AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn weak-side linebacker Eltoro Freeman is still not participating in practice because of an injury, just not the one everyone thought.
A hamstring issue is keeping the projected starter off the field, according to head coach Gene Chizik, not the cast he’s wearing on his right hand. Chizik didn’t know when the sophomore would return.
“He’s getting much better day-by-day,” Chizik said. “But those type of injuries just, you never know.”
In the meantime, Freeman has been itching to get back. He wore a helmet and shoulder pads like everybody else Wednesday but watched from the sideline during early special teams drills.
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“He’s hanging in there,” middle linebacker Josh Bynes said. “Sometimes you see him on film mimicking, being way in back trying to shuffle, like he’s actually playing. He’s in tune throughout the whole practice and he’s fired up about it. When we’re out there he’s always screaming, trying to make sure we’re into the practice so he can feel like he’s out there.”
A handful of new players were on the sidelines doing conditioning during the first part of practice Wednesday, including some notable names.
Running back Ben Tate (left knee), cornerback Neiko Thorpe (unknown), wide receiver Terrell Zachery (left leg) and right guard Byron Isom (unknown) worked on the sideline while the team stretched and did special teams work.
Junior wide receiver John Cubelic, who was recently placed on scholarship, did not practice or work with the conditioning group, wearing street clothes and his jersey.
Freshman John Sullen, an Auburn native, worked in Isom’s place at right guard with the first team during early position drills.
Freshman Jonathan Evans also didn’t practice for an unknown injury but had been working some with the first team at weak-side linebacker in Freeman’s absence.
Evans, the younger brother of former Auburn linebacker Chris Evans, has been given a look with sophomores Spencer Pybus and Adam Herring still out with injuries. The 5-foot-11, 207-pounder from Prichard, Ala., has slowly picked up the offense in his brief time with the team. Defensive coordinator Ted Roof likes Evans’ “suddenness” and ability to get off blocks.
“He’s got a long, long way to go for us to feel good about putting him on the field,” Chizik said. “But again, we’re going to give him every opportunity because, again, the nature of where we’re at.”