AUBURN, Ala. — Gene Chizik rarely doles out praise to a specific player, especially not a freshman. But it took little prodding for the Auburn coach to compliment defensive end Corey Lemonier after the Tigers’ sixth day of practice Tuesday.
“He’s going to push somebody for a position,” Chizik said. “I usually don’t say that this early, but he’s really coming on strong. He’s exactly what we thought he’d be.”
Lemonier, a 6-foot-4, 227-pound end from Hialeah, Fla., was a signing day boon for the Tigers, announcing his decision on ESPN that morning. Rivals ranked him as a four-star recruit, the No. 3 defensive end in the country and No. 35 player overall.
Speed is Lemonier’s best trait, which helps at the rush end position. He’s working there along with starter Antoine Carter, sophomore Dee Ford and junior college transfer Joel Bonomolo.
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What does Lemonier expect this year?
“The sky’s the limit, but definitely playing time,” he said. “The coaches really like how I’m practicing out there.”
As for Auburn, Lemonier has no doubt he made the right decision last February.
“I’m not even homesick,” he said. “This is my home to me now. When I go back home, it will be visiting.”
DeAngelo Benton’s hand injury is more serious than just a jammed finger. Starting wide receiver Darvin Adams said Tuesday that Benton broke a bone in his hand.
Benton, a 6-foot-2, 201-pound sophomore, has missed the past five practices after getting hit awkwardly on the fingers by a pass on the first day. His right hand remains in a plaster cast, with the pinky and ring fingers immobilized.
Coaches have set no timetable for his return.
“When he gets out of this cast, he’s going to be ready,” Adams said. “Even now, he’s still trying to get out there and work on his routes.”
Tonight marks Auburn’s first scrimmage, which will take place at Jordan-Hare Stadium at 7 p.m. It’s closed to the public and media.
Chizik said the scrimmage will be live for everyone except quarterbacks. The coaching staff plans to bring in officials to help the team work on procedural matters as well.
“It’s the thing we’ve been talking about since Day 1,” Chizik said. “Are we consistent? Are we not consistent? I want to make sure we’ve got a huge, huge improvement.”
Adams, a junior, made the watch list for the Biletnikoff Award, given annually to the top receiver in college football. Adams set Auburn’s single-season receptions record last year with 60. He finished with 997 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns.
Senior Josh Bynes was named to the watch list for the Bednarik Award, given annually to the nation’s top defensive player. Bynes led the Tigers in tackles (104) last season and ranked sixth in the SEC.
Wide receiver Trovon Reed did not work out with the team during the morning session of practice because of an undisclosed injury. Quarterback Cam Newton said the freshman will be back today. … Auburn mailed out its season tickets Monday. They should begin arriving today, according to a release by the school. A limited number of season and single-game tickets are still available. … CBS Sports Vice President Mike Aresco told the Birmingham News on Tuesday that the Iron Bowl won’t be played on a Friday in 2011-12. Auburn and Alabama signed a two-year contract in 2009 to play the game the day after Thanksgiving.