AUBURN, Ala. — Freshman offensive lineman Aubrey Phillips is out for an undetermined amount of time after suffering a “non-football related episode,” Auburn coach Gene Chizik said Saturday.
Phillips, who joined the team this week after transferring from Florida State, did not practice during the portion available to the media Friday. Saturday’s practice was closed.
Chizik declined to give specifics but said the team is doing medical tests to determine what happened.
The 6-foot-5, 330-pound Phillips left Florida State in July after a falling out with the coaching staff, who, according to reports, were critical of the freshman’s weight.
In his only interview at Auburn, Phillips said Thursday his conditioning isn’t an issue.
“I think I’m in pretty good shape,” he said. “At Florida State, I was doing everything they told me to do — no matter what the media said.”
Auburn practiced as one group for the first time Saturday, bringing veterans and newcomers into the same session on the field.
Chizik said Chris Todd, Kodi Burns and Neil Caudle took the majority of reps at quarterback, although freshman Tyrik Rollison got a few snaps.
“They all took reps in individual (drills), but when you get to a team setting it’s difficult,” Chizik said. “Not all of them got reps in that particular part of practice.”
The Tigers were in shells Saturday, something they might continue to do the next few days, even though NCAA rules will allow them in full pads.
“With our depth, we’re going to have to be really smart with how we practice the whole two-a-day window,” Chizik said. “Just because you’re allowed to go in pads doesn’t mean it’s the best thing for you. … There is a fine line in there. We’re going to assess it every day to see what type of gear we need to dress out at.”
Freshman wide receiver DeAngelo Benton had his right hand in a brace after suffering an injury during Friday’s practice. He did not practice Saturday, sitting on the sideline during drills while reviewing signals and plays.
Benton said he will be back at practice today, adding, “It’s no problem.”
Auburn has tried plenty of things to forge camaraderie on defense. Last year, it was hard hats. This year, it is facial hair.
“We’re trying to do something as a defense just to let people know we’re a team and we’re sticking together,” cornerback Walt McFadden said.
He got the idea from his older brother Bryant, who did the same thing last year as a member of the Super Bowl-champion Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Auburn movement started in the secondary, but McFadden said it has spread to a few other positions as well, although some players are having a hard time.
“We’ve got one guy, (Rodney) Cofield, his face is so babyish,” McFadden said. “He’s just got a baby face. We’re trying to get him to grow something. We just told him we’re going to have to pace him.”
Chizik and his staff has been up front about wanting Auburn’s players to have a professional appearance on and off the field. Wide receivers coach Trooper Taylor likes a clean-cut look, claiming every day is an interview, so players are trying to keep things well-groomed.
“As long as we keep it shaped up and not let it grow wild,” McFadden said, “(Trooper’s) OK with it.”
Blast from the past
Travis Williams, an All-SEC linebacker at Auburn who started for three years, including Auburn’s undefeated 2004 season, has joined the staff as a defensive graduate assistant working with defensive line coach Tracy Rocker.
Chizik, who was the Tigers’ defensive coordinator in 2004, said Williams doesn’t get as much credit as he should for being an integral part of that defense.
“He was a 209-pound linebacker in this league, and he was an All-SEC player,” Chizik said. “That’s because he has the heart and he loves the game. … He just brings that element back to Auburn that we’re trying to keep imparting on these new guys. It’s invaluable. He can relate to them. He just got done playing, it wasn’t long ago that he was a part of a lot of great teams here. It’s just huge to have guys come back and be a part of it.”