We all know that Gus Malzahn’s penchant for secrecy sometimes makes Richard Nixon look more like Richard Simmons by comparison. But this weekend was the annual football scholarship donors event, which allowed several hundred of them access to the inner sanctum to view Saturday’s practice. One of them - let’s call him Son of Deep Throat, or SDT for short - was kind enough to share the following details. Here’s what I gleaned from our clandestine meeting in the downtown Auburn parking deck:
1. Bo Nix took virtually all the snaps with first team offense. Most significantly, he led a pair of drives against the first team defense to simulate a two-minute drill. The first one ended with a field goal that Anders Carlson doinked off the upright from 40 plus yards away. The second one ended with a bullet to Sal Cannella on a slant from about 15 yards out to score as time expired. The defense wasn’t live - that is, no tackling, and certainly no hits on the QB - but the secondary was playing very aggressive coverage on the receivers. Also, Kevin Steele sent corner blitzes on more than one occasion. Bo appeared not to be fazed by either and judiciously threw the ball away a few times when the play wasn’t there. SDT will be very surprised if Bo is not the starter against Oregon.
2. The dropoff from Bo to Joey Gatewood isn’t huge, but it is definitely noticeable. Neither of Gatewood’s two-minute drives, in which he led the second-team offense against the second-team defense, resulted in points. Still, Joey’s athleticism and improved passing skills are obvious. SDT expects him to see playing time somehow, some way. On the other hand, the dropoff from Gatewood to Cord Sandberg is gigantic. The fourth team walk-on QB, Will Appleton, has a stronger arm than Sandberg.
3. Seth Williams practiced at full speed and made a couple of terrific catches, although one was ruled out of bounds. Will Hastings was fully dressed and participated in some, but not all, of the drills with no apparent issues. Eli Stove dressed but did not participate. He did stand next to Gus while Gus was giving some personal coaching to the punt returners. SDT wonders what that portends. The punt returners were Javaris Davis, Christian Tutt, and Matthew Hill, in that order.
4. Boobie Whitlow was the wildcat QB (with Gatewood as a wideout) on a two-point try. It looked like they were trying the Kerryon jump pass as in the 2017 Iron Bowl, but the defense blew it up.
5. JayJay Wilson, the transfer from Arizona State, was the first-team H-back. SDT thinks we’ll see a lot of him this year and that his contribution will be significant.
6. SDT reminds us that our punter, Arryn Siposs, used to play Australian rules football. That means he knows how to tote the rock and that he can deliver, and take, a hit. SDT wouldn’t provide details, but did observe one very creative play in which Siposs carried the ball and weathered a pretty good shot from the defender. Hint: it was NOT a fake punt. Stay tuned.
7. At the risk of being labeled Captain Obvious, the courageous defender of the already known, SDT says that (a) Derrick Brown is indeed a full-grown man and (b) if he remains healthy, he will be a very rich full-grown man this time next year. Apparently Derrick devoured a few opponents during some one-on-one drills Saturday.
8. SDT is a veteran observer of these practices, having been a scholarship donor for a number of years. He says that Saturday’s practice was conducted at a faster pace and with more of a sense of urgency than the others he has witnessed. Auburn seems to be taking this football thing seriously this year. One thing, however, remains constant: Rodney Garner can still drop the F-bomb at high volume. If that bothers anyone, they should stay well clear of Lee County, Alabama, during an Auburn practice.
13 days and counting, friends. War Eagle, always.