Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Camp report, 9/12

It's not much of a shock that a closed-door scrimmage yielded less information than we Auburn fans would like to receive, but ... uh ... yeah, I guess I was hoping for more than what we've got this morning. But there's a reason for that, as Andy Bitter explains:
These closed scrimmages are an absolute nightmare for us reporters. We don't get to see any action, don't get any stats and have to trust second-hand information from players who generally give about 20 different accounts of what happened on the field. For instance, we heard from three different players that Onterio McCalebb scored on a 5-yard run, a 30-yard run or a 40-yard run. Now, there's a pretty big difference in those numbers. So take any information coming out of this with a grain of salt.
If closing practice is important to the Chiznick--and boy howdy it appears to be--then fine, cool, whatever, I can live with that. I don't know how a television really works, but that doesn't keep me from watching that. Still, it makes a post like this one much more an exercise in guesswork than it would be otherwise.

On to what (we think) we know about the scrimmage:

Say wha? In the Great Quarterback Race of '09, Auburn's quarterback reps got distributed in seriously peculiar fashion. Charles Goldberg:
Five quarterbacks took turns with freshmen Tyrik Rollison and Clint Moseley taking more snaps than veterans Kodi Burns, Neil Caudle and Chris Todd. Burns and Todd were in for only two series each.
Giving the freshmen more work than the veterans seems like a great idea for furthering the younguns' development, but if the goal was attempting to evaluate which of the three vets ought to be the team's starting quarterback ... well, "counterproductive" is the word that comes to mind. Malzahn and Chizik have said over and over again that they don't want to drag out the quarterback battle, that they're anxious to start winnowing the field, that decisions will have to be made sooner rather than later. So why give themselves less information with which to make that decision?

So, yeah, I have to wonder if Evan Woodbery is on to something when he asks if Malzahn already has a starter in mind, particularly when the noises coming from the QBs themselves ...
"A week doesn't sound like a lot of time, but as much as we're in here and as much as we're out here practicing and stuff, I think he's got a good grasp of how he'll do things," Todd said.
... sound like they might expect Malzahn to have a decision stashed up his sleeve, too. (Then again, the very next sentence in this Todd quote is "I don't know. He might have a good grasp on it, he might not have a good one at all," so maybe we shouldn't get carried away.) In any case, we have to give some credit to Mad Dr. Gustav here, don't we? When even the players don't have any clue what he's thinking, how lost are the media and fans going to be? Secrecy and inscrutability are the order of the day, and I'd say Malzahn's achieved those goals with flying colors. Now if he'll be just as good at things like point-scoring, we'll be set.

Before we move on, one other note has to be made: with Rollison working with the other newcomers while Burns, Caudle, and Todd worked with the starters, we do have to assume that Rollison is (as expected) running fourth in the pecking order, right?

Yay. Jay Tate:
Someone here mentioned earlier that D'Antoine Hood, recently shifted from cornerback to safety, is out with an ankle injury. That has not been confirmed (or denied), but Gene Chizik said Hood did not participate tonight. Draw your own conclusion.
So who gets moved to safety next? Derek Winter? Gabe McKenzie? Antoine Carter? He's light on his feet.

Speaking of the secondary, I suppose it's nice to hear that Demond Washington picked off a pass. Obviously one play in a fall scrimmage does not a career make, but I'll take any positive news we can get when we're talking about a JUCO corner that's going to be asked (if the injury list and depth chart stands as currently constructed) to step in as the nickelback from day 1. (That Harry Adams grabbed a pick is encouraging as well, I suppose.)

D-lightful. By a couple of accounts, the starting defense didn't allow a point. As I've stated previously, my operating assumption is that the Malzahn Spread Eagle will put up its share of points, but make things more difficult for the defense when it runs into its inevitable hiccups ... meaning I worry a bit more about the D than I do the O, as insane as I know that sounds. So if the former stays out in front of the latter, that's nothing but good news where I'm concerned.

Then again, Ted Roof was upset about something and Antonio Coleman called it a "mediocre performance," so maybe I'm reading a little too much into it.

Done and dusted. I agree with Bitter regarding Ben Tate's lone carry in the scrimmage: the starting tailback job is decided. The immediate follow-up question, is, of course, whether Mario Fannin will really get the touches he deserves playing at H-back. We won't find out until Sept. 5, but if the answer is "No" and Tate doesn't set the world on fire, we'll have to ask a second question wondering whether anointing Tate as the clear No. 1 was the best allocation of our backfield resources. Here's to hoping it never comes to that.

Well, he's consistent. Kodi Burns's self-evaluation of his scrimmage performance sounded pretty well like all the rest of his self-evaluations since Chizik took over:
"My day was pretty solid. I didn't get that many reps. We were rotating five guys. The young guys got a lot more reps than the older guys. At the same time, if I had to evaluate myself? I did a pretty solid job."
Burns hasn't really made any secret of the fact he feels he ought to be the starter, and while it would be more of an issue if our potential quarterback didn't feel that way, Kodi's wealth of public self-confidence does make me wonder if a) he's compensating for a private lack of same b) he's showing off more pride than he's going to be able to swallow if someone else is named the starter.

This is far from a major dilemma--or even a dilemma at all at this point--but it bears keeping an eye on, I think, and at the very least I'd be curious to know what the other QBs thought about it.

Loose lips sink ships. Seriously, read over Gene Chizik's quotes from last night and see if you can learn anything from them. Check this beauty out:
"There were a good handful of explosive plays on offense that were good to see from the offensive perspective and there were a good handful of negative defensive plays that were good to see," said Chizik. "Overall, it is really hard for me to say until I really go see it, as far as who stood out or who did not. But, as far as full-speed tackling, it was about what I expected, there was some good and bad."
That's not playing it close to the vest, that's building a tent out of your vest and living inside it. And as I said before: if that's the way Chizik wants to roll, hey, so be it.


J.M. said...

I gotta tell ya, I'm very impressed with your camp roundup here. Do you always come off vacation and hit the ground running full stride?

Philip Arnold said...

Is there something I need to sign up for so I can receive a "turn in your 'Face Value Voucher' card" so I can find out what the hell is really going on? Anyone? No?

Anonymous said...

Those interceptions sound great until you consider they were thrown by AU QBs.

Jerry Hinnen said...

JM: No. But for someone who enjoys as opining as much as I do, 29 days is a long time to go without it.

PA: I wish.

Anon.: Good point. But I remain irrationally more worried with the paper-thin secondary and the defense than the quarterback situation, where I kind of think there's too many bodies for someone not to step up. At least, that's what I tell myself as I cry myself to sleep.

Sullivan013 said...

My take on Coach Chizik's card playing:

Excellent. The less revealed, the less anyone else sees. I can stand not knowing for three or four more weeks. When the season rolls around, we'll get to see if the boys can get it done.

I think they can. Whoever takes the reins as QB, they'll have a talented line, good backs and some young but potentially good receivers, just like last year. It wasn't the individual pieces that failed, it was the way they were used.

I submit that last year's hijinks were related to the problems within the coaching staff and the gigantic flop known as the "Franklin system" of offense.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to discover that TF was/is/and-will-always-be an ass. He made for entertaining interviews, but the static from the team and fellow coaches was evident that he didn't fit in and never would. The only stain on Tuberville is that he didn't see hsi personality as a bad fit from the start.

As for the defense, it all boils down to the rate and severity of injuries. If lightning strikes eight or nine times like last year, we're in for a long season. If we get to homecoming with just a few players banged up, we've got a chance for a good season. I would use the LSU game as a weathercock (it always seems to be an indicator of how our season will go). If we emerge from that game, win or lose, with a standing defensive backfield, there's hope. If we're riddled with injuries, pray for a miracle to come from the walkons/scout team.

All IMHIO*, of course.


* In my humble Irish opinion