A-Day 2014 is in the books, marking the end of spring football for Auburn. A few notes on the Blue team's 58-3 win over White Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium:
- Nick Marshall took a while to get going, missing a few deep sideline routes early on. As he began to settle down, plays opened up. By the end of the half, he was setting his feet, squaring his shoulders, and finding the right read, not just the biggest play. I remember at least a few instances when Ricardo Louis or Quan Bray would be streaking down the sideline, heavily covered. Last year, Nick would've tried his luck there, but Saturday he made solid passes to move the sticks. He finished 13-of-22 with 236 yards and four TDs. Not a bad day, Mr. Marshall.
- Another note on Nick: He didn't run as much as we would've thought. Sure, the QB's were in orange no-contact jerseys, but there were FAR fewer read-option plays. In fact, the first four plays by the Blue team were all passes for Nick. Shows that Gus isn't afraid to mix it up.
- The backs looked good Saturday. Cameron Artis-Payne had 12 carries for 97 yards and a score. He seems to have a stranglehold on the lead back spot. He showed excellent burst out of the hole, and he made a few people miss in the open field. Corey Grant received only five carries, but he clocked 128 yards and a score with those. It looks like he's going to be used as a change-of-pace guy similar to what he was last year, but in a more prominent role. But my God, can that boy fly. His 54-yarder in the second quarter looked like a freakin' cheetah was on the field.
- I was really looking forward to seeing Peyton Barber work. He's been given nothing but praise from the coaching staff and team throughout the entire spring period, and I was excited to see what he was all about. Sadly, his first carry ended in a fumble, and he was injured on top of that. Not sure what the specifics are on the injury, but it sucks nonetheless. Bummer.
- On another note, the receivers looked astounding. Quan Bray had a few pretty catches (one of which came on a busted coverage, but it was still good). Melvin Ray, Tony Stevens and B.J. Trimble all looked pretty sharp on the few catches they had.
- Oh yeah, SAMMIE COATES AND D'HAQUILLE WILLIAMS ARE GOING TO BE DESTROYERS OF WORLDS. Sammie had one of the best catches I've seen in the end zone, hauling in a pass from Nick one handed, and then switching it to his other hand on the way down. Pretty sweet. Duke Williams, on the other hand, looks phenomenal. He was really good at finding holes in the zone D and sitting in them, waiting for Marshall to hit him. He almost had a TD on a goal-line fade, but he got another shot later and reeled it in. After he got up, he went into one of those crazy-person frenzy modes that some guys get into when they score. He is clearly excited about this season, and you should be too, because Sammie and Duke are going to be incredible.
- Sidenote: How awesome is it going to be, every time Williams makes a catch, when the entire stadium chants, "DUUUUUUUUKE"? I love that stuff.
- One guy to keep an eye on: Stanton Truitt. He didn't see much action, but he got a few passes his way. He's really shifty and has surprisingly strong hands. I could see him ending up as a Quan Bray/Corey Grant hybrid thing, where he might line up as a back and flare out to get a screen and scamper 60 yards.
- The defense as a whole looked pretty solid, which was to be expected since they were going against second-teamers. But ignoring that, the first unit made a few good plays and showed flashes of brilliance, holding the White team to fewer than 100 total yards.
- One guy I liked on defense was Derrick Moncrief. He came in as the No. 1 JUCO safety, and he started at field safety Saturday. One play stood out in particular: Moncrief was backpedaling and saw a slant coming. He planted his feet, got a good read, and jumped the pass. Excellent instincts. He also recovered Barber's fumble, but it kinda rolled into his hands.
- The more prominent names on the second and third levels (Cassanova McKinzy, Kris Frost, Jonathan Mincy, etc.) didn't show up too much in the stat book. They performed well, but the D-line was getting so much penetration that the White team's plays barely ever had time to develop past the line of scrimmage. When they did, the backers would quickly swallow them up.
- Gabe Wright, Elijah Daniel, and company absolutely swallowed up the White team's O-line. By the time the snap got to the QB (usually Jeremy Johnson), the D-line was already in the backfield, collapsing the pocket.
- Trovon Reed impressed me. He was quick to make reads, stayed with his man down the field and showed good awareness on passes, even breaking up a few. I like what I'm seeing with him.
- Kenny Flowers was sensational Saturday. He racked up seven tackles (five solo, 2.5 TFL) and registered a "sack" (no-contact jerseys again). Flowers was always in the right spot at the right time, and he didn't disappoint. His performance garnered him the Defensive MVP honor, and rightfully so.
- Since the special teams weren't playing live, it's tough to get a good read on everything other than kicking. Robenson Therezie did drop a dead-ball punt, so there's that.
- The kicking team brought some new faces, as Daniel Carlson takes over for Cody Parkey and Jimmy Hutchison replaces Steven Clark.
- Carlson hit a 50-yard field goal, so that was pretty good to see. However, he missed a 51-yarder (against the wind) and also missed an extra point. Keep kicking in practice during the fall, and I'm sure he'll be fine.
- Hutchison had some pretty solid punts, booting five and averaging 40.6 yards a pop.