Auburn football spring practice observations, scrimmage notes: Thin at WR, defender absent
That part of the workout was kept secret. But we were able to make some observations during 40 minutes at the start of practice.
Harsin also assessed the Tigers' performance in scrimmage during a Zoom press conference afterwards. You can read his thoughts at the bottom of this story:
Thin at wide receiver
The Tigers lack experience and production at wide receiver after losing stalwarts Seth Williams, Anthony Schwartz and Eli Stove to the NFL Draft, and injuries have thinned out the young returning group early in practice.
Senior Shedrick Jackson, sophomore Ze'Vian Capers and redshirt freshman J.J. Evans spent the open portion of practice doing conditioning off to the side with injured defensive backs Marco Domio and Zion Puckett.
Capers underwent foot surgery after suffering an injury during the Citrus Bowl. Evans hurt himself at practice Saturday. It is not clear why Jackson, the team's most experienced receiver, is sidelined.
Elijah Canion (split end), Kobe Hudson (flanker) and Ja'Varrius Johnson (slot) operated as the first-team wide receivers Thursday. Malcolm Johnson Jr. also rotated in.
No sign of T.D. Moultry
One player not spotted working with either his position group or injured players was fifth-year senior Edge T.D. Moultry. He worked with the first-team defense during Saturday's practice.
It's not clear why he was absent.
Jaren Handy took his spot on the first team opposite Derick Hall. There was also a change in Auburn's first-team defensive line, with Marquis Burks playing in place of Jeremiah Wright at defensive tackle.
Wright worked as the nose tackle with the second-team defense.
A look at the punt return competition
We got our first glimpse at some candidates to return punts after the three players who did it last season – Stove, Christian Tutt and Mark-Antony Richards – moved on.
The players who worked there Thursday were Johnson, running back Shaun Shivers and defensive back Devin Guice. Shivers averaged 16.5 yards on 11 career kick returns, but none has returned a punt at Auburn.
A player to watch is Johnson, who has hardly played in two seasons at Auburn due to injury but was dynamic with the ball in his hands at Hewitt-Trussville High.
- QB: Bo Nix
- RB: Tank Bigsby
- WR: Elijah Canion, Kobe Hudson, Ja'Varrius Johnson
- OL: LT Alec Jackson, LG Tashawn Manning, C Nick Brahms, RG Keiondre Jones, RT Brodarious Hamm
- TE/FB: A mix, depending on formation – J.J. Pegues lined up at fullback on a few plays, and Luke Deal and Tyler Fromm lined up on the end of the line in 12 personnel.
- DL: Colby Wooden, Tyrone Truesdell, Marquis Burks
- Edge: Jaren Handy, Derick Hall
- ILB: Owen Pappoe, Zakoby McClain
- CB: Roger McCreary, Jaylin Simpson
- S: Smoke Monday, Ladarius Tennison
- Nickel: Nehemiah Pritchett
Notes: The second-team edge-rushers were Caleb Johnson and Romello Height. ... The second-team corners were Kamal Hadden and Eric Reed Jr. ... Walk-on Tray Elston is working as the second-team safety next to Chris Thompson Jr. ... freshman safety Ahmari Harvey, who is limited due to injury, played nickelback on the third-team defense.
Harsin said the focus of the scrimmage was operation from the coaching staff on the sideline and coaches' booth and execution from the players on the field.
Auburn ran through first-down plays and third-down and red-zone scenarios. The offense turned the ball over a few times, including an interception (that someone other than Nix threw) and a fumble in the red zone.
"Guys were competing. Guys did play hard. Guys showed effort," Harsin said. "Now it’s about how do we clean some of the details up, and then, where are we?"
Players and coaches will go over the film Friday before taking next week off. Players will get the chance to recover and watch extra film, and coaches to assess the first two weeks of practice and come up with a plan for the second half of spring leading up to the April 17 A-Day game.
"We've got a ways to go. We've got things we know we need to work on, and that's OK," Harsin said. "As long as we take that mindset into what we have to do moving forward, then we'll have a chance to continue to get better."