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Notes from the Beat, 8/18

"Eeny, meeny, miney, moe..."

The countdown is in full swing at Auburn’s fall camp. Kickoff is just a couple of weeks away. Game week and preparation for Utah State is even closer. Yesterday was the first day of class on campus and saw most students making their return to the Plains, but the Tigers have been here and hitting the practice field since the beginning of the month. Before we go through some of the latest rumblings from camp, be sure to show some love to your local beat reporters; Andy Bitter, David Morrison, Jay G. Tate, and Charles Goldberg. The reporting is all theirs.

— Obviously the first thing on everyone’s mind is the quarterback race. We still don’t know for sure who is in first, but we may have figured out who is in third for the moment. Yesterday, Kiehl Frazier said that he believed he was “closing the gap” between himself and his elders. Later he described it as: “I’m definitely a lot closer to those guys than I was.”

Frazier actually took all of the snaps in a short, mock scrimmage Tuesday morning, but since the scrimmage was apparently geared toward younger players, that doesn’t seem to mean much. That same day, Gus Malzahn had reporters pumping the brakes when it came to Frazier’s standing in the race; “You’re talking about two guys who have been in our system for three years and a guy who just showed up. Even though he ran a similar offense in high school, it’s a different world.”

It would appear that the three-man battle has been narrowed to two, at least when it comes to who will be lining up against Utah State. That’s about as much we’ve been able to glean from this tight-lipped position battle all camp.

— Another position that is still up for grabs? How about the entire offensive line—or most of it, anyway. Jeff Grimes doesn’t think anyone is going to unseat Brandon Mosley at left tackle. However, the remaining four spots are still undecided and largely up in the air. And, as Grimes also confirmed, that includes the battle at center between Reese Dismukes and Blake Burgess.

— Curtis Luper says Tre Mason is fast. How fast? “He’s Onterio McCalebb fast. Onterio might dispute that, but he is.” I’d like to see that race. Let’s say, 100 yards, on a kick return, first one to the end zone, with an SEC opponent in futile pursuit.

— Camp has not been without injury, but we’re getting some good news lately. Mike Dyer is back after missing a few days with an undisclosed injury. So, too, is A.J. Greene, who had been out for about a week. Ikeem Means is also back after a short absence.

— Freshman Erique Florence has been getting all kinds of praise from his coaches and his teammates alike. Tommy Thigpen: “He’s our most productive guy back there. Every practice he’s in there, something happens. Somehow he’ll knock somebody away from the ball, pick up a fumble and scoop it up, or make interceptions… What he brings is something that’s fun to watch, he’s physical, really smart in the class, asks all the right questions, and goes through the drills extremely hard.”

Fellow DB T’Sharvan Bell sees the same things. “He’s a playmaker. He’s always around the ball. Every time you cut on the film you see 14 around the ball, whether he’s making a tackle or getting an interception, a fumble recovery. He’s always around the ball.”

Despite all of this praise, Florence still sits firmly behind Neiko Thorpe on the free safety depth chart. The coaches haven’t tried him at strong safety, either, which is a little less set in stone with Demetruce McNeal and Ikeem Means jockeying for playing time. Personally, I like it, and I think a season watching and learning could be just the thing to help Erique reach the full potential everyone sees in him.

— T-Bell also had a lot to say about Trovon Reed. “He’s definitely the hardest person to tackle in the open field on this team, by far. He’ll do one move and make three or four guys miss. He’ll be — I don’t want to say a decoy — but a lot of guys will focus in on him when he starts going in motion or getting the ball on a reverse or a bubble screen.”

I think I can speak for us all in saying that we’re ready to see Trovon Reed on the field — as a decoy, as a Wildcat quarterback, as a wide reciever, as whatever.

— Finally, on Monday Chizik and the coaching staff awarded eight scholarships to walk-on players, each one very well deserved. We’ve got to extend huge congratulations to: Ikeem Means, Blake Burgess, Davis Hooper, Chris Brooks, Chris Humphries, Aubrey Phillips, Nathan Taylor, and Ashton Richardson. Which example of hard work paying off would be more gratifying—beating Oregon in the desert 22-19, or getting to tell Mom she doesn’t have to worry about that out-of-state tuition any more? These guys know the answer, and they’ve earned it.

Photo via Van Emst.

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