AUBURN, Ala. — Trooper Taylor set a distinct tone during Auburn’s first practice of the spring Tuesday night, making his players do up-downs as a penalty for any kind of mental mistake.
“I was taught a long time ago whatever you tolerate or accept, you encourage,” the wide receivers coach said. “Dropped balls, turnovers, stupid penalties will not be accepted at Auburn University.
“Those receivers know that after today. It’s a point of emphasis to me.”
Nobody in the receiver group Taylor inherited had more than 25 catches last season. Montez Billings, a starter opposite Rod Smith, had 24 receptions for 277 yards. The next most productive player who returns is Tim Hawthorne, who caught eight balls for 203 yards.
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But the coach wasn’t concerned with production Tuesday as much as he was attention to detail.
“Teaching the fundamentals — how to take care of the football, how to win and try to practice like a game — that’s what I was trying to emphasize out there,” Taylor said. “That’s why they were doing some of the up-downs. It’s like anything else: you’ve got to be held accountable for your mistakes.”
Bolt, Chizik reunite
Chizik hired Wayne Bolt as Auburn’s Director of Football Relations, filling a position left vacant when Phillip Lolley agreed to coach part of the secondary.
Bolt coached as an assistant under Pat Dye at Auburn and worked as Gene Chizik’s defensive coordinator at Iowa State the last two seasons.
He is the third member of Chizik’s Cyclones staff to migrate south. Jay Boulware is coaching tight ends and special teams and Scott Fountain took a job on Auburn’s football administrative staff.
Bolt’s 31-year coaching career has included stops at East Carolina, Wyoming, Clemson, Troy and UAB. Twenty-one of his 31 years have been in the state of Alabama.
Tight end turnover
Auburn is short on able-bodied tight ends this spring:
Ÿ Tommy Trott is not allowed to participate in any contact drills or make cuts at 100 percent speed after having surgery to repair a torn ACL in his left knee four months ago.
Ÿ Gabe McKenzie was not at practice Tuesday but is still a member of the team. Chizik said McKenzie is “dealing with a couple medical issues right now,” but he refused to give any specifics.
Ÿ Vance Smith switched to offensive line to help a group that is low on numbers. The 6-foot-2, 255-pound sophomore will play several positions.
“He’s an athletic guy,” Chizik said. “We’re just going to kind of move him in there and move him around and really see where the shoe fits.”
Ÿ Brent Slusher, who dealt with numerous undisclosed injuries last year, is on a medical hardship and is not listed on the spring roster.
Savage still a corner
Aairon Savage, who missed last season after tearing an ACL in August, started out at cornerback when Auburn did pass skeleton drills Tuesday.
The senior has played both safety and cornerback during his career, and figured to be a candidate to move back to safety following his injury.
“I think he’s a guy who’s had so much experience playing that you can kind of play him where you feel like he best fits based on the people around,” Chizik said.
Savage, who won’t participate in contact drills this spring, has no preference.
“That’s not really an issue,” he said. “Just to be back out there and look in the guys’ facemask and see the uplift, that’s the most important thing to me right now.”