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Spring newsbits, 4/5

Blake, this spring's tyger tyger burning bright.

So, Auburn held its first official-like scrimmage last Saturday, with officials and different-colored jerseys and everything. As you might imagine, this resulted in a veritable motherlode of actual, genuine information.

Said information arrives via several of its usual conduits: Andy Bitter (posts one two), Charles Goldberg (one two), Evan Woodbery (one), Bryan Matthews (one two), and the OA News’s Gribble stand-in Brandon Morrison (one). All reporting is theirs; the commentary and half-baked analysis is mine. Onward:

— We can keep talking about how anything can happen in the Auburn quarterback race, nothing’s decided, it’s all still up in the air … but that talk is pure, undiluted hot air at this point. From Bryan Matthews:

Junior college transfer Cam Newton ran the offense for 4-5 series, senior Neil Caudle and sophomore Barrett Trotter had three series each, and redshirt freshman Clint Moseley had two series.

You can argue that Malzahn’s seen enough of Caudle that the extra work for Newton is just for Dr. Gustav to get a better feel for the newcomer … but you can’t make that argument for Trotter or Moseley. They’re nos. 3 and 4 in the pecking order, as expected, and I don’t think there’s really any arguing with that.

I also don’t think there’s any arguing with the notion that Malzahn, at the very least, wants Newton to win the job. These scrimmage series are precious; if the coaches genuinely believed Caudle’s ceiling could be as high as Newton’s, if they believed there was a chance that the Auburn offense could be the best it could be with Caudle on the field, maybe they still give Newton more work out of curiosity. But they don’t give Trotter the same amount of work, do they? If they’re perfectly OK with Caudle starting the opener, “he knows the offense as well as I do” or not, Caudle’s not splitting this much time, is he?

Not if you ask me. Newton could still lose the job, and I’ll admit I could be reading too much into this, but you’re not going to convince it’s not his to lose.

— Auburn’s QBs collectively have to be more careful with the ball. Newton fumbled the ball away and both Caudle and Trotter threw picks. Cue up the Iron Bowl tape for them, please.

— If the story of the scrimmage was the quarterbacks (and Malzahn’s promise to cut the race down ASAP), story No. 2 seemed to be the wideouts. Taylor threw some praise everyone’s way–no, seriously, everyone. The headliner was Phillip Pierre-Louis, who decided to relive 2008 all over again in the space of a single practice, first making a series of eye-opening plays and wrapping up by hurting himself and landing on a pair of crutches. Here’s to hoping, really hoping the injury’s not serious; it’s one thing to have one stellar camp for one coaching staff, it’s another to have a second one for this staff. There’s real potential there, I’m convinced, if he can just stay healthy and out of the doghouse.

Elsewhere, Emory Blake caught an approximately 30-yard touchdown pass and had Caudle–who didn’t even throw the pass–calling him a “tremendous talent.” Between Blake and Pierre-Louis, the slot receiver position’s getting a shot in the arm … even with Travante Stallworth on the sidelines.

— Color me delighted that Taylor was delighted with his unit’s blocking. As we learned last year, the blocking of Auburn’s receivers and backs is just about as important to the Tiger running game as the blocking from the offensive line.

— Speaking of which, Bart Eddins missed the scrimmage with a knee injury. Chizik apparently said he’ll be fine, so no alarm bells, but that no less than four guys–John Sullen, Andrew Parmer, Jared Cooper, and Blake Burgess–got snaps in at Eddins’s left guard slot indicates that there’s not a truckload of confidence in any of them. Sullen got the run with the ones, so that’s enough evidence that he’s got the inside track (along with Eddins) for a spot on the two-deep at guard … as well as evidence that Cooper (the only other scholarship player of the four) hasn’t made any progress since getting bumped by Sullen for the Ball St. start last fall.

— Glad to hear Chizik’s narrative of his team’s run defense: mostly solid, but with a couple of long runs that were more tailback excellence than defensive troubles. So, the defense is improving (since Chizik called them out a few practices back) and Fannin and McCalebb are looking good? Great stuff all around.

— It’s nice for the offensive guys to say things are moving oodles and oodles faster than at this time last year. They’re supposed to fell good about what they’re doing. It’s a lot nicer for Josh Bynes to verify that it’s “off the charts” and for even Malzahn to sound vaguely pleased with the tempo. We won’t see exactly how fast until the spring game (or even the fall), but I’m guessing we’ll see a genuine step forward towards Ludicrous Speed. (One other thing: getting the full tempo up and running can’t be a bad thing with 50-60 recruits are in the stands. Not all of them have great grades, sure, but I bet they can all do the math on what 15-20 extra plays a game can do for their stats.)

— Mike Slade missed the scrimmage with a knee injury. The coaches responded by moving Drew Cole to tight end. (KIDDING. Geez. They moved him to H-back.)(Seriously, though: that would make Cole the only scholarship safety at the scrimmage who didn’t miss last season with an injury. All’s well that ends well, all’s well that ends well … )

Don’t know where to put this, so I’ll put it here: Hope everyone had a happy and blessed Easter.

Photo by Van Emst.

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