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Notes from the Beat, 8/5

"Day-by-day"? Check. Painfully detailed reports on run-of-the-mill drills since the beat guys can't watch real practice? Check. Todd Van Emst pictures of the Chiznick talking to the team after practice? So, so check. Auburn football is back, folks.

After spending some five hours in/on airports and airplanes yesterday, and another four making the drive back to the rez from Albuquerque, I crashed and burned before the reports from Auburn’s p.m. practice started trickling out.

But that’s OK. Because I woke up this morning, and read the following

Saw WR DeAngelo Benton with a wrap on his right hand/wrist after practice.

… and immediately felt that tiny part of my soul that enjoys freaking out about these sorts of things freak out a little bit, even though most of me understands perfectly well that this is nothing, and I smiled like it was Christmas morning itself. If we’re worrying ourselves into a lather over nonexistent injuries … if we’re reading entirely too much into harmless, half-thought-out quotes from Auburn’s players and coaches … if the poor desperate beat writers are reporting on the length of Lee Ziemba’s practice t-shirt … and the calendar says it’s not March or April? Then it’s fall camp, and football is right around the corner.

Guess what, folks: it’s fall camp, and football is right around the corner. We’re celebrating with the first NFTB of the 2010 season. As always, info is gleaned from the first-hand beat reports of Andy Bitter, Jay Tate, Charles Goldberg, Andrew Gribble, and Evan Woodbery. Thanks to them. And here we go:

— Probably the most revealing bit of information we got from Day 1 came from Craig Stevens, who let drop which linebacker was practicing where and maybe even an early depth chart–one with Eltoro Freeman backing up Craig Stevens on the weakside, and Jonathan Evans backing up Daren Bates on the strongside.

I’d take that with a giant grain of salt, but if it’s at all accurate, it should illustrate how serious the coaches are about the Bates-at-linebacker experiment. Stevens’ report that only Harris Gaston and Jake Holland are working behind Josh Bynes at MLB also illustrates how important it is to keep Bynes healthy this year; I have all the faith in the world in Holland’s potential and there’s nothing that says the light can’t come on in a hurry for Gaston–who had a bit of a disappointing freshman season but was also taking a quantum leap forward in competition after playing private-school ball in high school, not to mention dealing with a nagging injury or two–but we’re still talking about two players with zero meaningful snaps at the collegiate level between them.

Two last things about the linebackers: 1. It’s a little odd to see an end-sized LB like LaDarius Owens listed on the weakside, but when you’ve got guys the size of Bates and Evans on the strongside, those distinctions maybe don’t mean exactly what we think they mean 2. yeah, I bet Ted Roof is glad to have a three-deep without any walk-ons, after last year’s second string featured two most of the year.

— So much for the post-roster release contention that Onterio McCalebb hadn’t put on all that many pounds; he says he’s up to 180, nine pounds heavier than the roster weight and some 15 heavier than last year’s playing weight. He swears he’s even faster than before. Frankly, I’ll believe it–or even that he hasn’t lost any speed, much less added some–when I see it. But if we do see it, dude, this backfield is going to murder people.

— Speaking of the roster, and weight, it was encouraging to hear Byron Isom say that Eric Mack could play even at 360 freaking pounds. If Mack really can play at that size, how much better will he be once he slims up a bit? Doesn’t change my opinion that Mack’s probably (though not definitely) still too big to move past Bart Eddins or John Sullen on the depth chart at guard this season, though. There’s something to watch for during fall camp.

— Speaking of Sullen, Gribble reported he seemed to be working with the first team at right tackle. We’ve all assumed that spot was either Brandon Mosley’s or Roszell Gayden’s from the time they signed on. Maybe it’s a three-way battle now?

— I think the biggest thing to take away from LaDarius Owens’, Trovon Reed’s, and Jeffrey Whitaker’s interviews with the media are that those are the three freshmen the coaches felt most comfortable sending out to meet with the media. We’ve heard that all three are intelligent players with a good chance to contribute early. (Reed particularly at this stage, given the rave reviews given him by Cam Newton and Demond Washington this week.) Based on Chizik and Co.’s decision to let them represent their incoming class at the first opportunity, I’d say we’ve heard correctly.

— Still can’t help but contrast Ted Roof’s exuberance regarding Zac Etheridge with his relative curtness regarding Mike McNeil.

— Think that’s about everything of significance from Day 1. Well, that and that Antoine Carter still has HOT BOY tattooed on his face. I was worried about him removing it over the summer; if we find out later it’s one of those Samson and his long hair type of deals, and now he can’t rush the passer any more, well, we wouldn’t have found out until it was too late, right? It can wait until after the season.

And once more, apologies for the sparse content since oh, last Friday or so. Will do my best to make up for it over the next week.

Photo by Van Emst.

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