— AUBURN, Ala. (AP) — Auburn's first practice under coach Gus Malzahn was all about speed.
The Tigers began implementing Malzahn's fast-paced offense Wednesday to open spring practice, putting players on both sides of the ball to the test.
"I told our team at the very end of practice when I called them up, the main thing is we just have to learn how to practice at the pace and the intensity and the tempo both offensively and defensively," Malzahn said. "The Xs and Os will come. Our main focus right now is learning how to practice and being able to process things by practicing them fast."
The keyword is fast. Auburn is switching from last season's pro-style system back to the no-huddle offense that helped the Tigers win the 2010 national title when Malzahn was offensive coordinator.
"It's just mind-boggling," safety Demetruce McNeal said. "From last year, you know, a slower pace, you can get the defense, make the checks. But now it's back to running around, everybody trying to get it before the offense snaps the ball. That's what we're really trying to train right now, just to get the play in, because we're still learning the defense. We don't even know the whole defense."
Receiver Quan Bray said it's a challenge physically to keep up the hectic pace but the coaches "always want us going fast."
The first practice included some position shuffling. Bray worked some at wildcat quarterback and is one of the players Malzahn and offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee are hoping will fill some of the roles played by speedy tailback Onterio McCalebb.
Defensive end LaDarius Owens is moving to linebacker, where he was recruited to play. Malzahn said Owens requested the move.
"He definitely will have a good shot at linebacker," the coach said.
The Tigers' two scholarship quarterbacks, Kiehl Frazier and Jonathan Wallace, began their bid to get a head start on three signees coming in this summer. Malzahn said he didn't spend much time watching them while making the rounds at practice.
"I was going from a big-picture standpoint more than an individual," he said. "Didn't get a chance to watch them but maybe a period and a half of individual time, but it looked like they were throwing the ball decent."
Malzahn has insisted every player is starting fresh after a season when the Tigers failed to win a Southeastern Conference game and went 3-9.
Bray thinks that means a lot to the team.
"That's a great feeling, actually, because he's not coming in holding any grudges against anybody," Bray said. "He's being a fair man and I respect him for that. I'm sure a lot of other kids respect him for doing that because why would he come in and hold grudges for people like that?"