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March 29, 2013- -
AUBURN | Robenson Therezie's plan to split time between boundary cornerback and offensive speed back may or may not come to fruition.
The rising junior said Wednesday that he'd spoken with coach Gus Malzahn about the possibility of taking over for Onterio McCalebb on offense. Still, offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee said Friday morning that any talk about Therezie handling a role on his side of the ball is premature at best.
"I remember when we recruited him that he could do special things with the ball in his hands," Lashlee said. "Right now, he's 100 percent defense. Any time we can get a guy who can run with the ball in his hands, it'll be fun. If we get that opportunity -- he would be a guy who can fit that role. Hopefully he steps up and helps us on defense."
Therezie may be uniquely qualified to do that.
Defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson said Friday that he places unusual physical expectations upon his boundary-side defensive backs. They're deployed to that position because of upgraded size -- Therezie is listed at 202 pounds -- and the ability to make meaningful contributions against the run.
Against offensive sets that don't staff the boundary side of the formation, Johnson likes to have his boundary-side guys cheat forward and create chaos. Therezie's size-to-speed ratio is unmatched on the Tigers' roster, which makes him a valuable defensive asset.
THREE FOR TWO: Johnson said Friday that three players are rotating with the first group at linebacker.
Jake Holland and Cassanova McKinzy aren't surprises considering both players started last season. Rising sophomore Kris Frost, who played sparingly last season, also is in contention for a starting spot. That's something of a surprise given that Frost played sparingly in 2012.
"I've been really impressed. He talks. Even when he makes a mistake, he's confident," Johnson said. "I don't mean it in jest. Coach (Gene) Stallings used to have a saying, 'I can fix a wrong decision, but I can't do anything with no decision.' And that's the thing -- a Mike linebacker's got to talk. He's sitting up front, he's calling some of the blitzes that we do at the line of scrimmage. He's got to make a decision. (Frost) will pull it real quick; he'll pull that trigger real quick and get us going."
BACK FOR MORE: Rising senior Harris Gaston, who earned his bachelor's degree three months ago, is back on the team after a two-season hiatus.
He's currently a walk-on providing additional depth at linebacker during spring drills. Malzahn said Gaston has an opportunity to climb into contention for playing time with a good month of work.
"He's in the drills," Malzahn said. "Every job's open and it doesn't make any difference to us if it's a freshman, a senior or a walk-on. We're going to play the best people. He's like the rest of them -- he'll have a chance to compete."
That's not a bad thing.
He said both players are performing at a satisfactory level so far.
"There's probably a little more recall that things maybe come back to (Frazier) a little quicker, but Jonathan is such a quick study, a hard worker and both of those guys have been great in meetings," Lashlee said. "They've been taking books home, doing extra work. They come prepared every day. I don't feel like either one of these first two days they've shown up not ready to go."
THE NEXT PHASE: After two days in helmets and shorts, Auburn will suit up in pads for a Saturday workout inside Jordan-Hare Stadium.
That's when coaches can start making real assessments.
"That's what football's about," Malzahn said. "You can do a lot of teaching, alignments and techniques with just helmets only but until you get the pads on, that's where you can really judge a player a lot better than helmets only. A lot of guys look great in helmets and not great in pads and vice versa."