Thursday, August 13, 2009

Camp report, 8/12

You could make a "what a surprise, Trooper Taylor's mouth is open" kind of joke here if you didn't know that whatever was coming out of his mouth was freaking hysterical, unless it was freaking insightful. His mouth should be open as often as possible. (Oh, photo by fellow DHS alum Cliff Williams at the OA-News.)

Have reports of wideoutpocalypse been premature? So Tuesday I was bemoaning the fact that our apparent top four wide receivers (Terrell Zachery, Darvin Adams, Emory Blake, Deangelo Benton) would have combined for a grand total of five catches last year. So maybe Trooper Taylor's a JCCW reader, because he spent yesterday praising his gaggle of freshman receivers to highest heaven. Examples: one two three four. It's worth noting that Taylor's not just talking about Benton and Blake, either: Travante Stallworth ("he can do so many things") and Anthony Gulley ("going to be a big-time player in this offense")(!) both came in for their fair share of praise as well.

Your nutshell quote from Taylor comes courtesy Andy Bitter:
"They got a short window to demonstrate what they can do and they took it to heart," he said. "I get in the room sometimes and say, ‘Guys, you older guys need to watch. Look what this young guy just did – exactly what I told him to do.’ That means I can trust him. It means I can put him out there. So I was really impressed with them yesterday. ... It will be hard to redshirt those freshmen. It really will. We may even look at redshirting some of the older guys that haven’t redshirted yet and giving them another year. It’s been a surprise of surprises that they’re as far as they are, especially with our terminology and all that."

As for who that redshirt quote might apply to, take it away, Luke Brietzke:
Derek Winter and Darvin Adams are the only two receivers who haven't taken a redshirt and Taylor has praised Adams all fall and spring. Wonder who Taylor could be talking about...
Yeah, me too. And hey, what about Quindarius Carr?
“The thing that keeps Q on the field is that he can play every position,” Taylor said.
It's not possible to damn any harder with fainter praise than that, is it?

Which is why I'm not sure if Taylor is honestly that excited about Gulley and Stallworth and Montana walk-on Jay Wisner (who you'll recall got his media tongue-bath earlier in the week). I'm sure Stallworth and Gulley have a ton of potential and that Wisner is busting his ass out there ... but Taylor's not an idiot. In Carr's case in particular, and maybe Winter's, is their experience something he can afford to just flat ignore? The guess here is that he wants more out of Carr and Winter, knows he can get it, and is actively attempting to piss them off enough that they prove him wrong. When Taylor says no-star freshman Gulley is "a big-time player" and that Carr's best attribute is that, well, he knows the playbook, he's more than aware of how Carr should take that.

So I'm glad Stallworth and Gulley are doing well, glad Taylor's happy with them, glad that maybe there's a little more depth here than we might have thought otherwise. But the story here is every bit as much about how unhappy Taylor is with some of his veterans as how happy he is with his newcomers.

More. Two other bits of good news for the wideouts: Taylor made it sound like both Montez Billings and Frenchy Pierre-Louis were on track to rejoin the team by the time the opener rolls around. Billings's addition, as we've been saying ever since he was sieelined in the spring, would be huge. Assuming he does make it back, we can find another unit to lift to the title of "most worrisome." (Which might be the secondary already, actually.)

Oh, and Trott and Lutzenkirchen are getting split out occasionally. Taylor says--with his usual style--that they're pretty happy about it.

Status quo. Jay G. Tate on the quarterback race:
--Caudle said he thinks he's done enough to start.

-- Kodi Burns seemed even-keeled as usual; said he thinks he's done enough to start.

-- Chris Todd seemed more jovial than usual; said he thinks he's done enough to start.
That's pretty much all the news we got on that front yesterday. Well, other than that Caudle apparently didn't have much success in the Tuesday scrimmage. But of course since we have no way of knowing how much that mattered, it's not like that even qualifies as being particularly important. Chizik and Malzahn were still their usual "any day now!" selves in front of the press. There's just nothing to see here just yet, other than that another day of work exclusively with the second team would seem to indicate that Rollison really is pretty much out of the running to start the opener. Oh, and one other thing ...

WildKodi? According to Brietzke, Blake told reporters that Burns took a lot of Wildcat snaps in yesterday's practice. I figure there's two ways to look at this:

1. Burns is not in line to earn the starting QB job and Malzahn sees the Wildcat as good way to get him on the field

2. Burns is in line to earn the starting QB job and Malzahn sees his being able to run the Wildcat as an opportunity to switch into that formation mid-series wihout losing any of his offense's precious tempo

Now, which of those two seems more likely to you? It's No. 1, isn't it? It's still way, way too early to rule Burns out, of course, but as has been the case for several months, what little indicators we have aren't trending in his direction.

Safety chatter. First, the bad news: D'Antoine Hood's injury is apparently a high-ankle sprain. I know Tommie Thigpen sounded optimistic about a quick return, but if that's an accurate diagnosis, Hod could struggle for a while. High-ankle sprains are the sort of injury that always seem to have the word "nagging" attached to them.

The good news: Thigpen said Daren Bates blew up in the scrimmage and could earn playing time if he maintains that level of intensity. For a guy Auburn grabbed away at the last minute from a Sun Belt team last spring, that's beyond encouraging. It's not going to be a good sign if he plays in 2009--actually, it'll kind of be a terrible sign--but that'll be quite the recruiting coup if Bates is in the mix in any way this season or becomes starter-quality down the road.

Unfortunately, there's more bad news: Thigpen said Mike McNeil was "starting to run now." Does a guy who's "starting to run" just three weeks before the season opener sound like he's going to be ready by then? Not to me. Mike Slade is your most likely starting free safety until further notice.

Defensive tackles. Yep, depth is officially a concern here too, with Mike Blanc watching Nick Fairley run with the ones while he nurses his injury and Michael Goggans--who never struck me as a likely candidate to move inside--now getting occasional work with the DT's. Still, assuming Blanc gets healthy, some combination of him, Zach Clayton (who's qualified for the NCAA discus championships the last two years ... did we know that?) and Fairley will give us a second string, which is more than we can say for the offensive line, the linebackers, the secondary, etc.

Saturn V. Everything you could possibly be interested in hearing Clinton Durst say is covered by Bitter here. To sum: Auburn's using the three-man personal punt protection scheme I'm not sure I like, he's experimenting with a one-step approach he tentatively likes, Boulware and Chizik are much more aggressive in their coaching than the previous regime, no he's not on scholarship yet but no he's not saying anything about it on the record even if you pay him. He also mentioned a "tweak" to his knee, which, Bleah, but otherwise, onwards and upwards here.

Backfield. More of the same here, pretty much: we're all hoping Mario Fannin gets used the way he should be, Onterio McCalebb is really fast (and can drop some serious quotes), and poor forgotten Eric Smith is "reliable" and potentially a Chizik favorite. We're probably just going to see these themes repeated until Sept. 5, when we really find out how the touches are going to be spread around.

One more thing. It's TYrick Rollison, not TyREEK. First-syllable emphasis, short "i" sound. Chances Verne Lundquist gets this right: zero.


jrsuicide said...

“The thing that keeps Q on the field is that he can play every position,”

haha. that's almost as good a non-complement as telling a band, "Man, you guys were really loud."

Marcus said...

Man, are we short at every position except QB? Maybe it's time to try some of them on defense. I'm thinking Todd at safety :)