year than he was at this point year. One thing that'll certainly will help him and all the guys who are coming back is being in the same offense for another year. He'll be in a position where he has more consistency around him."

  • QB Cam Newton (left) was willing to delve into a discussion about his weaknesses today. He said he doesn't properly sell fakes right now. He also claims to struggle with patience in the pocket. He's supposed to be considering all receivers. Instead, he tends to look at one and either pass or run. That's all he needed at Blinn College. Malzahn is re-working that approach.

  • Newton said he challenged the defense at times with his feet during the Saturday scrimmage. Quarterbacks were off-limits to tacklers, which meant even the scrape of a finger on a jersey constituted a take-down. Newton said he's been jawing with some of his defensive teammates about how they wouldn't have gotten him to the ground.

  • Newton said he's been struggling to throw the ball well without gripping the laces. ``That's a big thing Coach Malzahn has installed into all the quarterbacks. As soon as you catch the ball, throw. That was kind of new to me because all my life I've been taught to feel for the laces, that's where you get the spiral from. Of course it's going to be awkward, but I think I'm getting comfortable throwing without the laces. The receivers complain from time to time how the ball comes out. That's not my job. My job is to get the ball to them."

Schedule update

Hey everyone. This serves as a reminder that the Auburn Tigers are holding practice No. 8 (of 15) this morning under sunny skies. I'll be there and will provide a practice report around 12:15 p.m. CST.

I have some other stuff planned as well.

Be there or be oblong.

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