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Practicing with passion

AUBURN – Auburn coaches saw plenty that needed improvement Saturday in the first full-scale scrimmage of spring practice. But they said they saw urgency and passion from the players who will be called on to defend the national championship.

Philip Lutzenkirchen snags a touchdown pass during Saturday scrimmage/Todd Van Emst photo

“We have a lot of faces you have to get used to who they are and their names,” head coach Gene Chizik said. “It’s really been enjoyable to be around this football team. We have a lot of young guys that are hungry and eager to play football for Auburn. That’s really neat to see. We are certainly looking for that kind of energy and passion from our guys.

“They are going to make mistakes from inexperience, and they have to be made up by their intensity and how fast they play.”

Offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn and defensive coordinator Ted Roof agreed they are glad the first game of the 2011 season is five months away.

“You are never satisfied, but at the same time, to install what we’ve installed and all the different things, I know we’ve gotten better every day,” Roof said. “That’s the goal, and I know that’s happened.”

Getting physical on the line of scrimmage, Roof said, is pivotal if the Tigers are to be a factor in the SEC next season. The physical nature of last season’s offensive and defensive lines, he said, contributed significantly to the Tigers’ second-half dominance.

“In this league, if you aren’t physical, you can’t survive,” Roof said. “If your front isn’t physical, you’re not going to be a physical football team. There is a premium on that. The only way to do it is keep grinding. To be tough, you have to live tough.”

On the other side of the ball, replacing four offensive linemen is a key.

“Right now, it’s a little ugly at times,” Malzahn said. “We are trying to rotate young guys in there to give them a chance, to figure out who our top five are. We are moving some people around to learn two positions, which is extremely hard in our offense. After this scrimmage we hopefully can identify who our top five are. I don’t know if that will happen or not, but that’s our goal.”

The first team going into the scrimmage included senior Brandon Mosley at left tackle, senior Jared Cooper at left guard, sophomore Blake Burgess at center, junior John Sullen at right guard and senior A.J. Greene at right tackle.

Malzahn said the offense has made progress, but he wants more.

“My expectations are real high,” Malzahn said. “We are rotating so many guys, and it’s not pretty right now. We’re not where we want to be. I’m getting a little impatient. I’d like to be ahead of where we are. Rotating so many guys, it’s hard to get any continuity.”

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