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Spring newsbits, Day 1

It begins ...

It’s sprung, baby.

Auburn’s spring camp opened up yesterday, finally giving us all a chance to talk about something other than basketball. (Not that I minded the hoops chatter personally, of course. Got 45 minutes to hear me explain why a Cornell-Northern Iowa-Butler-St. Mary’s Final Four proves the existence of a just and loving God? No? Whatever. Your loss, man.) There’s still a march across the blistering desert of summer before we finally reach the beautiful shores of the 2010 season, but there’s no doubting that spring makes for a hell of an oasis.

So, a recap of the first day’s developments, as reported by Messrs. Tate, Bitter, Goldberg, and Brietzke:

— Probably the biggest news of the day: Tyrik Rollison hasn’t transferred just yet. Yes, he’s eligible, no, he’s not practicing, no, he’s not on the roster. That wouldn’t seem to add up to “still on the team,” but when the head coach point-blank says “yes, he’s still on the team,” he’s still on the team. As before, making it back from this deep in the doghouse to Auburn’s starting job–even two years down the line–seems like almost impossible odds, but they’re better than they were a few weeks ago. Clearly Chizik and Co. want him around or they would have been happy to cut their losses already; that counts for something. It might even count for a lot someday.

— Cameron Newton was the specimen everyone expected on the first day of practice. I’m not sure if the beat guys expected him to be as forthcoming a quote, though; his bold stance that he transferred rather than got the boot from Florida was some new information. (I think.) Fave quote: “I want to earn all of my whatever.” Me too, Cam.

— Injury report: most significantly, both Mike McNeil and Aairon Savage weren’t even wearing the orange no-contact jerseys. Chizik didn’t have them quite at full speed, but still, if they’re at this stage now, they’ll be full-go by the fall. Stallworth, Bates, and Etheridge were sidelined as expected. The only surprise injury casualty was Mike Berry, who I have no doubt will have his status established as “day-by-day” by this time tomorrow. Bart Eddins and Jorell Bostrom worked in his place; it’s waaaaaaaay too early to be talking about this, but if Berry doesn’t make it back this spring and Eddins can’t get any separation from Bostrom, that’ll be a bad sign for a guy I know is hoping to break through somewhere.

— Position report: as has been rumored for a few weeks, Bates is moving to linebacker at least part-time once he’s healthy. Chizik says it’s part of an effort to get more speed on the field, in which case, McNeil and Savage really must be healthy; I wouldn’t usually consider handing a starting safety spot over to a guy who’s missed back-to-back seasons with ACL and achilles tendon tears as a way to get faster, would you? But there’s a reason Gene Chizik is the Auburn head football coach and I am me.

Chizik also essentially acknowledged that Bates’s move could lead to more 3-4 looks for Auburn, which, um, looks to me like we’re short on both the oversized linemen and the linebackers to make it work, but more variety probably would be welcome. And  bet Dee Ford thinks it’s a freaking great idea.

As expected, Brandon Mosley and Roszell Gayden/Gaydon appear to be battling for the vacant right tackle spot. No surprise there.

Tate reported that Mario Fannin and Quindarius Carr were the only two players working in a punt return drill. No doubt other players are going to get a look as spring goes on, but I’m a little surprised Fannin’s back in the mix here, in any capacity. He doesn’t have enough on his plate?

— Roster report: those numbers worries we had immediately after Signing Day can officially be put to rest. We learned earlier this week that reserve long snapper Bailey Woods was transferring out, and yesterday provided confirmation that both John Douglas (in the wake of his DUI arrest last fall and decreased role as the season progressed) and Darrell Roseman (in the wake of having graduated) have left the team as well, putting Auburn well under the 85-scholarship mark. Jason King, last year’s deep reserve fullback, special teams contributor, and DUI arrestee, is als ogone; walk-ons don’t get second chances, it appears.

But the biggest loss is Morgan Hull, who could have still provided some utility on kickoffs or in the event (God help us) of a Byrum injury. But with Parkey aboard there was no way Chizik and Co. were going to spend a third scholarship on a kicker, and Hull decided to move on. Which is probably what’s best for him; here’s to wishing him and all the new departures the best of luck.

— As was the case last year at this time, all four QBs are earning equal reps, and as was the case last year, Malzahn is going to winnow the field sooner rather than later.

— Anthony Gulley is now Anthony Morgan. Let’s hope he enjoys as much success as Neiko Thopre nee Lipscomb has.

Photo via Bitter.

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