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Sunday, Mar. 27, 2011

Auburn football notes: Gene Chizik says focus, energy level high at spring's first practice in pads

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Tigres add third commitment for 2012

By ANDY BITTER

abitter@ledger-enquirer.com

AUBURN, Ala. -- The plays weren’t perfect, the execution not refined, but Auburn head coach Gene Chizik thought the focus and energy level was high during the Tigers’ first practice this spring in pads.

“We know it’s going to be challenging in terms of mistakes and corrections and things of that nature,” he said. “But as long as the other elements are there, we can continue to improve. So that’s the plan.”

The Tigers practiced for a little over two hours Sunday at Jordan-Hare Stadium, their first venture away from the Hutsell-Rose Track/Soccer Facility.

The focus was on running the ball and stopping the run, with Chizik wanting to see his revamped offensive and defensive lines get physical for the first time.

“That they were really trying hard,” he said. “Rusty, as you would imagine. But trying really hard. Just trying to get back into the groove.”

The players enjoyed strapping on the pads for the first time, although it was an adjustment.

“I thought it went well,” quarterback Barrett Trotter said. “A little strange again, getting out there and running around and hitting each other. It was a little bit faster than the last two days. It was good. It was fun.”

Commitment No. 3

Auburn got its second commitment in three days when wide receiver Alex Taylor of Lester, Ala., said he’d sign with the Tigers in 2012.

The 6-foot-4, 200-pound Taylor had offers form Alabama, Ole Miss and Tennessee. Scout lists him as a three-star recruit.

Taylor had over 1,000 receiving yards last season as a junior at West Limestone High. He also played Wildcat quarterback, kick returner and safety.

The Tigers already had commitments from offensive lineman Michael Flint (Oxford, Ala.) and linebacker Cassanova McKinzy (Birmingham).

Nickel news

Auburn installed some of its nickel package during Saturday’s practice. Starting corner T’Sharvan Bell and walk-on safety Ikeem Means worked in the nickelback role, a spot Bell played some last year.

“It’s just like home for me,” Bell said.

With Bell shifting over, a group of youngsters -- Chris Davis, Ryan White, Jonathon Mincy and Jonathan Rose -- were the outside corners.

Bell has high hopes for Rose, a 2011 signee from Leeds (Ala.) High who enrolled early to participate in spring drills.

“He’s got a big learning curve,” Bell said. “By the time two-a-days hit, he’ll be in sync with everybody else and getting quality reps with the 2s or the 1s. I think he’s going to be a great player when all is said and done.”

Only an H-back

Redshirt freshman Ladarious Phillips had a cup of coffee at defensive tackle during bowl practices last December, but Chizik said he’ll work only as a fullback/H-back this spring. He is a candidate to replace Eric Smith.

Auburn would like to see him a little lighter. Phillips, who had a foot injury last year that cemented his redshirt, is listed at 290 pounds.

“That’s not our druthers. We’re working on a plan to get him a bit lighter,” Chizik said. “We think the lighter he is the better he’s going to move. But for 290-some odd pounds, now, he moves well.”

Extra points

Wide receiver Travante Stallworth was held out of drills Saturday after tweaking his hamstring. ... Quindarius Carr is working at punt returner again, along with Trovon Reed, Mincy and Demetruce McNeal.

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