AUBURN – The fifth day of spring practice Wednesday was the most physically demanding yet for Auburn football players. They spent the last eight periods – approximately 40 minutes – in full-speed, full-contact 11-on-11 work.
Running back Cameron ARtis-Payne takes on defense/Todd Van Emst photo
“Definitely,” tight end C.J. Uzomah said when asked if it was the most physical practice of the spring. “The last half of the practice was just eight periods of scrimmaging. We were getting after it.”
First-year Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said players are pushing players harder each day.
“We are being very physical,” Malzahn said. “We are straining their bodies physically. We are getting them out of their comfort zone. A lot of times when you do that, you find out a whole lot of information.”
Chris Landrum came to Auburn in 2011 to play linebacker, but when he was asked to move to fullback as a redshirt freshman last season, he readily agreed.
“I wasn't disappointed,” Landrum said. “They asked me. If there was any way I could help the team, I'd help the team.”
After playing most of last season on special teams, Landrum is back at linebacker. His position coach, defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson, recruited him at South Carolina.
“Coach Johnson is a really good teacher,” Landrum said. “When he says it, he puts it in a way we can get it and understand it. It comes real easy coming from him.”
The linebacker rotation has not changed since the start of spring practice. On the first team, senior Jake Holland is working at both Mike and Will. Sophomore Cassanova McKinzy is working at Will only and sophomore Kris Frost at Mike only.
Junior wide receiver Jaylon Denson has played in 24 games the past two seasons and has caught one pass. He says he’s working to be a more significant part of the offense.
“I am looking forward to it,” Denson said. “I’m working on being more accountable so I can catch more balls this year.”
What does being accountable mean? “It means,” Denson said, “being somebody the guy next to you can count on to do your job.”
“There has been pandemonium in the sense of us lining up fast,” Uzomah said. “We don’t have many major busts, but when it comes to hurrying it up and getting that pace right, the quarterbacks are in everybody’s ear telling us to hurry up, pick up the tempo and keep pressuring the defense. That’s what we’re going to have to do.”
Uzomah knew what to expect when Malzahn was named head coach. He was a freshman in 2011, Malzahn’s final season as Auburn’s offensive coordinator. Uzomah said it didn’t take him and his teammates long to move forward after Malzahn was named to replace Gene Chizik.
“Not long at all,” Uzomah said. “Right after that season was over, right after they announced Coach Malzahn and we got Coach Lashlee, we started getting ready for that up-tempo offense again. We kind of pushed everything aside from last year and started focusing on what is coming up.”