"All the good players have left."
If Auburn players heard it once yesterday, they heard it 100 times and will likely hear it in their sleep for the next month. Spring practice got underway yesterday on the Plains with a fresh reminder from coaches that the 2010 party is over.
The Auburn coaching staff is faced with replacing a staggering 35 scholarship players who were on the roster for the BCS Championship Game. Only 53 scholarship players dressed out for yesterday's opener.
The most visible hole is at quarterback.
The last time a player stepped in for a Heisman winner at Auburn was in 1986 and he earned All-American honors. Don't expect Barrett Trotter or Clint Moseley to be the second coming of Brent Fullwood; but offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn does expect big things from Cam Newton's successor.
"We have high expectations every year," Malzahn said after practice. "We have a lot of inexperienced guys on the field. The standard will be high, but, as a coach, we'll have to be patient."
If there was one piece of news to come out of the first day of practice, it was Malzahn's desire to name a starting quarterback by the end of spring practice. "We definitely want to," said Malzahn "It's going to be a good competition."
That means heralded incoming freshman Kiehl Frazier is likely out of the picture for now. He will arrive on campus this summer. Malzahn has decided to split reps evenly among Trotter and Moseley this spring.
"I've got confidence in both these guys as far as knowing what to do," says Malzahn. "They both competed very strong today and I think they both had very solid days."
Trotter had the best line of the day when asked about filling Newton's shoes. "He didn't leave me shoe to follow, he left me skis to follow."...
The only person hurting following day one of practice was Gene Chizik. He's battling the flu and kept his distance from coaches and players. He decided against addressing the media following the morning session. Good choice...
Malzahn says he's pleased with the progress of wide receiver Trevon Reed. He played two snaps last season before suffering a knee injury. Coaches expect him to play a big role in Auburn's suddenly empty receiving corp.
"He looked pretty fast to me, looked like he was back," Malzahn said. "He's one of those guys who we need to be on the field. Before he got hurt in the fall, he made some ‘wow' plays."...
Who was the most hyped person on the practice field Wednesday? That award goes to new defensive line coach Mike Pelton, who could hardly contain himself during his first day of practice.
Pelton says he knows what's ahead of him.
"I'm not just a coach, I'm a fan. I am an alumni," he said. "I knew they were going to be young. I knew the task would be tall. But I don't back down from it. It's Auburn. I know what it takes to be an Auburn defensive lineman. I know what it takes, because I played here. I know what it takes to be an Auburn man, because I am an Auburn man.
"This is personal to me. It's not just a coach coming back, it's a guy coming home, and coming back to where I became a man. If anybody takes it personally more than me, I'd like to see them. This is not just Auburn, this is my home. This where I grew up, where I played, where I became a man, developed friends. This is my home. If you're going to protect a place, you've got to protect your house. This is the house that I helped build."
Pelton went on to say that it's impossible to ask anyone to replace.
"I think it would be tough for anybody," he said. "You don't replace a guy like Nick. You just do the best with the guys you have. ... You don't ask a Kenny Carter to be a Nick Fairley. You ask him to be Kenny Carter. You ask the group, ‘Are we going to do it collectively as a group.' We're not going to do it with one guy. We've just got to do it as a group."
Something tells me Auburn is going to be just fine on the defensive front. They are in good hands with Mike Pelton.