So spring practice got under way for the football team yesterday, ending 121 days of Gene Chizik leadership that never actually involved the coaching of players to play the game of football.
Until last night. Developments worth noting:
--According to Jay G. Tate, Aairon Savage and Phillip Pierre-Louis were both "pretty fully" participating after their knee injuries last season. I don't think it's unexpected for Frenchy, but Savage's injury was much more serious and I think there was some doubt he'd be able to push himself much during the spring. Apparently that won't be a worry.
--Tommy Trott, who tore his ACL much later in the year than Savage (first week of practice) or Frenchy (first play of the season) isn't moving nearly as well ... but if he's taking part at all, that's still a decent prognosis for his availability this fall, I would think. Evan Woodbery wrote the following:
We later talked to Trott and Savage. Trott is sitting out this spring and taking mental reps. Savage probably won't do any contact this spring, but is running and cutting and generally feeling good. He said he plans to play cornerback (he's played both positions in college).So, yay "mental reps"?
--Reading between the lines, other offseason surgery undergoers Lee Ziemba and Zac Etheridge seemed to be where they ought to be health-wise.
--Uh ... is Brent Slusher done as a football player at Auburn? Chizik described his absence from practice as due to being on "medical hardship" though Woodbery reported it as a "medical scholarship." The distinction may be important, because unless I miss my guess, moving onto a medical scholarship (a la Chaz Ramsey, Tyrone Prothro, and a whole heap of other Tide players, as you'll recall) means there's no coming back. You're done. Whereas a medical hardship waiver simply means that Slusher wouldn't have to count last year as either a year of eligibility or his redshirt year. I would think if it was the former the beat guys would have made a bigger deal out of it ... but maybe Chizik wasn't entirely clear?
In any case, it looks like Slusher--a nominal TE who's been moved around and who missed all of 2008 with injuries--has a looooooong road back to contributing.
--Not surprisingly, I sympathize with the beat-writing crew regarding the lack of access to practice, especially when Chizik's rationale for closing practice off is offered thusly:
"I think there's enough pressure on these guys already to deliver. We just feel like this is a deal where we don't want any outside or any extra pressure on these guys. We just want them to go out and practice and not worry about what anybody thinks or writes or hears."Wait, we're expecting these same guys to be mentally tough enough to go into Baton Rouge and come back with a victory, but we don't expect them to be able to deal with a pasty guy with a notebook standing a few feet away from them as they practice? It's Chizik's team and he's within his rights, but come on.
--Gabe McKenzie was a no-show, but Tate's "seen him around" and Chizik seemed to expect him back from his mysterious injury problems sometime soon.
--Even as Chizik admits he's "a little undersized" to play on the interior, former and possibly future TE Vance Smith is currently working with the offensive linemen thanks to Auburn not having any offensive linemen. Gee, it seems like some Auburn blogger made some offhand comment weeks ago about the possibility of Smith switching positions ... but which one? It'll come to me, I'm sure ...
--Enjoyed Tate's general description of practice and the contrast of Tubby's "watch his coaches coach" approach with Chizik's more hands-on strategy. Woodbery provided a similar anecdote. I certainly wouldn't deign to call one style preferable to the other, but I do think it's emblematic of Auburn's new head coach and new staff's energy. we've got a long, long way to go towards figuring out if that energy means anything, but it's there.
--Also enjoyed this tidbit from Tate:
Offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn doesn't negotiate about what happens in practice. He knows exactly what he wants and that's how it's going to be.Hmmm, why would "negotiating" be an issue for an Auburn offensive coordinator, eh?
--Good heavens, Chris Todd on his shoulder problem:
"What they did is basically go in and shave off the end of the clavicle that had become damaged or arthritic. They were just trying to play with it. They cleaned all that up. They drilled a hole in the AC joint and tied it back together and yanked it back down, so it's in place now."He told Bitter that his arm was weaker than it had been since his sophomore year of high school. Best of luck to you Chris, 'cause I get the feeling you're going to need it.
--The non-Todd QBs (i.e. Burns and Caudle) seem really happy with Malzahn--not surprising, given the previous regime's treatment of the two of them--and reaffirmed that Auburn's going to be as up-tempo as Malzahn wants to be. Easy to say now.
--And lastly, Wayne Bolt is back on the Plains, having followed Chizik from Iowa St. to become Director of Football Operations. Though let's not sugarcoat things here: falling from years of service as a D-I defensive coordinator at all kinds of schools to an administrative position--even at Auburn--can't be an easy pill to swallow for him. Still, Chizik must like him to want him around.