Auburn played its second game of the preseason on Friday afternoon at Jordan-Hare Stadium, less than a week from the team’s first game last Saturday.
It was important practice for Auburn, not only because it seems to come down to a starting quarterback between TJ Finley, Zach Calzada and Robby Ashford, but because Bryan Harsin and his staff begin to close out a two-deep chart with the season. first game against Mercer almost two weeks away.
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After Friday’s practice, Auburn offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau and defensive coordinator Jeff Schmedding met with the media to discuss what happened at Jordan-Hare Stadium and the Tigers’ overall progress during the first two weeks of preseason practices. Here’s a quick summary of their comments.
JEFF SCHMEDDING, defensive coordinator
— The defense’s emphasis was an overall clean operation, from the sideline to the play and play execution.
— On DT Jayson Jones: “When you talk to Jayson and watch him play, he really cares about what he’s doing.” He believes “the best is yet to come” for the Oregon transfer.
— On LB Eugene Asante: “He brings good energy. He has very good speed.” He is picking things up nicely after wasting time in the spring.
— On Donovan Kaufman: Versatility is the buzzword. He also called him a “movie junkie” who can play multiple positions.
— On the safety match: “You saw it from the beginning, there’s a different vibe to the way they attack each rep.”
— On Cayden Bridges at safety: “He’s done a great job for us, no question about it.”
— He wants to watch a movie, but thinks he’s going to “see some movement in the deep two” after today. “We are still a work in progress in some places.”
— Austin Ausberry had an interception in a “clutch” situation. Cayden Bridges also had a great day at safety. Eku Leota “continues to trouble the offense,” and LB Cam Riley sacked.
— He calls being an SEC DC “the opportunity of a lifetime.”
— On Wesley Steiner: “He’s done a good job of not taking any steps back… Wesley is just taking it one step at a time every day.”
— On depth along the defensive line: Those starters have done a good job and taken “a big step” in the last few days. He mentions Memphis trade Morris Joseph Jr. and Jeffrey M’ba as guys in that second wave who have come up this preseason.
— Facing three different quarterbacks this offseason has allowed the defense to work on a few different styles in practice. The defense needs to know when Robby Ashford is there because, it’s no secret, he “he can really run.”
— Cam Riley and Wesley Steiner had “a great opportunity” in the spring to get first-team reps with Owen Pappoe at the time. “I think that helped them get the fall camp going.”
— “Not many guys at this level know how to prepare like Owen Pappoe does.”
— Memphis transfer Morris Joseph Jr. has a versatile skill set in which he can play different positions along the defensive line.
— Iowa State Security transfer Craig McDonald has done well to get up to speed with the language of the Auburn system.
— On rookie LB Robert Woodyward: He’s making progress. He had a TFL in the opener, which Schmedding said could be a “spark” for the freshman.
— DJ James and Keionte Scott come around the corner behind Jaylin Simpson and Nehemiah Pritchett. “Everyone understands that they are competing.”
ERIC KIESAU, offensive coordinator
— Kiesau says QB competition is a tough call right now. He wants to review today’s movie to get a better idea of things heading into the weekend.
— Robby Ashford had to learn to take some of the power out of his passes early on. He was throwing the ball hard like a baseball, which can make it hard to catch.
— On how he records quarterbacks and watches them: “He went into a little more detail on everything we’re doing.” He says that they have a grading system that they use every day and every period. Not only in team periods, but also in individual work. They did it that way because they knew they had a tougher battle than a returning starter last year.
— Wide receivers are still making progress, but “they’re really making progress.” The new faces in that room are getting more comfortable. He says the WR group could be a “crafty bunch” this season.
— Describes Auburn’s offense as a pro-style system with no rally elements.
— All three quarterbacks took reps from the first team in practice today, he says. “I need to see the movie to really evaluate it.” He says his feeling is that TJ Finley had very good control and accuracy. Robby Ashford was eye-catching with his mobility, but he’s “starting to play quarterback,” which is important. Zach Calzada, “We have to keep carrying it.” Consistency is the most important thing for Calzada.
— Says TJ Finley didn’t flinch when they brought in three quarterbacks this offseason. It wasn’t until he saw someone else take reps from the first team that he really clicked. Wake up call for him.
— On Zach Calzada, he says he thinks he wanted to jump as fast after the injury, but it has taken him a bit of acclimatization. “We’re still working with him, to be honest with you.” He calls it a “work in progress” for him and all the other QBs.
— Offensive line “is a good unit right now,” but they need to continue to build on that. The game of the offensive line will dictate whether Auburn wins or loses games.
— Tank Bigsby didn’t participate in today’s scrimmage, not for any dubious reason, but they wanted to get the other running back representatives. He wanted to take advantage of Damari Alston’s strong first scrimmage.
— Tate Johnson and Brandon Council rotated into the center today.
Tom Green is an Auburn Beat reporter for the Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter @Tomas_Verde.