AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn wasted no time ramping up the intensity at its first practice following a 10-day spring break.
At the end of a workout that lasted over two hours, the stakes were already higher.
Gus Malzahn’s team will have its first scrimmage of the spring on Saturday morning in Jordan-Hare Stadium. While the head coach has said he doesn’t anticipate naming starters or solidifying positions in the days leading up to the A-Day game, he knows what he’s looking for through the six remaining practices.
“I think it’s more of just from an evaluation standpoint of who can tackle? Who can protect the football? Who can break a tackle? Who can make a play when it’s a scrimmage-type situation?” Malzahn said. “Like I said before, you have situational things in spring and you’re evaluating, you’re rotating a bunch of guys and in the scrimmage, that’s when it gets real football. A lot of times guys react differently in those situations. It’s just more of a big-picture standpoint, being the first scrimmage.”
Malzahn has key returners back on both sides of the ball, but weekend’s bigger stage will offer a chance for several players to show the impact they can potentially have this fall.
And it doesn’t matter if players have experienced SEC football or just arrived on the Plains as early enrollee — Malzahn is paying attention to how much improvement he sees.
“And not just the young guys, seeing who can possibly help, but even those older guys,” Malzahn said. “The thing that we asked our guys, we challenged our guys that are returning starters – take that next step, take that next step to be an impact player. Then of course we challenged our young guys and a handful of young guys that we feel like after five practices we’ve kind of figured out man those guys have a chance to help to help us, they need to take that next step.”
Before spring break Auburn’s coaching staff spent time implementing fundamentals and teaching. The second half of spring started with a lot of review. Now that players have had time to soak up new information and go through drills, Malzahn is eager to see what his staff discovers over the weekend.
“So it’s kind of all of the above but from a coach’s standpoint you really look forward to those type of spring scrimmages,” Malzahn said. “You learn a whole lot about the team.”