AUBURN, Ala. — There were no winners or losers in Auburn’s scrimmage Saturday, no convoluted scoring system, no definitive standout players.
Instead, the Tigers focused on procedure during their third, and perhaps final, scrimmage of the preseason. It was a minimal contact workout at Jordan-Hare Stadium. The team practiced game situations while trying to hone the communication between the staff and players.
“There wasn’t a winner,” cornerback Walt McFadden said. “Everybody had the mind-set of knowing what to do. It was a mental thing — trying to get in the right spots.”
Auburn coaches touted the team’s physical nature in its first two scrimmages but pulled back the reins Saturday, instructing players to swarm to the ball but not tackle to the ground.
The focus instead shifted to situational work, the majority of which came against a scout-team look. Head coach Gene Chizik mapped out a variety of scenarios for his team to handle, ranging from standard two-minute drills to what to do when a player goes down with an injury.
“When that comes up in a game, everybody will be calm and relaxed because we’ve done it before,” said quarterback Chris Todd, who got most of the reps Saturday.
Offensively, the majority of work came in hurry-up situations.
Although Auburn already plans to move at a quick pace in offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn’s system, adding a ticking clock presents different stumbling blocks.
“I think you’ve just got to be aware of the clock and the situations that present (themselves) — if there’s a dead ball, if it’s not a dead ball, how many timeouts,” Malzahn said. “That’s the biggest difference. But I think it does help us. We’re used to going fast anyways, so I’d like to think there was not as much panic as there is with some other offenses.”
“Everybody already feels more comfortable doing that because we do it all the time,” Todd said.
Chizik added the emphasis on end-game scenarios in anticipation of being involved in many close contests this season.
“Our thing right now, when we win games at Auburn, it’s going to come down to the last two minutes, and that’s the way we’ve got to feel,” Chizik said. “We’ve got to be very efficient at those parts of the game, and we’ve got a long way to go in that direction.”
Defensively, the team focused on boundary awareness and seamlessly getting different personnel on the field.
“All those things that could come up,” defensive coordinator Ted Roof said. “Substitution things, as a coaching staff, the communication on the headsets, who’s responsible for what.
“Charting this, charting that, just all the things that go into game day that make up a successful performance.”
Now two weeks away from the Sept. 5 season opener at Jordan-Hare against Louisiana Tech, Chizik thinks the team is coming together. He said the depth chart is about 90 percent settled and that Saturday’s session, while rough at times, should provide the Tigers with plenty of film to help correct mistakes that still are being made.
“We really got a great feel of what we weren’t doing well, which it was very apparent out there that there was a lot that we weren’t doing well,” Chizik said, not going into specifics. “But (we’re creating) teaching tools, and I think we got out of today what we wanted.”