The Auburn football Tigers will move into sort of a pre-preseason practice schedule this week when Gus Malzahn and his staff can begin coaching hour-per-day, non-contact walk-through workouts on the field with their players.
The first one of those sessions is scheduled for Friday. Unless there is a change in the schedule, full preseason practices will start Aug. 5 for the Tigers, who have been on campus the past two months doing strength and conditioning drills with Coach Ryan Russell and his staff.
Malzahn says his team can’t afford to worry about “what-ifs” regarding the schedule changes for the 2020 season. The head coach of the Tigers dating back to the 2013 season, he says the best thing to do is stay focused on improving on a daily and weekly basis until details on the upcoming season are finalized.
On the subject of this season, Gary Stokan, the president and chief executive officer of the Peach Bowl and college football’s 2020 Kickoff Series, says he is hopeful the Auburn vs. North Carolina game will be played as planned.
The Tigers are scheduled to play in the third and final matchup of this year’s series at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta vs. the Tar Heels. West Virginia is scheduled to take on Florida State on Saturday, Sept. 5 and two days later Virginia is scheduled to play Georgia.
“We are still planning on playing the game on Sept. 12th,” Stokan says of the Tigers vs. Tar Heels matchup. “Everything is on schedule. We are just waiting for the end of July to see what the decisions of the SEC, ACC and Big 12 are with respect to going to conference-only games or whether they will play conference plus-one (game) or conference plus-two (games).”
Stokan notes that the plan for the Kickoff Series is to have fans at the games. “We are modeling 25 percent, 30 percent and 50 percent (capacity),” he says. “That decision will be made by the medical people that we take direction from. As with everything right now, we are doing a lot of different scenarios on a lot of different things.”
From the notebook:
• Mark-Anthony Richards, who redshirted last fall as a freshman while rehabbing from a knee injury, is full speed again and is expected to compete for playing time at running back and as a returner.
• Running back Malik Miller, who graduated this year, has decided not to return as a fifth-year senior. Miller was a solid performer for the Tigers, but never regained all of his quickness after suffering a knee injury in high school and another one while at Auburn.
• All six of Bruce Pearl’s scholarship freshmen on the 2019-20 team plus his two walk-ons in the class have been named to the SEC’s First-Year SEC Academic Honor Roll. The group includes Babatunde “Stretch’ Akingbola, Devan Cambridge, Allen Flanigan, Tyrell “Turbo”’ Jones, Isaac Okoro and Jaylin Williams along with walk-ons Lior Berman and Chandler Leopard.
• One of the top softball players in AU history has been named a full-time assistant coach for Mickey Dean’s Tigers. Emily Carosone, who has worked for AU as a graduate assistant coach and a volunteer assistant while also playing the sport professionally, replaces Ruby Rojas, who returned to California to be closer to her family.
Mark Murphy is the editor of Inside the Auburn Tigers magazine and newsletter