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Spring newsbits, 3/31

Mike Blanc is big. Is there a reason we haven't started calling him "Mont" yet?

The usual collection of tidbits from today’s (and other recent) practice reports, culled–as always–from the fine work done by beat writers Andy Bitter, Jay G. Tate, Charles Goldberg, and Evan Woodbery. Bryan Matthews is also on the scene.

On with it:

–The defensive coaching staff must have a metric freaking ton of faith in Mike McNeil’s and Aairon Savage’s ability to return after their respective one- and two-year injury layoffs, because they’ve decided they’re not going to bother even practicing anyone else at safety.

That’s a slight exaggeration–I’m assuming Mike Slade and Drew Cole are still plugging away–but with the news that T’Sharvan Bell has made a permanent move to corner, Slade and Cole are now the only healthy members of Auburn’s roster at safety who have played between 2008 and now. (Total 2009 starts between the four of them: zero.) All three players who saw time at safety against Northwestern–Bell, Daren Bates, and Demond Washington–have been switched to other positions for the spring.

This is hardly reason for panic, since 1. we have to assume Roof and Chizik know what they’re doing 2. the return of Zac Etheridge–which seems likelier by the day, given his “mental rep” status and the way Roof’s talked about him–would greatly increase the margin for error. Still, though, do I feel great about Auburn’s potential choices at safety all either a) coming off of a major injury or injuries b) having received zero practice reps at safety this year c) being benched last season for true freshmen or first-year JUCOs who’d spent the season at corner? Nope.

— Roof’s not exactly instilling even more confidence by beating around the bush labeled “How’s McNeil doing?”, as both Tate and Woodbery have written he is. If McNeil’s not ready, moving Bates and Bell around makes even less sense.

— One other note here: if the coaches felt like they needed Bell at corner more than they needed him at safety, I doubt that says good things about D’Antoine Hood’s chances of contributing this season. After his productive freshman season and with last year’s ankle sprain behind him I’d have thought Hood could lay claim to at least the nickel position this spring, but I guess it’s not happening … especially with Roof raving about how far Bell’s come since this time last year.

— No movement on the quarterback race just yet. If you wanted to squint really hard, you maaaaaaaaaybe could read Malzahn’s assertion that Caudle knows the offense as well as he does–paired with generic “he’s getting better” coachspeak regarding Newton–as an indication that Caudle would get the nod if Malzahn had to choose today.

But what Malzahn would choose to do today doesn’t really matter much, does it? Until the reps get more focused, anyone’s guess is as good as anyone else’s.

— We finally know what Nosa Eguae’s foot injury was: a severe stress fracture of his third metatarsal. Yeah, that’ll do the trick.

But honestly, if Matthews’ report that Eguae is “competing” with Goggans for the starting job is accurate and not just “Rocker hasn’t bothered to declare Goggans the winner yet,” I can’t say I’m all that disappointed Eguae had to take a redshirt year. I’ll take the full five years out of a player like that, thanks.

— Speaking of redshirts, even Dee Ford was surprised that Dee Ford burned his last season, which should tell you how desperate Rocker was for defensive end help last season. Ford’s packed on more than 20 pounds since that start of ’09 fall camp and want to pack on another 40; as with Onterrio McCalebb, as long as he can manage without losing too much of his speed, more power (and bacon) to him.

— Oh yeah, McCalebb: Luper specifically said his extra pounds wouldn’t affect his speed. Here’s to hoping. A combination of Fannin and a new-and-improved McCalebb in the backfield plus Michael Dyer as a change-of-pace should be even more terrifying than last year’s edition.

— Three notes from that same Bitter link: first, Trooper Taylor’s talking up Ralph Spry. Taylor of course talks up almost everyone (well, everyone except for poor Derek Winter), but it’s worth pointing out that the last out-of-nowhere name to get these kinds of props–Jay Wisner–ended up being a name Auburn fans needed to know. I won’t be surprised at all if Spry gets some looks this fall; hell, he’s already got more career college receptions than any receiver on the roster who’s not Adams or Zachery.

Second, that Chizik specifically called out the run defense (and later told Chris Low the incoming freshmen would need to help it out) tells you it’s got a long, long way to go. Semi-distressing.

Third, Bitter links to this short Memphis Commerical-Appeal story on Shon Coleman’s fight against cancer. Nice to hear that Malzahn and Taylor paid him a visit, but even nicer to hear how positive those around Coleman are.

— Lastly, Andrew Gribble writes a story on the wide receiving firm of Benton and Blake, LLC., getting its feet underneath it. Gribble seems to want to read something into Malzahn mentioning Blake first in a discussion of potential slot receivers, but … I’d hold off for now.

Photo by Van Emst.

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