Not too many more of these posts to go–the media get shut out of practice entirely starting this weekend, so we’ll have little but the table scraps of coaching quotes to know what’s going on.
But that’s OK, because the heavy lifting of camp is finished. We’ve got a backup quarterback. We’ve got a right tackle. We’ve got a nickelback. We know which freshmen are in the mix for playing time and which aren’t. There’s still a few scraps of hay here and there, but for the most part, the preseason hay is in the barn.
— Congratulations to Barrett Trotter on winning the backup quarterback job. For him to have won as much confidence from Malzahn as appears to have won and to beat out, in Caudle, a player both with a big head start in learning the offense and overall experience speaks to how solid he’s been since returning from his ACL tear. If anything happens to Newton, Auburn’s offense really is going to be just fine … or otherwise, I get the sense that Dr. Gustav would be calling him something other than a “very solid quarterback.”
— Of course, for every position battle winner, there’s a loser. And the loser here is Neil Caudle, once again, who will spend his fifth and final season at Auburn as the kick holder and third-string, emergency QB. You have to feel for a guy who’s basically said and done the right things every step of the way–up to an including his “I’m excited to do whatever I can do” statement yesterday–but was simply never good enough to make an impact at this level. (Remember that for the most part, cruel as this may be to point out, it’s not like Caudle has had world-beaters in front of him; not beating out a monster like Newton is one thing, but Caudle was also consistently stuck behind Todd, Burns, and Trotter, despite having arrived on campus before any of them.)
So it’s not going to happen for him, barring a stunning run of injuries at the quarterback position. But it’s nice to know he’s there if that run did happen, and even nicer just to have him around to help mentor Trotter, hold kicks (not an insignificant job by any means), and doing whatever else he can to help Auburn to the what’s hopefully the best season of his tenure.
— A.J. Greene’s officially-official promotion to the right tackle job got the headlines, but as we all more-or-less knew that was ocming, the more interesting developments on the line came futher down the depth chart, as we learned:
1. It’s official that Berry will be the first option at center should something happen to Pugh
2. Bart Eddins is Berry’s backup at left guard, but …
3. John Sullen appears to be the first guy off the bench at both right guard and right tackle. Probably.
4. Brandon Mosley is officially Ziemba’s backup at left tackle. Even after the disappointment of missing out on the right tackle job, this is a pretty big assignment for a guy who’s never played offensive line before at the collegiate level.
5. Chad Slade is currently a right tackle, rather than guard, the position he was expected to play over the offseason. He’s essentially third-string, as Sullen is the backup at RT.
6. If it comes to needing a guard who is neither Eddins nor Sullen–and since we’re talking about three separate injuries here, let’s sincerely hope it doesn’t come to that–Jared Cooper and Jorrell Bostrom are the next in line.
7. Roszell Gayden’s injury–combined with the “we’ll try again next year” vibe from the coaches’ comments about it–means I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t redshirt.
— Injury report: Antonio Goodwin practicing again (yay); Trovon Reed sitting things out (boo); Sullen and The Toro better and practicing but not 100 percent (yay? boo?); Deangelo Benton participating fully (yay); Ladarious Phillips still in his boot and not moving particularly well (boo); Gayden and Eric Mack both sat out (boo, but it doesn’t much matter at this point, really).
— As for Taylor’s comments about Reed and Benton, well, first of all, I hope Auburn offers a Taylor a raise regardless of results this season just so we can continue getting these “Seabiscuit”-quality quotes. But more seriously, I don’t think Taylor’s necessarily being hypocritical (as Bitter suggests) by cutting Reed some slack on his injury woes while coming down harshly on the wounded earlier in the camp. The timing is what’s important; to use Taylor’s favorite aphorism, you can’t make the club in the tub, but once you’re in the club, then you can spend some time in the tub. The benefit of the doubt has to be earned, and it can’t be earned on the sidelines. Makes sense to me.
But Taylor’s harsh appraisals of Benton, I can’t say those do. Last year Taylor tells us Benton is going to break record at Auburn, that he’s immensely proud of his work ethic on and off the field, that he loves him. One broken hand later, and he’s telling the media he’s not interested in even including him in the travel squad unless he’s got a role on special teams. It’s a stunning 180, and frankly makes me suspect that Taylor is, this time, less impressed with Benton’s determination in returning from his injury. Fair or not, I have no idea, but it’s a jarring (and depressing, for those of us rooting for Benton) turn of events.
— T’Sharvan Bell has won the nickelback spot. Not a surprise given the way he finished last season and that his only legitimate competition were a pair of freshmen (one of which is a converted QB). But it’s encouraging that apparently it wasn’t all that close a call for Roof and Lolley. Here’s to hoping the Outback Bowl performance wasn’t a fluke.
— Speaking of Roof, he keep talking up The Toro. It can only mean good things, right? Now if he’ll just get healthy again.
— Dude, Malzahn thinks Ziemba “is a different player than he was last year”? He’s going to murder people.
Photo by Van Emst.