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April 18, 2011

Spring football wraps up, players on their own

For the next four months, it will be up to individual players of the Auburn football team to stay in shape and continue working on what they learned this spring.

Monday's practice was the finale of three works worth of spring ball on the Plains. Head coach Gene Chizik believes the team made significant progress during that time.

"I thought we gathered a lot of information on different players that we're going to need as we move forward trying to finalize what our roster is going to look like next year," Chizik said. "We've got a whole summer in front of us, which our expectation is that our whole team is working extremely hard to build on what we've started to accomplish these 15 days. So a lot is going to depend on what they do voluntarily.

"But overall, very pleased. Got a lot of room to grow still, plus we've got a lot of young guys coming in, as you know, that we've got to count on to play for Auburn next year. It's going to be a very interesting summer, but we're looking forward to getting back in here in the summer and getting these guys caught up academically with anything they need to get caught up on and again just working toward next year."

After watching film of Saturday's A-Day game, Chizik recognized specific areas that need improvement.

"There were a couple of balls, a couple passes that I thought could have been hit in there, a couple balls that could have been caught that weren't," Chizik said. "Overall, it was about what we'd seen in every scrimmage. Again, it was very generic. Base offense against base defense. But within those you'd like to see great technique being played and guys carrying out what we asked them to do. Which I think for the most part they did. Everybody got out healthy, which was big and I think we're ready to go to the next step."

One of the biggest areas of concern is that of quarterback. For the third consecutive year that Chizik and his staff have been at Auburn, there is not a clear No. 1 quarterback going into the summer.

"Unless something drastic happens, I don't anticipate us being able to make a decision before sometime in two-a-days," Chizik said. "You never say never, but again, I'd have to see a clear cut definitive change and that would be hard for us to do because we're not going to be out there."

All players have guidelines of what they need to work on this summer, but Chizik said the quarterbacks' job is especially important in the upcoming months when coaches have a hands-off role.

"They have to be the leader of the team," Chizik said of the quarterbacks. "How they work on their own and how they voluntarily grab guys up and say let's go throw or let's go do this or let's go do that. They've got a lot on their shoulders, so they're going to have to do that.

"But I think again, just repetitions. But we pointed out some things that we felt strongly they needed to work on even as detailed as just the leadership. What are they going to do to get the rest of the team to rally behind them. Little things like that."

Each player will soon meet with coaches for what Chizik calls "exit interviews."

"We're very candid about where everybody stands in relationship to other players competing for jobs," Chizik said. "What they need to continue to work on individually and also tell them what they're good at. Guys become good at football in parts. They don't just become good at everything all at once. You've got to give them a good idea where they're at. I'm good on releases in my pass routes but I'm not good at the top of the route coming out of the break. So this is what you really need to focus on as you work on your own. So little things like that, you can go into detail at every position. So that's what we try to do."

While the players are honing their skills this summer, the coaching staff will be just as busy. For Chizik and Co., the focus is on recruiting.

"The coaches are going to be going out on an evaluation period here soon, so they're going to be seeing a lot of different guys," Chizik said. "We've got make sure we're recruiting guys who will be the right fit here at Auburn, so recruiting is a huge, huge part of the next month."

Doing their homework on the opponents on the 2011 schedule is also a big part of the staff's summer plans.

"Collecting and gathering all the information on the opposing teams and literally starting to break down what they're doing and formulating some basic game plans," Chizik said. "Going back and re-evaluating and rating our own players as well. Now that we've collected 15 days of tape on all our guys, going back and re-evaluating whether there should be any position changes or anything personnel wise within ourselves that we need to do. So there's a lot of work to do."



Quick-hitters




*** Offensive lineman Aubrey Phillips met with the media for the first time this spring Monday afternoon. Phillips was part of the Auburn team in 2009, but left school sometime during fall camp after falling ill with an undisclosed medical issue. He returned home to Memphis during that time to handle his medical problem as well as some family issues. Phillips said he contemplated whether he wanted to play football anymore.

After seeing the success of the 2010 team, Phillips decided to return to Auburn.

"I feel like a totally different guy that I was when I first got here," Phillips said. "I feel like I know what I need to do to be successful. I know what the definition of hard work is now. Being off and not doing anything? I was looking on the TV seeing all my guys I was roommates with, playing with on and off the field. I missed that. I had to get back out there."

He has since been playing backup right tackle behind Brandon Mosley. Phillips said he now weighs about 340 pounds, which is a drop from his highest weight at 365 pounds. He wants to lose about 10 pounds more this summer.

*** Defensive line coach Mike Pelton just wrapped up his first spring as an Auburn coach. The former Tiger defensive lineman lights up when talking about how thrilled he is to coach at his alma mater.

"Man, I was standing out there by myself, I was standing there in the corner, just taking it all in by myself, and the fight song started playing and I got chill bumps," Pelton said of A-Day. "It's been a while since I've been on that field and heard the fight song. Actually, since I've played. I stood back and just took it all in. But at the same time I know there's a job that needs to be done. You can't explain the excitement I have just coaching every day. You never take it for granted."

*** Pelton, the new guy on staff, is appreciative of the other coaches for taking him under their wings this spring.

"I really enjoy the group," Pelton said. "I can understand why they won the national championship. It's a really, really good staff and they're good people as much as they're good coaches."

*** Quarterback Clint Moseley is taking his new role as a leader this summer seriously.

"I have to carry a whole new outlook, a whole new demeanor to summer," Moseley said. "I used to go into the summer thinking I've got to work out, this little hour thing, no big deal. Well now, it's a big deal to me personally. Either I take advantage of the opportunity of getting better as a leader and trying to actually get my teammates better, or it can hurt me.

"It's a lot different than any summer I've been through. It's going to make me develop my leadership skills everyday. Me and Barrett (Trotter) both are going to have to get the guys going, make sure we don't develop bad habits like Coach Chizik said. I think it's going to be real positive for me this summer."

*** Moseley is looking forward to his exit interview with offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn.

"I want to know where I'm at," Moseley said. "I want to know what I did wrong in-depth. Instead of just on the fly, going through spring ball, trying to get all these young guys ready, I want to know where I'm at from Coach Malzahn's standpoint one-on-one. So that's huge. I'm a little unsure of what he's going to say. So it'll be good, let me know exactly where I stand. That's huge."

Moseley knows Malzahn won't hold back in his critique.

"It's something you've got to approach mentally strong," Moseley said. "That's one of the things they prepare us for when they say they're getting us mentally ready is just everything. They attack you, they tell you everything, they're very honest, and then they come back with positive reinforcement. They're not completely mean about it. They're just brutally honest."

*** Pelton saw a lot of improvement from specific players as well as the young line as a whole this spring.

"I saw an understanding of the game," Pelton said. "Some of those older guys trying to take their game to another level. And I saw some improvement inside also. Really saw some improvement in Dee Ford. Dee Ford probably was the guy this spring that went from 1 to 15. He probably made the most improvement, but also some improvement from Corey (Lemonier) and Nosa (Eguae). Those are the guys that are going to have to play really great for us this fall.

"And inside, Kenny (Carter) and Jeff (Whitaker), those guys, those are probably the top five defensive linemen. Now in saying that, some of those young guys got to come in and (Derrick) Lykes and (Jamar) Travis and Craig Sanders, those guys are going to have to play for us too."


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