Aubserver Mailbag 86: Saturday School
This week: The QB battle, what we can really learn from practices, Desmond Tisdol, recruiting, rivalries, Bruce Pearl's guards, FIBA balls, coffee shops and Red Rocks
EDGE Derick Hall (Todd Van Emst/Auburn Athletics)
Summer is over.
OK, technically, in the Northern Hemisphere, the summer season doesn’t end until September 22. And the heat is contractually obligated to stay in Auburn until it plays LSU. Those are the rules.
But summer as we traditionally know it is over. Auburn football started fall camp last week. University classes start Tuesday. Elementary, middle and high schools around here have already started. High school football season starts in less than a week.
The first week and change of Auburn’s fall camp have allowed players to be solely focused on football. The access that media members have gotten during that time has been the best that I’ve seen since I first started covering the team regularly in 2013. That access will naturally fade this weekend, with the first scrimmage happening behind closed doors Saturday and classes starting in a few days.
Honestly, the past week has been one of the most fun ones I’ve had working in a while. I’ve had so much material to write from practices and interviews. It’s been fun actually working at the athletics complex again. The hours can get long in the preseason, but that’s welcome after a long offseason.
The return of the mailbag this week — a day later than usual, thanks to all that access we’ve gotten — has a lot to do with what we learned from the first week of fall camp. There’s also some room for basketball after a successful Israel trip, and I’ve got a few food and beverage opinions in here that are sure to spark debate.
It’s been a fun week. Thanks for being here for it. Let’s go.
Does it feel like a bad sign that Finley, Calzada, and Ashford still seem pretty interchangeable in the rotation? My sense is that for this season to be a positive one, one of the QBs will need to be better than expected — and if there's no separation yet, that seems unlikely.
Nope, because this is all by design. Let’s go back to what Harsin said about the quarterback battle right after the A-Day Game in April:
“The next step is going to be once that scrimmage happens in fall camp, we’re going to have to start making a decision,” Harsin said. “Here’s our top two guys, here’s the guys that are going to work with the No. 1 offense. Then make a final decision before we play, a few weeks out or whatever, before we play the first game.”
That first scrimmage happens Saturday night inside Jordan-Hare Stadium. Once they get done with that scrimmage and evaluate it, you might see the battle shrink from three competitors to two. But, so far, they’ve gotten fairly even reps with the first- and second-team offense. I would expect that to continue during the scrimmage.
I personally think Zach Calzada has looked the best during the times we’ve gotten to watch the quarterbacks in practice, but that’s still a percentage of what all is happening.
I would say that Robby Ashford has been the most inconsistent through the air, but he’s also been named one of the players of the day twice in the last week. Also, I think Ashford has the most to gain from a scrimmage compared to regular practices, since he can run and operate out of the pocket in more of a game-like scenario.
Don’t worry that there isn’t any clear separation yet at quarterback. The first scrimmage was always going to be the first big marker of the fall competition, and that’ll happen later tonight under the lights in JHS.
You’ve mentioned players of the day a few times on the podcast. Can you post players of the day for the first week of camp?
You have been clear you will not sell your Auburn Football practice shirt. Would you be willing to TRADE your shirt for a Chuma Okeke Rookie NFT?
I don’t have all of them — they’ve been posted on the TVs inside the athletics complex, and we haven’t been there after every single practice. I know I’m missing the Day 1 veterans practice and both of the Day 2 practices, for example. But here’s what I’ve got:
Offense: Damari Alston (Day 1 rookies), Robby Ashford, Jarquez Hunter, Tank Bigsby, Damari Alston
Defense: Morris Joseph Jr. (Day 1 rookies), Owen Pappoe, Eku Leota, Wesley Steiner, Donovan Kaufman
Playmaker: Camden Brown (Day 1 rookies), Tar’Varish Dawson Jr., Camden Brown, Camden Brown, Robby Ashford
Ball Hawk: Keionte Scott (Day 1 rookies), Jaylin Simpson, Donovan Kaufman, Cayden Bridges, A.D. Diamond
Special Teams: Barton Lester (Day 1 rookies), Anders Carlson, Wesley Steiner, Donovan Kaufman, Keionte Scott
Unit of the Day: Defensive Backs (Day 1 rookies), Specialists, Wide Receivers, Linebackers, Defensive Backs
The repeat honorees among these days are Brown, Ashford, Steiner, Kaufman and Scott. Keep an eye on those guys heading into Week 2 of camp.
And, as someone who collects physical sports cards, I’m very much against NFTs. The practice shirt ain’t going anywhere.
Does the order and grouping of players in practice sessions actually mean anything? (Team Camden Brown) Or are they just systematically rotating guys through with the first and second team to see who can play?
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