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Notes from the Beat, 8/25

But I wanted my third-and-short conversions NOW.

Don’t know if yesterday’s practice was super-important from the Auburn coaching perspective, but from the Auburn fan gathering information perspective, it was huge–starters essentially named at right tackle and punt returner, scout team assignments, new injuries … and more!

So we’ll get to it. Info comes delivered, as always, by your Auburn beat hacks: Andy Bitter, Jay Tate, Charles Goldberg, Andrew Gribble, and there’s some free Phillip Marshall for you here. Reax:

— Chizik can deny it all he wants (for another, what, two or three days?), but the right tackle position has been decided. It’s A.J. Greene. We knew it had come down to Greene and Sullen; we knew Greene appeared with the first team at the most recent practice and know he did so again yesterday; we know Sullen is now also wearing an orange jersey and battling some kind of minor injury. At this point, it’ll be something of a shock if something changes between now and the opener. It’s Greene.

It’s an incredible career resuscitation by Greene, frankly, who at the start of this camp appeared headed for the “redshirt junior who’s had his four years of scholarship and isn’t renewed for a fifth” fast-track. He’s had position changes, injuries, apathy, you name it, and until this camp had never seemed a threat to even earn second-string duty, much less start. And now he’ll be the No. 1 right tackle for a top-25 Auburn team. It’s a remarkable achievement, and shows once again that when it comes to college football players, you really never know when the light might come on.

As for what it means for the position, I wrote last week that I was … unenthused about Auburn’s prospects, since none of the legitimate candidates seemed capable of stepping up and saying MINE. MY JOB. GO AWAY. Well, over the past two weeks, Greene has apparently done just that. To come from that far back in the pack to the front would show, you’d think, that he’s really, truly gotten after it this fall. Maybe there’s hope for something greater than just “competence” yet.

(And oh, as for my assertions over the past week that Sullen was the clear front-runner … hey, that was what I was hearing. You still have to think the big sophomore is next in line if Greene can’t hack it, what with the two JUCOs practicing on the left.)

— Backup quarterback doesn’t seem quite so cut-and-dry, but the signs sure seem to be pointing Barrett Trotter’s way, don’t they? Between Tate’s observation that he was included in a meeting with Malzahn that Caudle wasn’t and the fact the coaches let him talk to the media, we’re just about at the stage where we can project a winner. Just a few more precincts to go.

— So we’ve got our scout team assignments, and not surprisingly, there’s a handful of surprises … but maybe what’s most interesting is what freshmen didn’t land on the scout team. The roll call of players who we can just about assume aren’t redshirting (excluding a handful of the obvious): Kenneth Carter, Jessel Curry, Chris Davis, Antonio Goodwin (we think), Jake Holland, Shaun Kitchens, Jonathon Mincy, Craig Sanders, Jawara White.

Good news for the lot of them, particularly guys like Davis, Curry, and White who arrived at Auburn with a little less hype than some of their classmates.

— On the flipside, there’s of course a lot of guys who are going to be disappointed to be that far down the pecking order. In list form:

Joel Bonomolo: Chizik has said Bonomolo has been “dinged up,” so once he’s healthy, maybe he can work his way back up the ladder. But as a JUCO with only two years of eligibility playing at a position where Auburn has recruited well the past two classes, scout team–behind two true freshman–is most assuredly not where you want to start your Tiger career.

LaDarius Owens: I’m surprised that the beat guys seem so surprised that Owens is on scout duty; the consensus on Owens at Jess Lanier was that he was a breathtaking physical specimen who might need an adjustment period to playing college linebacker, so much so that I wrote I half-expected a redshirt. This is one guy I’m not worried about.

Ryan White: Could his request to start out at quarterback have backfired? Because Auburn’s coaches were just impressed enough to make the scout team quarterback … further reducing his focus on developing at corner. It’s no doubt what’s best for Auburn and the team, and if he redshirts White will still have plenty of time and opportunity to make an impact, so it’s not a huge deal … but this just doesn’t seem like the quickest way to crack the secondary rotation.

Anthony Morgan: I get the feeling that Auburn’s coaches like Morgan a lot, but they’re just not sure what to do with him. He spent most of last year on offense, switched to defense late on, and after taking handoffs yesterday is now apparently pulling duty–scout team or otherwise–on both sides of the ball. In any case, that Davis and Mincy have already surpassed him on the depth chart doesn’t speak well for his future at corner, unfortunately.

Phillip Pierre-Louis, Travante Stallworth: Tough for the two of them, no doubt, but major knee injuries don’t allow for much slack at a position this crowded.

— Thanks to Tommy Thigpen’s candor on the situation, we’ve got as clear a pecking order as any on the team when it comes to safety: 1a/1b/1c. Etheridge/Savage/McNeil 4. Ikeem Means 5. Drew Cole 6a/6b. Demetruce McNeal/Ryan Smith 8. poor Mike Slade, the only fourth-year player on the scout team.

Those top four aren’t a surprise in the least–particularly the way Thigpen talks about Means–but I guess it’s a minor victory for Cole to have held off the freshmen for the time being.

— Also filed under “not exactly a shock,” given that he finished the season as the No. 1 guy and returned, Quindarius Carr has been named the punt returner-to-beat by Trooper Taylor. Which, hey, as long as he doesn’t drop the thing and can occasionally get us 5-10 yards here and there, sounds good to me.

In even less surprising news, Demond Washington and Onterio McCalebb, Auburn’s best two kick returners last season, are your two “lead” kick returners this season, per Jay Boulware. Trovon Reed, Fannin, Thorpe, and T-Zac are the other four guys in the mix … with Reed and Zachery, you’d have to think, the first two of that quartet.

— Boulware appears to be giving serious consideration to Steven Clark at punter and Cody Parkey as the designated kickoff specialist. As for the latter, we need better and deeper kickoffs, without question … but if Parkey’s not clearly better than Byrum, I’m not sure I’d be willing to burn his redshirt just for that extra yard or two a handful of times a game.

It’s a little different with Clark, who sounds like he’s running neck and neck with Shoemaker; we have to have the best punter we’ve got on the field, no questions asked, right? At the very least, we can say this: if he’s offering this serious a challenge to Shoemaker now, there’s not  lot of doubt that it’s going to be nice having Clark around for these next few seasons.

— The injury report is blecch today. The ankle injury Ladarious Phillips injured suffered at the end of the last scrimmage has him in a boot, and while it could just be protective, Chizik wasn’t ready to sound optimistic about things. Eltoro Freeman was out of his boot but still dealing with what sounds like a fairly severe limp; I’ll be surprised if either guy is ready for Arkansas St., and if they’re back on the field for the Clemson/South Carolina tilts, I think we’ll be doing good.

Still no real change in the status for Deangelo Benton–the cast’s off, but he’s still not practicing–who you’d expect now has an uphill battle just to contribute as much as he did last season. Other dings: Goodwin, the aforementioned Sullen, Tunde Fariyike, and Derrick Lykes. Probably won’t make any substantial difference for the first three, assuming it’s nothing serious, but Lykes has already seemed to be dropping a few pegs in Rocker’s eyes this fall. Being injured won’t help.

— If you missed it, do check out “Son of” Jorrell Bostrom’s incredible hair. Thanks to Tate for the picture.

Photo by Van Emst.

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