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Auburn Tigers Football: News and Notes after One Week of Practice

Justin HokansonSenior Writer IAugust 12, 2009

Well, Week One of preseason practice is down in the Gene Chizik era of Auburn football. Here's a quick recap of what went on and what transpired the past week after the Tigers held their first scrimmage last night.

NEWCOMERS MAKING EARLY IMPACT

With a thin team from a depth standpoint, there will be some freshmen playing this year for Auburn.

Early returns have receivers Deangelo Benton and Emory Blake as almost sure things to get considerable playing time. Tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen also has the athleticism to play right away and looks like he will play some type of role this year.

A junior college transfer, but just a sophomore, Nick Fairley has made an impact at defensive tackle, while true freshman defensive end Nosa Eguae has also impressed and looks to be part of the rotation on defense.

QUARTERBACKS BATTLE FOR REPS

A starter hasn't been named yet, but with mainly four quarterbacks vying for that starting spot, it's vital for offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn to narrow it down so those couple of quarterbacks can get the reps needed to be ready to start.

The main four have been senior Chris Todd, junior Neil Caudle, junior Kodi Burns, and true freshman Tyrik Rollison.

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Early reports from the Tuesday night scrimmage have Caudle, Todd, and Burns working with the first team, with Rollison working with the second team.

It was Todd and Burns rotating last year, but don't be surprised if Neil Caudle wins the job. He's been consistent and brings some mobility to the table as well. Should be a good battle to continue to watch for another week or so until they narrow it down.

DEFENSIVE BACKFIELD SHUFFLE

Through one week, freshman T'Sharvan Bell and sophomore D'Antoine Hood have moved from corner to safety. The moves come after junior safety Mike McNeil was injured in the spring, and sophomore safety Christian Thompson was kicked off the team.

Newcomer junior Demond Washington looks to be the No. 3 corner right now after coming to Auburn from junior college.

Sophomore Drew Cole has looked good in the safety position taking the place of Mike McNeil until he's back healthy, which should be by the first couple of games.

One note that should please Auburn fans is that receiver coach Trooper Taylor said about sophomore corner Neiko Thorpe that he could be one of the best corners in the SEC and nation.

RECEIVERS LOOKING TO STEP UP

Coming into fall camp, receiver looked to be a position in desperate need of playmakers. After one week, there are a few guys that look to be trying to step into those roles.

Junior Terrell Zachery has been impressive according to receiver coach Trooper Taylor, as well as sophomore Darvin Adams. Both have been very consistent in their play.

Freshman Deangelo Benton and Emory Blake have also done very well for their first college camp. Both have shown maturity and saw natural ability that will get them on the field early and often.

Senior Montez Billings and sophomore Quindarius Carr have also shown flashes. Billings is coming off missing much of spring practice, but is Auburn's most experienced returning receiver. While Carr has shown some signs of being a good player, he must be more consistent.

Junior Tim Hawthorne, who expects to be a major contributor this fall, is still sidelined with an ankle injury.

OFFENSIVE LINE STILL LOOKING FOR DEPTH

The first string offensive line should be a strength for Auburn this year. The backups are another concern.

Offensive line coach Jeff Grimes said he doesn't feel that any of the backups are ready to start in the SEC.

Barring injuries though, the first team line should be a strength. Returning starters in juniors Lee Ziemba at tackle, Ryan Pugh at center, and Byron Isom and Mike Berry at the guard spots, leaves only the right tackle spot to fill. Senior Andrew McCain looks to be dedicated to filling that gap nicely.

The line has gained on average, around 15-20 pounds per player from last year. This should give them much more push in running downhill, as opposed to side-to-side like last year in Tony Franklin's offense.

One side note is Florida State transfer and freshman Aubrey Phillips hasn't practiced the last few days because of a medical issue. It's unclear what the issue is, but it may be serious. He was expected to provide some immediate depth and be a real player down the road.

DEFENSE FLYING AROUND

New defensive coordinator Ted Roof says he wants his players to fly to the football, rather than overthink things. Junior middle linebacker Josh Bynes has openly talked about how much the players love the style.

Keep an eye on JUCO transfer Eltoro Freeman. The sophomore is fast, physical, has great instincts, and was born to play linebacker.

WILD-TIGER?

With Gus Malzahn coming on board, you knew the Wildcat formation would come with him. It looks like early on there are four candidates to run the Wildcat. Junior running back Mario Fannin, freshman running back Dontae Aycock, and freshman receivers Travante Stallworth and Emory Blake will all get looks.

FRESHMAN THAT LOOK CERTAIN TO PLAY

Here's the freshmen that look for sure like they will play in 2009:

TE Philip Lutzenkirchen

WR Deangelo Benton, WR Emory Blake

DE Nosa Eguae

LB Jonathan Evans, LB Harris Gaston

Other possibilities are defensive end Dee Ford and running back Dontae Aycock.

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