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Notes from the Beat, 8/13

Just in case you forgot, that's the guy it's (sort of) all riding on.

Two practices yesterday, one more set of notes to go over before we hit the weekend. Andy Bitter was away, so today’s info comes straight from the notebooks of Jay Tate, Charles Goldberg, Andrew Gribble, and Evan Woodbery. There’s also a useful free page of notes at AuburnUndercover by Phillip Marshall.

The wrap:

— No doubt Jeff Grimes may disagree, but it might be just about time to go ahead and name John Sullen the frontrunner at right tackle. Sullen was the first name Chizik mentioned when discussing the position after yesterday’s first practice, for one thing. Roszell Gayden, meanwhile, was stuck on a bike on Muscle Beach, for a second thing.

That still leaves Brandon Mosley, of course, but the point really isn’t that Mosley wasn’t mentioned (at least by name, it sounds like) by Chizik or on the sidelines; it’s that every time we’ve talked about the offensive line and the right tackle, Sullen’s name has come up. When Isom’s out, there’s Sullen. The first day of practice, there’s Sullen. When the head coach is asked about the right tackle slot, there’s Sullen. There seem to be very small signs pointing against Gayden and Mosley, certainly nothing that would necessitate ruling them out … but everything’s pointed up for Sullen. I think the accumulation probably means something.

— This may not be entirely fair, but I’m going to compare and contrast a couple of quotes for you anyway. Antonio Goodwin after Thursday’s scrimmage and yesterday’s first practice:

“I had a couple chances to make plays and I made them,” he said. “I’ve got confidence from the coaches now. So it’s going pretty good.”

And LaDarius Owens on his scrimmage performance:

“I did fair. Coaches said I did good, but I know I can play a lot better.”

Of course, by all accounts Goodwin earned the right to be a little happy with himself, and it’s not like he’s said anything all that cocky. But I can’t help but wonder if that tiny bit of self-satisfaction–if shared by the other receivers after the post-scrimmage raves–wound up having something to do with why Taylor was so livid after the evening practice … and I also can’t help but think that that kind of attitude is going to serve Owens very, very well in the coming weeks (and years).

— Lots of new names on the injury report, the most prominent one being The Toro, who was walking in a boot after coming down with some turf toe. But nothing appears to be all that serious, still, and according to the head man himself, with eight days of practice already in the book it makes more sense to keep the guys healthier going forward than pushing them in the present. Particularly where the veterans are concerned, I’d imagine … which is probably why Fannin and Isom were on the bikes.

And as for The Toro, the injury sure as hell isn’t going to help him claim a starting role, and here’s to hoping it really is “nothing catastrophic.” But by now, it’s clear he wasn’t going to start anyway.

—  If the punt returners selected for the scrimmage are an accurate representation of who the coaches are considering, we’re already down to three candidates, per Anthony Morgan: Quindarius Carr, Morgan himself and, in something of a surprise, Jonathan Mincy. Given Morgan’s difficulties in holding onto the ball last year and Mincy’s youth, you’d have to like Carr’s chances. Then again, it wouldn’t be more surprising the see the potentially more explosive Morgan (or Mincy?) get the first call and Carr come to the rescue if last year’s fumble-itis recurs.

After having predicted that Trovon Reed would win the job, I’m just going to go ahead and blithely assume he’d be the front runner if not for his injury. There’s nothing you can do to stop me.

— Tracy Rocker spoke to the beat guys for the first time in a while and dropped some nuggets of pretty serious interest. Zach Clayton is still a “big, big key cog” and a lock to be the first guy off the bench, if not start; both Jeff Whitaker and Kenneth Carter have stood out on the line, as have both Corey Lemonier and Craig Sanders; and it sounds like of our two defensive tackle sophomores, the guy ahead in the pecking order isn’t the guy you’d think:

Defensive line coach Tracy Rocker said sophomore tackle Jamar Travis has been one of the summer’s pleasant surprises.

‘Jamar did some good things in the scrimmage and had a good day today,” Rocker said. “He has very much surprised me.”

The outlook isn’t as rosy for Derrick Lykes, another sophomore tackle.

“Lykes has shown spurts of, Wow!” Rocker said. “Then he disappears and comes back. … Some of the things he’s doing, I could understand if Whitaker or Carter did them. But he’s been here. My patience with him is a little different.”

As discouraging as that might be for Lykes–and it may just be Rocker trying to light a fire under him–it’s encouraging for Travis, whose career I don’t think I’ve hid my pessimism about after Rocker let his redshirt burn on special teams. At this rate I’ll be surprised if either gets work ahead of Whitaker (and maybe even Carter), but it’s a start for Travis.

— Staying with the defensive line, Michael Goggans got a chance to speak for the first time this camp, and dropped this interesting quote:

He said the veteran-heavy defensive line has been overshadowed by the equally veteran-heavy offensive line, but that’s OK. The D-line doesn’t deserve praise — yet. “The defensive line has a lot of returning seniors but we’re the underdog right now because we didn’t show up last year,” he said. “We’ve got a lot to prove and we’re looking forward to that.”

I’ve said a couple of times that Goggans was a disappointment last year–yes, 2.5 tackles-for-loss and one sack for a redshirt junior who started half of the year at defensive end is disappointing–but at least he seems to owning up to it. He mentioned he may take another whirl at lining up at DT on passing downs, which seems like a sound idea even if it didn’t produce much in the way of dividends when Rocker tried it early last season.

— I don’t recommend every piece of fluff that comes down the pipe, but when it comes to Kodi Burns, I can make an exception. Also worth noting from that piece: the “5” receiver position appears to be a big lumping of slots, H-backs, and our one tight end. I’d expect Auburn’s base offense to include two members of this motley crue crew rather than just one; if they’re all battling for one spot, does that mean we’re going to see more of the Swede Killa as a traditional hand-down tight end and less of a Trott-type split? More of a two-back Fannin/McCalebb look? More of a third outside receiver like Goodwin to stretch the field? Or am I just wrong in thinking having all these players slotted under the “5” designation means Malzahn’s not planning on playing more than one at once?

Probably the latter. But we’ll see.

— I’ll need a little more evidence than one backups-heavy scrimmage to be convinced Clint Moseley is making a serious push for the backup job, but it sounds like the coaches are giving him enough space to make that push if he’s capable.

— Man, it does not help keep my runaway expectations for this freshman class in check in check to hear Chizik himself struggle to keep his runaway expectations for this freshman class in check. “I can’t tell if I’m just really ready for them to contribute or they’re really ready”? He’s as giddy as we are.

Photo by Van Emst.

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