AUBURN, Ala. — Jonathon Mincy has never had a high opinion of wide receivers.
In his view, pass-catchers, more often than not, are “soft.” But Auburn’s senior corner has been pleasantly surprised with Trovon Reed. A receiver in his first three seasons as a Tiger, Reed moved to cornerback this spring.
According to his fellow senior, Reed is a quick learner.
“He’s looked good,” Mincy said after Auburn’s first practice of the spring Tuesday. “(It) looks like he’s been playing corner here.”
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As for the line of thinking that receivers aren’t as tough as defenders?
That one is still a work in progress.
“He’s making that transition,” Mincy said. “He’s got to come over there and have our mind-set.”
As one of the most experienced players on Auburn’s roster, Mincy is already viewed as one of the team’s leaders. But he wants to take that a step further.
If he gets his wish, he’ll carry a special designation into each game this fall: team captain.
“But that’s all on how the team responds and how they look at (me as) an individual,” he said. “ I definitely want to be in that role and go out there and do what’s best for the team.”
And the most important goal for the team to accomplish this spring is continuity.
“Everybody really just (needs to) pick up where we left off and really (take) off,” Mincy said. “We know the expectations, we know the standard here. Going out there and getting better every day.”
The Tigers don’t want to have the 2014 campaign end the same way last year did, after all. The sting from falling to Florida State with 13 seconds remaining in the BCS championship game hasn’t left Mincy’s mind the entire offseason.
“Just going to the big show and not really getting the task done, that’s something that’s going to continue to stay with me until we get back to that point and hopefully win the whole thing,” he said.
To try to prevent that result this year, Mincy is looking to improve on his own game; this spring, that means brushing up on a new position. Last season, he played at field corner. Now, he’s slid over to boundary corner, the spot once manned by Chris Davis.
Things are about to get a bit more hectic.
“Everything happens a lot faster to the boundary,” he said. “You’re going to be involved in a lot more run support and that’s something that I like to do — I like to get my head (on) the ball.”
While Mincy’s starting job isn’t in doubt, there’s an open competition at the other spot. There, Mincy said Reed, Jonathan Jones and Kamryn Melton split reps Tuesday. Behind Mincy at the boundary corner, T.J. Davis and Michael Sherwood are battling to be his backup.
Mincy isn’t limiting himself to the defense, though. Just as Davis did last year, Mincy wants to become the Tigers’ primary punt returner.
He approached special teams coach Scott Fountain about the possibility and was given the go-ahead to prove himself.
“He’s going to give me an opportunity to go out there and win the spot," Mincy said. “So (I’ve) just got to go in and lock in.”
From what Gus Malzahn has seen, Mincy has been locked in for quite some time, as the coach has noticed the gains the senior has made both on the field and in the weight room.
“He's more confident and he had a good offseason working out,” he said “You can tell a little difference in him. I think he's really ready to step up as a leader back there."
Not that Mincy can shoulder the load by himself. With Ryan Smith gone, the Tigers lost their most vocal player in the secondary, the one willing to trash talk to get into an opponent’s head. Mincy doesn’t mind getting into verbal scuffles — saying he’d already had a back-and-forth with the highly-touted early enrollee at receiver, D’haquille Williams — and will do so whenever he deems fit.
He hopes the rest of the secondary follows suit.
“Everybody (has) got to talk now. Everybody (has) got to be able to just be out there and have fun,” he said. “That’s the whole thing — have fun and eliminate explosive plays. That’s something that we’re going to pride ourselves on this year.”