What to watch for as Auburn puts on the pads for the first time
The pads go on today at Auburn. Players take their offseason condition, film study, playbook knowledge and experience from the first four days of practice to show what they got. This is when it becomes serious. Here is what to watch for.
The New Left Side:
The injury to left guard Alex Kozan means the entire left side of the offensive line is completely different from last year. Kozan held the left side down with former left tackle Greg Robinson who declared early for draft. Right guard Chad Slade moved to Kozan’s left guard spot this week in practice and Avery Young moved to right guard. Shon Coleman has been lining up at left tackle. The development of Coleman and Slade on the left is critical to keeping Marshall and Johnson clean as well as opening holes.
Ellis Johnson is looking for the linebackers behind middle linebacker Cassanova McKinzy and weak side linebacker Kris Frost to step up. Johnson said the competition behind the two juniors was wide open, calling it a “mad scramble” to figure out who it will be. A-Day Defensive MVP Kenny Flowers could be the next man up behind McKinzy. Converted safety Khari Harding, Anthony Swain and top recruit Tre Williams need to make an impression. JaViere Mitchell and Cameron Toney need to show they can fill in for Frost when needed.
Back in the Saddle:
Three-year starters Jermaine Whitehead and Jonathon Mincy welcome back Josh Holsey and Justin Garrett to the secondary. Whitehead thinks Holsey will make an impact and likened him to former LSU DB Tyrann Mathieu. The group needs to gel and develop chemistry.
Finding a Go-To Target:
Nick Marshall has his favorite target: Sammie Coates. If Jeremy Johnson is going to have an active part in the offensive, he needs to establish a relationship with either tight end C.J. Uzomah or one of the receivers. A quarterback-receiver relationship might develop as the season progresses but it can start in fall camp.
Will Roc Thomas make the first impression that so many pundits think he will? He has speed and elusiveness. Will we see it when things go full speed in pads?
Offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee stressed how much he liked the size and athleticism of Kamryn Pettway on Tuesday. An impression in the next week could force Lashlee to get him on the field this season. At 239 pounds, Pettway could be a good third-down back.
Offensive lineman Braden Smith wants to play as soon as possible. One reason he chose Auburn was because Greg Robinson entered the draft early. With Kozan lost for the season, Smith can seize the opportunity.
Usually an afterthought in most cases, two redshirt freshmen replace place-kicker Cody Parkey and punter Steven Clark. Daniel Carlson was the Special Teams MVP on A-Day, connecting on a 50-yard field goal and converting 5-of-6 extra points. Jimmy Hutchinson takes over for Clark. Carlson needs to be consistent and keep returners from coming out while Hutchinson must flip the field for the defense.