Not too terribly much going on yesterday, but hey, it’s my duty to pass on what we’ve got. News comes via the reporting of Andy Bitter, Jay Tate, Bryan Matthews, Evan Woodbery, Andrew Gribble, and Charles Goldberg.
Without further ado:
— Probably the biggest nugget of information we received: Jonathan Evans has officially passed The Toro as the first-string strongside linebacker. It’s not a total shock since Evans had that whale of a game against Alabama and has been running with the 1’s over the past week, and since Freeman has been mostly anonymous this spring … when he hasn’t been publicly asked by Chizik to be more consistent.
But still: entering spring camp, Freeman’s ceiling for this season seemed so much higher than Evans’, given The Toro’s extra year of development and borderline-dominant performance against LSU and strong outings against Ole Miss, Georgia, etc. The guess here is that this move is more of an effort to light a fire under Freeman’s inconsistent ass than something permanent. But then again, it’s anyone’s guess how Freeman (who didn’t exactly respond well to his slow start last fall) will react, and even if he reacts well, Evans showed against the Tide–and has shown again this spring–he’s not going to be just brushed aside no matter what Freeman does. Stay tuned.
— Freeman hasn’t been made available to the press, and when asked why neither he nor Mike McNeil had been, Chizik said 1. that he didn’t know if you “should or shouldn’t” read anything into it 2. that both players “need to step it up.”
Now, it’s possible that this is just Chizik making a generic “there’s always room for improvement” kind of statement. But I doubt it; he’s been happy to tell us not to read anything into decisions he doesn’t want us reading into, like the number of quarterback reps. If he’s admitting that maybe we should read into McNeil’s and Freeman’s absences, I’m guessing that yeah, maybe we should. Both players, I’m guessing, are not where the coaches want them to be at this time. (So remind me again why they moved both Bates and Bell away from safety? Oh well, I guess they can both just move back if need be.)
— Chizik was happy with the practice and the overall “tempo.” It’s the sort of standard-issue coachspeak that’s usually not worth mentioning, but at this stage of practice you really would expect Chizik and the other coaches to start griping about things slowing down and practices losing their edge. Maybe we’ll see that today, but if you ask me it’s a good sign that the Tigers have kept chugging along. Reports of the non-substantiated kind have claimed that Auburn’s practicing with much more chemistry and confidence than they had last spring; maybe Chizik’s satisfaction with “tempo” is a symptom of that.
— It’s buried at the bottom of the Goldberg post and goes unmentioned everywhere else, but I think it’s very much worth mentioning: according to Onterio McCalebb, Auburn hasn’t practiced the Wildcat this spring. Guess we’ll have to wait ’til fall to find out if this is Malzahn just focusing on the regular offense exclusively to try and shake out the quarterback/running back race or if he was so disappointed in last year’s results he’s abandoned it completely, but if it’s the latter … that’s a pretty big damn step to take.
(Not that it wouldn’t make sense. The Wildcat has been done so often there’s no surprise with it anymore, and it might mean a different personnel grouping and the slow of the regular offense’s roll. Wasn’t a big deal last year since there wasn’t as much roll to slow, but this year? It’s something to think about.)
— With Cam Newton Day, Ikeem Means Day, and Assorted Wide Receivers Day already behind us, yesterday was John Sullen Day in terms of positive press attention. We didn’t learn anything new yesterday–not a surprise he’s doing better this spring, is in much better shape, more aggressive, etc.–but it’s still interesting to look at where Sullen is now as a sophomore and remember that Tubby and Co. didn’t offer him … despite the fact he was, you know, an offensive lineman and would have said yes in a heartbeat. With one start as a true freshman, extended time this spring running with the first string, and the head coach publicly vouching for your future, it’s already safe to say that Chizik and Co. won this little head-to-head evaluation game.
(And oh-by-the-way: Andre Harris, the lineman that Tubby’s staff brought in? He redshirted last year and hasn’t been heard from yet this spring. I know we don’t exactly need to pile any more dirt on Tubby’s late-era recruiting efforts, but, you know, just sayin’.)
— Sounds like there’s a Blind Side-quality backstory to Anthony Gulley-Morgan’s name change, doesn’t it? More importantly where the football team is concerned, Gulley-Morgan sounds like he’s taken a shine to his new position at cornerback. Now we’ll see if that translates to playing time; with the name “D’Antoine Hood” having gone unmentioned the entire spring as best I can tell, there might be an opening as the fourth corner.
— The nickelback position, however, has probably been all but wrapped up by T’Sharvan Bell. Interesting quote from Fannin on Bell, via Matthews:
“T-Bell’s the kind of guy that’s going to work hard. Coach Chizik’s been working with him a lot and you can tell he’s really passionate about being a better corner. He’s proven a lot in the scrimmages. He’s not afraid to run up on a pulling guard and get into him. He’s a guy that’s going to shock a lot of eyes.”
Hmmm. Maybe that’s why they moved him from safety?
Photo by Leffie Dailey.