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April 2, 2012

New schemes have Tigers starting over

With new coordinators installing new schemes, it seems that both sides of the ball are starting from scratch this spring.

Even though senior running back Onterio McCalebb is one of the few veterans on this year's squad, it is his first time playing in a pro-style offense now that Scot Loeffler has taken the reins.

McCalebb quickly made a name for himself on the Plains with his lightening quick speed. That weapon was put to good use in 2010 when a flawless execution of the jet sweep allowed McCalebb to head toward the end zone on the perimeter practically unscathed while defenses locked in on then-quarterback Cam Newton.

In Loeffler's offense, which is reportedly completely different than Gus Malzahn's, McCalebb's role will likely change.

Because of that, the speedy McCalebb is taking the same amount of carries as the young running backs.

"Onterio needs to learn the offense as well," said running backs coach Curtis Luper. "He's got to get in and get his comfort level because it's new for him. If everything stayed the same, he probably would have gotten less carries (in Saturday's scrimmage) because I know what he can do in certain instances. We still need to know where he's going to fit in this offense.

"He will have a role, it is yet to be defined."

On defense, the Tigers are getting used to coordinator Brian VanGorder's pro-style scheme. The former Atlanta Falcons defensive coordinator is said to be a stickler when it comes to the seemingly small details.

"He's really strict, pretty simple to understand," said sophomore Robenson Therezie. "We kind of piss him off sometimes when we don't get on our landmarks."

Therezie is working with the first team at cornerback along with Chris Davis.

Therezie contributed as a backup cornerback as a true freshman, but most of his work was done on special teams.

He recorded one tackle for a loss that season in the bowl game, which was when head coach Gene Chizik took over as defensive coordinator after three-year coordinator Ted Roof left for UCF. Roof is now the defensive coordinator at Penn State.

Therezie said he loves the new defense under VanGorder because of its simplicity.

"(I love it) because it puts us in different spots to make plays and have opportunities to make plays," Therezie said. "The new defense is not to hard to learn, but again it's a pro defense which gives us good mental reps for the next level.

"(VanGorder) is a great coach and really smart, and the things he says to do put us in a great position to make plays. That's the great thing about him -- you don't have to go around to make plays. If you stay on your landmark, the plays will come to you."

Therezie is also playing for a new position coach in Willie Martinez.

Martinez came to Auburn as the defensive backs coach after former cornerbacks coach Phillip Lolley was moved to an administrative position and Tommy Thigpen moved from coaching the safeties to the linebackers.

Like VanGorder, Martinez harps on the details.

"He's very demanding," said sophomore Jermaine Whitehead. "He's going to get the best out of you. He expects a lot from us. You know, we're just trying to learn, and get a feel for him, and you know, having one defensive backs coach, you got to pay way closer attention in the meetings. You've got to zoom in and listen to everything. You know, he's a great guy. He puts everything in great detail, and he's going to put you in the best position to make a play."

Whitehead was recruited as a corner, which is where he played last year, but is now working at strong safety behind Demetruce McNeal and nickelback. Whitehead was a safety in high school.

Thereize echoed Whitehead's sentiment about Martinez.

"His style is technique-wise," Therezie said. "Our guys, we kind of lack on technique because we are just trying to play football. But the technique he is showing us is very important and it makes a lot of sense. Sometimes it's kind of uncomfortable to us, but it's really great. He's also a smart coach too, and the things he tells us to do, he knows
everything."

After watching film of Saturday's scrimmage, head coach Gene Chizik said he saw good and bad things on both sides of the ball, indicating that a lot of work needs to be done by the end of spring practice.

"You focus on the little details of every position," Chizik said. "An offense can look really bad when 10 guys are doing well and one guy's not, and the same thing holds true with the defense. You don't necessarily measure it when you're trying to build a foundation for an offense and a defense. You've got to take the big picture in mind; the big picture is, we know all 11 have to be working together. They've got to be clicking together.

"But the reality is an offense or a defense can look really bad if one guy's out of place. We've got to keep everything in context. Every individual's got to execute the details of everything we're asking them to do, and that's how you've really got to measure it. That, and their effort. We don't want to coach effort. Those guys ought to be competing for a job. I just think you've got to take 11 different scenarios on each play on both sides of the ball and really coach it that way to make sure the machine is well-oiled.

"We've got a lot of individuals doing great things on every play, and then a guy here or a guy there. That's consistency. That's what we're working for."


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