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Fall Practice Report #1

Auburn begins preseason camp for 2019!

Butch Dill - Associated Press

Hey, in case you didn’t notice, Auburn football players are wearing Auburn football uniforms and doing Auburn football things at the Auburn football facilities.

And an Auburn football head coach is here to tell you about it all.

Based on what Gus Malzahn had to say about the first practice, it seems like youthful energy might have been a bit of an issue to start thanks to some guys maybe going hard at the beginning before they all got tired at the end of the day.

When he mentions the injuries, it really put a damper on some of the excitement that we’re all feeling about Auburn’s defensive line talent. The first string could very well be the best unit in the country with Derrick Brown and Tyrone Truesdell in the middle, and Marlon Davidson, Nick Coe, T.D. Moultry, and Big Kat Bryant patrolling the borders. We were hoping to find out who may have been next in line to help build a little depth. Coynis Miller and Daquan Newkirk were names to watch out for, and we’d all love to see Miller’s play on the field match up to his Twitterverse magic. Now, however, both guys will be limited in fall camp, and Newkirk’s injury could last quite some time.

What Auburn’s been so good with during the most successful seasons over the past dozen or so years is that they’ve had fantastic defensive line depth. Playing eight or ten guys up front has been something that Rodney Garner has built, and it’s kept the defense fresh late in ballgames. Now, and especially with the opening opponent having one of the best offensive lines in America, this is a legitimate concern. Auburn needs to be able to figure out a bit of depth so that the defense isn’t sucking wind in the second half.

Everyone’s big question, however, is who’s going to win the quarterback job. It’s Joey Gatewood or Bo Nix. That’s pretty much the debate. In the past, Gus may have eased in his signal-callers, but he laid a bunch on the two frontrunners this weekend. It helps that both guys have been around for the spring (and even longer for Gatewood), and they both performed really well in the spring game. Desperation is a good thing for someone to have sometimes, and Gus says that both guys have that feeling when it comes to winning the starting job.

As far as a couple of transfers go, Zach Farrar and Jay Jay Wilson both got their first official looks with the offense, and their experience in other programs will help get them acclimated even quicker. The rest of the offense aside from the quarterbacks are all veterans as well, and so Gus wants to give them everything they need to be able to handle. It’s a sink or swim situation, honestly, and I think that everyone understands the importance of this year. Gus certainly does with what he’s taken control over, and he seems to have a little bit of a different swagger that we haven’t seen. He knows that he needs a little help, so he’s going to throw everything he can on the quarterbacks, since a Joey Gatewood or Bo Nix that meet the expectations make this a year that Gus can build on with his seat temperature and his recruiting brand.

Something else that’ll help in that regard is the experience on the lines. Gus knows that it’s key and it’s a championship cog. With the defensive line nicks already, we just need healthy guys all year long. It’s happened before, but we need to have a few dudes step in to give us some valuable rest. Apparently Brodarius Hamm has made strides to become one of the key offensive line backups, which is great to hear after what he’s gone through.

When Gus is asked about the schedule, he knows that it’s what’s usually asked of an Auburn team. We’re going to have Alabama and Georgia every year. LSU. Texas A&M. Now we get the top two teams out of the East when Florida rotates onto the schedule, and Oregon’s that looming challenge right away. The way the schedule shapes up, September could really make or break this year. Win your two games in the state of Texas and the easy home games, and you’re 4-0 with a top ten ranking and a ton of momentum. Go 3-1 or 2-2, and the critics turn on Gus right away, putting him behind the eight ball.

Now, here’s Sunday reaction:

First day of shells and the first day that they run a full practice with everyone together. You have to love hearing about the intensity of the offensive line and defensive lines clashing all at once and going 1s vs 1s.

We get to hear some about the linebackers, where it sounds like we’ll have an athletic group, but the experience level may need to rise up before we’re able to play a little faster on defense. K.J. Britt may be taking on that Deshaun Davis role, and becoming a leader, which would be a continuation of what happened in the spring.

From what it sounds like is that this team is trying to play faster and faster than before, and Gus is challenging everyone in some way. He needs veterans to be leaders, and he needs young guys to develop experience and use their natural talent before becoming true captains. With a scrimmage coming up later this week, you can bet that we’ll hear a good bit about how this quarterback race is shaping up, and I imagine that both Gatewood and Nix will get nearly equal snaps with the first team.

We touched on the defensive line injuries going into camp, but above Marlon Davidson says that Jaren Handy impressed him today, and reminds him of himself. There’s versatility on the defensive line, and we can see a few really interesting formations with guys rotating around to make things difficult for offenses.

Davidson’s really high on what the rest of the defense has as well, saying that K.J Britt’s becoming an alpha at linebacker, and the rest of the young players are stepping into their roles. That plus the experience in the back end spell good things and his belief that they may be the best defense in the country.

There’s also no one better to judge the growth of the offensive line than Marlon Davidson, and he talks about how things have progressed since last year and the growing pains that we all saw. If the five across the ball can challenge this defensive line, then we’ll be in good hands no matter who wins the quarterback job.

When you get to watch a couple of the interviews with the offensive lineman, and they’re confident about how they performed today and throughout the spring, you have to be optimistic about the offense as a whole. It was really frustrating watching some of the problems they had last year, but sometimes it just takes a little time. The practices before the Music City Bowl and the blowout of Purdue may have been the springboard necessary to make that special jump. There are so many combined starts and so much chemistry that it’s going to be a bit disappointing if we don’t see some big strides.

Also, Mike Horton is so guarded but you can see the excitement in his face when he talks about some of the things the offense is doing. There are apparently explosive plays working well for the offense in the early going, which is what we missed greatly at times last year until Nashville.

They’ll practice more and we’ll have a scrimmage later this week, and we’ll have a Depth Chart Depth Charge on Orange and True this week as well, so stick around for that! War Eagle!