Auburn was back on the practice field Wednesday morning for Day 5 of preseason camp. A day after a “solid” practice that Bryan Harsin described as the best display of urgency from his team, the Tigers looked to build off that and develop some consistency in their buildup to the 2022 season.
The Tigers moved to the indoor facility Wednesday morning, the first time practice has been held indoors this preseason (multiple players over the last several days have remarked on how unrelenting the August heat in Alabama is). Once again, the media was provided with a 25-minute viewing window during the early periods of practice. It was another snapshot of how things are coming along for Auburn this preseason, but again, not the entire picture.
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Here are some of AL.com’s observations from Wednesday morning, including more notes on Auburn’s quarterbacks, some special teams observations and a glimpse at the first- and second-team defenses during pace drills.
— Auburn opened the viewing period in pace drills, with Robby Ashford and Zach Calzada both getting opportunities once the media walked into the facility. Here’s a look at the units each quarterback worked with:
— RB Tank Bigsby, TE Luke Deal, WR Tar’Varish Dawson Jr. (slot), WR Malcolm Johnson Jr, WR Shedrick Jackson, LT Kilian Zierer, LG Brandon Council, C Nick Brahms, RG Kam Stutts, RT Austin Troxell.
— RB Jarquez Hunter, TE Brandon Frazier, WR Koy Moore, WR Ja’Varrius Johnson (slot), WR Camden Brown, LT Brenden Coffey, LG Jalil Irvin, C Avery Jernigan, RG Alec Jackson, RT Colby Smith.
— During one rep in the pace period, Calzada bobbled and dropped a slightly high snap. He recovered it but was sacked on the play.
— The first defensive unit during pace against the Ashford-led offense was as follows: Edge Eku Leota, DL Marcus Harris, DL Colby Wooden, Edge Derick Hall, LB Cam Riley, LB Owen Pappoe, Nickel Donovan Kaufman, CB Nehemiah Pritchett, CB Jaylin Simpson, S Zion Puckett, S Cayden Bridges.
— The second defensive group that went against Calzada’s offensive unit was: Edge Dylan Brooks, DT Jason Jones, DL Marcus Bragg, DE Morris Joseph Jr., LB Wesley Steiner, LB Jake Levant, Nickel JD Rhym, CB AD Diamond, CB DJ James, S Marquise Gilbert, S Craig McDonald.
— During Period 2, there was a brief cycle of kickers attempting extra points. Both Ben Patton and Alex McPherson drilled their attempts before heading outside.
— From Periods 2-4, Harsin was again hands on with Auburn’s quarterbacks during passing drills. Harsin handled the shotgun snaps to each quarterback while kneeling and keeping a close eye on their mechanics throughout the periods.
— TJ Finley was again the first quarterback in the rotation throughout these periods, followed by Calzada, Ashford and then Holden Geriner.
— Period 2 began near the goal line, with quarterbacks throwing fade routes to the back corner of the end zone. Finley’s first attempt, to Shedrick Jackson, was broken up on a nice play by Nehemiah Pritchett.
— Calzada’s first fade attempt was incomplete, but he connected with Dazalin Worsham for a touchdown on the second attempt.
— Ashford completed a pair of passes over the middle to Tar’Varish Dawson and Camden Brown in front of the end zone on his first reps.
— Geriner’s first two fade attempts were incomplete, including one intended for Koy Moore.
— Finley’s first attempt on a slant went for a touchdown to Omari Kelly, who continues to display solid hands. His second, intended for Jay Fair, was broken up.
— Calzada made two quality back-shoulder throws in the front corner of the end zone to Malcolm Johnson Jr. and Ja’Varrius Johnson.
— Period 3 of the passing drills for the quarterbacks had the ball spotted 25 yards out, with each quarterback cycling through 3-4 routes to various receivers. Finley went first, with passes to Shedrick Jackson and John Samuel Shenker, followed by a nice deep ball to Malcolm Johnson Jr. down the right sideline.
— Calzada rapped with Camden Brown, Tyler Fromm and Koy Moore. Finley went after him again, this time passing to Tnak Bigsby, Ze’Vian Capers, Luke Deal and Ja’Varrius Johnson.
— Ashford threw to Dazalin Worsham and then misfired on a flare out of the backfield intended for Jarquez Hunter.
— Geriner’s targets were walk-on receiver Jake Kruse, tight end Brandon Frazier, JJ Evans, and freshman running back Damari Alston.
— The second time through the drill, tight ends ran seams, running backs ran flares and wheel routes, slot receivers ran drag routes and outside receivers ran short inside routes.
— Finley looked like the most accurate quarterback throughout the viewing window Wednesday. It’s the second day in a row he has looked the best during the 25-minute snapshot reporters have been able to watch. Again, the ball just looks different coming out of Calzada’s hand; he throws a really nice ball, but he hasn’t always been the most consistent during these windows. Ashford also throws a really nice ball, but he had the most off-target passes during Wednesday’s viewing period — including a corner route in the end zone in which he overthrew Worsham, causing the receiver to crash through the exit doors of the indoor facility .
— Ashford also suffered from the most dropped passes by receivers, or so it seemed. Late in Period 4, both Jay Fair and Luke Deal dropped good-looking throws from Ashford.
— Will Friend worked in the end zone with the offensive line from Periods 2-5. I didn’t spend too much time watching the line, because I was mostly fixated on the quarterbacks, but noticed the first unit included Zierer at left tackle, Council at left guard, Brahms at center, Stutts at right guard and Troxell at right tackle .
— During Period 5, Auburn did some special teams work with kick and punt returners working outside. Harsin, like he did with the quarterbacks during the previous periods, paid close attention to this group, which included Ja’Varrius Johnson, Keionte Scott, Tar’Varish Dawson, Tank Bigsby, Koy Moore and Donovan Kaufman. The group first fielded kick returns, then Harsin had each play lie on their backs, pop up and locate the ball in the air to field punts.
— Auburn’s practice playlist today opened with Pearl Jam’s “Even Flow.” It was a rock-heavy playlist, which also included Metallica’s “Master of Puppets,” Whitesnake’s “Here I Go Again” and Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song,” among others.
— Auburn’s practice players of the day from Tuesday’s practice were Jarquez Hunter (offense), Camden Brown (playmaker), Wesley Steiner (special teams), Eku Leota (defense), Donovan Kaufman (ball hawk) and the wide receivers (unit) .
Tom Green is an Auburn beat reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter @Thomas_Verde.