What OC Eric Kiesau, DC Jeff Schmedding said about Auburn’s 2nd scrimmage

Auburn held its second scrimmage of the preseason Friday afternoon at Jordan-Hare Stadium, less than a week removed from the team’s first scrimmage last Saturday.

It was an important practice for Auburn, not just as it looks to narrow in on a starting quarterback among TJ Finley, Zach Calzada and Robby Ashford, but as Bryan Harsin and his staff begin to lock in a two-deep depth chart with the season opener against Mercer almost two weeks away.

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After Friday’s scrimmage, Auburn offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau and defensive coordinator Jeff Schmeddingmet with the media to discuss what transpired at Jordan-Hare Stadium and the Tigers’ overall progress through the first two weeks of preseason practices. Here’s a quick recap of their remarks.

JEFF SCHMEDDING, defensive coordinator

— The emphasis for the defense was overall clean operation, from the sideline through the play-call and execution of plays.

— On DT Jayson Jones: “When you speak with Jayson and you watch him play, he really, really cares about what he’s doing.” Believes “the best is yet to come” for the Oregon transfer.

— On LB Eugene Asante: “He brings good energy. He’s got really good speed.” He’s picking things up well after missing time in the spring.

— On Donovan Kaufman: Versatility is the buzzword. Also called him a “film junky” who can play multiple positions.

— On the safety competition: “You saw it right off the bat, there’s a different vibe with how they’re attacking each rep.”

— On Cayden Bridges at safety: “He’s done a great job for us, there’s no doubt.”

— Wants to watch film, but he believes he’s going to “see some movement in the two-deep” after today. “We’re still a work in progress in some spots.”

— Austin Ausberry had an interception in a “clutch” situation. Cayden Bridges also had a big day at safety. Eku Leota “continues to give the offense problems,” and LB Cam Riley had a sack.

— He calls being an SEC DC “the opportunity of a lifetime.”

— On Wesley Steiner: “He’s done a nice job of really not taking any steps back…. Wesley is just taking it step by step each and every day.”

— On depth along the defensive line: Those starters have done a nice job and taken “a big stride” in recent days. Mentions Memphis transfer Morris Joseph Jr. and Jeffrey M’ba as guys in that second wave who have emerged this preseason.

— Facing three different QBs this preseason has allowed the defense to work on some different styles in practice. Defense has to be aware when Robby Ashford is in there because, it’s no secret, he “can really run.”

— Cam Riley and Wesley Steiner had “a great opportunity” in the spring to get first-team reps with Owen Pappoe out then. “I think that helped them kind of jump-start fall camp.”

— “There’s not a lot of guys at this level who know how to prepare like Owen Pappoe does.”

— Memphis transfer Morris Joseph Jr. has a versatile skillset where he can play a few different positions along the defensive line.

— Iowa State safety transfer Craig McDonald has done well in catching up to the language of Auburn’s system.

— On freshman LB Robert Woodyward: He’s progressing. Had a TFL in the first scrimmage, which Schmedding said could be a “spark” for the freshman.

— DJ James and Keionte Scott are both coming along at corner behind Jaylin Simpson and Nehemiah Pritchett. “They all understand they’re competing.”

ERIC KIESAU, offensive coordinator

— Kiesau calls the QB competition a tough call right now. Wants to review today’s film to get a better sense of things heading into the weekend.

— Robby Ashford had to learn to take some zip off his passes early on. He was throwing the ball hard like a baseball, which can make it difficult to catch.

— On how he’s charting QBs and watching them: “It got a little more in detail in everything we’re doing.” Says they have a grading system they use every day and every period. Not just in team periods, but in individual work too. They did it that way because they knew they had a tougher battle than a returning starter last year

— The wide receivers are still progressing, but they’re “really coming along.” New faces in that room are getting more comfortable. Says the WR group could be a “sneaky group” this season.

— Describes Auburn offense as a pro-style system with no-huddle elements to it.

— All three QBs took first-team reps in the scrimmage today, he says. “I need to watch the film to really evaluate it.” Says his feeling is that TJ Finley had really good command and precision. Robby Ashford was flashy with his mobility but is “starting to play the quarterback position,” which is important. Zach Calzada, “we need to keep bringing him along.” Consistency is the biggest thing for Calzada.

— Says TJ Finley didn’t bat an eye when they brought in three QBs this offseason. It wasn’t until he saw someone else take first-team reps that it really clicked. Wake-up call for him.

— On Zach Calzada, he says he thinks he wanted to jump in so fast after the injury, but it has taken some acclimation. “We’re still working through it 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 keep building on that. The offensive line play will dictate whether Auburn wins or loses games.

— Tank Bigsby did not participate in the scrimmage today, not for any dubious reason, but they wanted to get the other running backs reps. Wanted to build off Damari Alston’s strong first scrimmage.

— Tate Johnson and Brandon Council rotated at center today.

Tom Green is an Auburn beat reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter @Tomas_Verde.

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