AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn set foot inside Jordan-Hare Stadium for the first time this fall Wednesday morning.
And in its first scrimmage of preseason camp — which went "about 70 plays," according to coach Gus Malzahn — there was a decided emphasis on the younger members of the Tigers. Feeling comfortable with what they know about their veterans, Malzahn said the coaching staff wanted to give others an opportunity to shine.
"You're trying to find information about the new guys. That's probably the biggest key," Malzahn said. "At the same time, you want to kind of fine-tune some things with the older guys, but we're trying to make decisions as quick as we can about all the new guys, whether they can help offensively and defensively and some on special teams, too."
The scrimmage was "run-oriented," Malzahn said, with the Tigers running the ball two out of every three plays.
Never miss a local story.
That meant the tailback trio of Peyton Barber, Roc Thomas and Kamryn Pettway saw plenty of work.
"Any time you have young backs, you give them the football in these first scrimmages and they get tackled, they get hit and you see how they respond," Malzahn said. "A lot of times, too, those guys get excited and they rush things a little bit, maybe get to the hole quicker. That's kind of the reason you want to do it early in fall camps."
Barber, a redshirt freshman, said he got "eight or nine carries." Still, he wasn't thrilled with his play, saying he would only grade it as a "B" at best.
"It was moving kind of slow at first," he said. "That's just how it is sometimes."
The Georgia native was also impressed with the true freshman duo of Thomas and Pettway.
"Those guys are definitely talented, those guys are every-down backs," Barber said. "I feel they can do it all. So I definitely feel like I have competition which makes me play better."
Even with all the attention on the ground game, those tasked with putting the ball in the air got a few chances, too. Nick Marshall and Jeremy Johnson, who sit at the top of the quarterback depth chart, were able to take most of the day off. Marshall didn't get any reps during the scrimmage while Johnson took limited snaps before ceding to Sean White and Tucker Tuberville. Malzahn said White and Tuberville were "live," meaning they were free to be tackled by defenders.
White, a true freshman, did exactly what Malzahn wanted him to do: throw the ball on time.
"We knew that when we recruited him. He's really what we ask our quarterbacks to do ... pre-snap, there's a lot to it — communications — and then you've got to think about the play, you've got to think how the defense is adjusting," the coach said. "We've been pleased with him so far. He's been able to pick up things at a pretty good rate. And just looking out there watching from behind, there wasn't a whole lot of complete busts as far as communication, as far as execution."
All in all, Malzahn believed his team's initial fall scrimmage went about as well as he could have hoped.
"I think we got some really good information from our guys, especially the young guys — who can tackle, who can do the little things," he said. "It will be good for our coaches to watch the film and everything that goes with that."