Auburn notes: Cassanova McKinzy participates in Tigers' Sunday practice, Kiehl Frazier back to offense

rblack@ledger-enquirer.comOctober 6, 2013 

ROBIN TRIMARCHI Auburn linebacker Cassanova McKinzy is taken off the field with an injury during the first half at Jordan-Hare Stadium Saturday. 10.05.13


AUBURN, Ala.Cassanova McKinzy's injury didn't turn out to be nearly as serious as it looked.

Though the sophomore linebacker had to be put on a board and taken off the field on a cart Saturday night in Auburn's game versus Ole Miss, he was back at practice Sunday. Not surprisingly, defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson said McKinzy's neck was "real sore." McKinzy was able to take part in every drill at Sunday's practice, but the Tigers didn't practice in pads, so he didn't have any contact.

Johnson described what he knew about McKinzy's injury in his post-practice interview session with reporters.

"It was a stinger, but to him it was more severe," Johnson said. "He said he'd have them before and it just felt different. I think once they got out there to him they took a very precautionary track on it. ... I don't want to get too specific because I don't know all the technicalities, but it's (a) pretty serious neck sprain or stinger, but nothing you would say is critical or anything that he can't play."

Johnson said it was "just a matter of time" until the issue resolves itself. The coaching staff is taking a wait-and-see approach to McKinzy's status for this week's game against Western Carolina.

Doctors said it would be best to wait 48 hours from when the injury first surfaced before they cleared him to return to the field.

"I'm always going to be optimistic," Johnson said. "If you can't have any contact this week, I always lean toward not letting them play. But they haven't told me that yet."

The news wasn't quite as positive for fellow linebacker Justin Garrett. Johnson said the junior has a crack in his right foot that forced him to miss Saturday's game against Ole Miss. A decision whether to have surgery will be made later this week, Johnson said, likely coming on Tuesday.

Perhaps the only silver lining for the Tucker native is that he is eligible for a redshirt.

"I think that’s something he’s trying to think through right now because he’s going to miss some games, obviously, but he’s not going to miss the season," Johnson said. "It’s a thought he’s got to work through."

Johnson said that Jeff Whitaker is in the same position. The senior defensive tackle hasn't played this year after injuring his knee the week of the season opener versus Washington State.

"Does he want to come to try to come back pretty soon or does he want to maybe take this year?" Johnson said of Whitaker's situation.

Another member of the Tigers' defensive line is dealing with an injury of his own. True freshman Montravius Adams has a bruised knee, Johnson said, and like McKinzy, will have his availability for Saturday determined later this week.

"We won’t really know until a couple of days of rehab and then see how many days of practice they can get," Johnson said.

Frazier to appear 'heavily' on offense for remainder of season

Kiehl Frazier's defensive conversion is over.

According to offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee, the junior is now back on offense full-time unless something drastic occurs on defense that forces him to switch sides of the ball once more.

Frazier moved to safety during fall camp after bowing out of the Tigers' four-way competition to become the starting quarterback. But once the regular season began, he saw little action with the the defense, making just one appearance, which came on the final drive of the Arkansas State game. In the next two games — against Mississippi State and LSU, respectively — he saw snaps as a Wildcat quarterback

Then on Saturday, Frazier made a brief cameo as a slot receiver against the Rebels.

Going forward, Lashlee said that's the role he expects the Springdale, Ark., native to play for Auburn's offense.

"I don't know if I can say there's not any scenario that would send him back to defense, but he's definitely going to be heavily on the offensive side. Kiehl gives us that flexibility," Lashlee said. "He can play in the slot, he can play outside, like Kodi Burns kind of did when he ended up making the move. At the same time, you can put him in the backfield and he's a run and a pass-threat. It's not like snapping it to a guy that you know can't throw it."

Related stories:

Auburn football: Defensive line responds to coaching staff's challenge, 'step up' against Ole Miss

Auburn notes: Cassanova McKinzy participates in Tigers' Sunday practice, Kiehl Frazier back to offense

First take: A quick look at Western Carolina

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