War Eagle Extra

Auburn's offensive wins A-Day, boosts outlook

AUBURN, Ala. — With an odd mix of backups and walk-ons making up Auburn’s defense Saturday at A-Day, the offense finally had its day in the sun this spring.

The Tigers’ offense cruised to a lopsided yet somewhat misleading 57-31 victory before an announced crowd of 45,381 at Jordan-Hare Stadium. The offense rolled up 501 yards and produced several highlight-worthy plays against the second- and third-team defenses at the annual spring scrimmage.

“I know the defense is banged up a little bit, and they didn’t have all their guys, so they weren’t playing at full capacity,” junior quarterback Neil Caudle said, “but it’s a big confidence booster for us to be out there and put up 50 points.”

While fans wanting to see Auburn’s first-team units square off didn’t get their wish, they were treated to plenty of big plays.

Running back Ben Tate, the game’s offensive Most Valuable Player, scored the first of his two touchdowns on the opening drive, going for 46 yards up the middle. Wideout Terrell Zachery and running back Onterio McCalebb barely were touched on 70-yard touchdown runs.

They were positive signs for an Auburn offense in need of playmakers, even though they didn’t come against a first-team defense that from all accounts had controlled the first few scrimmages of the spring.

In all, the offense had six plays that went for 30 or more yards, four of which went for touchdowns.

“It doesn’t matter who you go against,” Tate said. “It’s all a matter of executing and doing the right things. That’s what we came out and did today.”

The scrimmage didn’t clarify a quarterback competition between Caudle and junior Kodi Burns that will continue through the summer and into two-a-days.

“Both guys right now have made strides since the beginning of spring practice,” coach Gene Chizik said. “Both of them did some nice things today. We’re looking for guys to be able to move the football team and not turn the ball over and just be great managers of our offense. For the most part, that happened today.”

Caudle, who was sidelined Thursday after a hard hit, showed no ill-effects Saturday. He was 11-for-16 for 161 yards and two touchdowns: a 4-yarder to Mario Fannin in the third quarter and a 34-yarder to Darvin Adams in the fourth.

Burns, who started the final six games last season, had modest passing stats (3-for-8, 48 yards) but led the team to touchdowns on his first three drives with the first-team offense.

“We were scoring so quick, that’s just kind of the way things worked out,” he said of his stats. “I’m not upset about it at all. It just worked out that way. That’s good. We scored pretty quick. It keeps the ball out of my hands and gets it to the playmakers.”

The two enter the summer neck-and-neck for the starting job as the only two healthy scholarship quarterbacks on the roster. Senior Chris Todd still is sidelined following offseason shoulder surgery, and redshirt freshman Barrett Trotter is out of the conversation after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during Thursday’s practice.

“We’re not ready to make any decisions right now,” offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn said. “When we get to fall camp, we’ll start that thing going. … We’ll have two quarterbacks primarily working on timing with receivers (this summer), and that’s what we need. We’ll work extremely hard in that area, and we should improve.”

Resolution wasn’t the team’s primary goal, Chizik said.

“The thing that we were trying to get out of this day was make sure that everybody had fun today, make sure that we got everybody in the game,” he said. “The bottom line is, I think the players did that.”