March 27, 2010

AU practices in stadium, dons full pads

The Tigers wore pads for the first time this spring as they scrimmaged inside Jordan-Hare Stadium on Saturday.

Rather than play traditional 11 v. 11, head coach Gene Chizik said they went "live inside."

"The quarterbacks weren't live," Chizik said. "But everyone else was."

The scrimmage was split into two 1st and 10 periods that were run/play action.

"I thought we had some good physicality," Chizik said, adding that there were some good hits on the runs and passes.

After just the third day of practice, Chizik said he is pleased with how well quarterback Cameron Newton is handling the workload. But like the rest of the team, Newton has a long way to go.

Offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn said all four quarterbacks received equal reps during the scrimmage.

There is no timetable in place, but he would like to narrow the group down to three quarterbacks soon.

With it being the first time for the five newcomers playing inside Jordan-Hare, nerves were inevitable.

But Chizik said he was pleased with how they all got down to business once practice was underway.

"I'm really proud of those guys," Chizik said. "I really think they did well."

Chizik was especially impressed with the young new players. Linebacker Jessel Curry and defensive end Craig Sanders were high school students just four months ago.

"They both looked like they really settled down and played," he said. "It was business as usual after they realized that the game's just a little faster."

Playing in the 87,451 capacity stadium added to the excitement of the day.

"I think playing in the stadium really raised the level," Newton said. "And probably put the effect in everybody's head that you've got to be perfect today. That's what we aimed for."

JuCo transfers learning the ropes

Roszell Gayden and Brandon Mosley are in the process of learning a new offensive system at a position neither has experience playing.

"Each had their moments where they look good," center Ryan Pugh said. "But I'm sure their heads were spinning. It's a brand new playbook for them."

Offensive line coach Jeff Grimes has been impressed with what he's seen from both of them so far. But in terms of learning the system, Grimes recognizes that they still have a long way to go.

"Both are really eager to learn," Grimes said. "Both are guys I think want to succeed and do well."

But because Gayden and Mosley have to put so much thought into what moves to make, Grimes believes their true ability won't take over until toward the end of spring.

The new duo, as well as the younger players, has been getting guidance and encouragement from the four senior offensive linemen.

"If those guys will lead us in terms of what I consider the most important things, their toughness, aggression and work ethic," Grimes said," Then those young guys will jump right in because they'll know how to do it."

Since their arrival in January, Gayden and Mosley have been working on getting to the ideal lineman weight.

Mosley, a former tight end, has bulked up from 275 pounds to 295 and is striving for 310 pounds.

"But it is good weight," Grimes said. "He hasn't gotten fat at all."

Gayden, according to Grimes, has dropped some weight. Gayden was listed at 6-foot-6, 321 pounds on the recently updated roster.

Familiar faces

For the first time in their careers, this year's seniors have the same offensive coordinator two seasons in a row.

Players know what to expect from coaches, and coaches know what to expect from players.

"It's nice to have a year finally when you're not learning something new," Pugh said. "You get to perfect what you do instead of trying to install it, and just get through practice without any injuries. You get to play. You get to polish what you know, and that's really the big thing."


****Dontae Aycock feels comfortable in his second year after spending last season learning from Ben Tate. He's ready to prove the doubters wrong, that he can be a running back even though he was a quarterback in high school.

****Neiko Thorpe said there everyone is receiving equal reps, that no one has been split into first or second teams yet.

****Chizik believe Mario Fannin has the right speed and body type to be a good running back in the Southeastern Conference.

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