"We are going to find a way to get Tre the football," said offensive coordinator Hugh Nall, expressing an opinion likely shared by the 38,016 fans who turned out at Jordan-Hare Stadium to get a sneak preview of the 2003 Tigers.
Smith, who is stronger and quicker than he was last year during an impressive freshman season, looks ready to seriously challenge co-starters Carnell "Cadillac" Williams and Ronnie Brown for the No. 1 tailback spot.
"I am pretty pleased," Smith said after the scrimmage, which was a 31-13 victory for the Blue team, which featured the number one offense and the number two defense. "Coach let me get in and get a lot of carries. Me and Brandon (Brandon Jacobs) shared most of the carries. I just thought we got better today. Overall as an offense, we did a pretty good job."
Jacobs, the highly regarded junior college transfer, was the leading rusher as he carried the ball 25 times for 119 yards, but didn't get into the end zone and didn't show the flashy moves that Smith displayed.
Tre Smith delighted the A-Day crowd with his running style.
Williams and Brown, like many of the veteran players, made only cameo appearances in the game. The Cadillac netted nine yards on five carries as he comes back from a leg injury. Brown carried the ball four times for 27 yards before watching the majority of the game from the sidelines.
Head coach Tommy Tuberville said it is a good question to have trying to figure out which of four outstanding tailbacks should be the main man. Running backs coach Eddie Gran has been smiling much of the spring and on A-Day fans got to see why. "All of us tailbacks are trying as hard as we can to make it a hard decision for him," Smith said of Gran. "We are all pushing each other. We are all making each other work harder. We are all are competing hard for the spot. We are all hoping we can play next year."
Tiger fans braved pre-game and first half rain showers to check out the action that was mostly provided by second stringers and other reserves. Most of the returning starters such as Demarco McNeil, Karlos Dansby and Dontarrious Thomas, Williams and Brown made cameo appearances or watched all the action from the sidelines. Included players held out for injuries, 10 likely starters did not see any action.
The offense played with an advantage because defensive coordinator Gene Chizik was instructed to play a base defense from start to finish with no blitzes or stunts.
"I thought we did some good things out there," Chizik said. "I thought the young safeties played well--Karibi Dede, Will Herring and Andrew Letts the walk-on. Andrew is a player we wanted to give a good look." Letts finished the game with four solo tackles and one assist. Herring, who was voted A-Day MVP by the media, had two tackles, a 21-yard interception return and he deflected a pass. Dede had two solo tackles, two assists and returned a Jason Campbell pass for the White team's only touchdown of the afternoon.
T.J. Jackson, walk-on cornerback Kevin Hobbs and middle linebacker Lemarcus Rowell tied for game-high tackle honors with seven apiece. However, the most impressive defensive player was probably Travis Williams , who was credited with six solo tackles while intercepting two passes. "If I was picking the MVP, I would have picked Travis Williams," Chizik said. "What you saw out there today was what we have been seeing from him all spring. He has really come on strong."
Travis Williams is in good shape to win a starting job this season at linebacker.
Kevis Burnam, a linebacker coming off knee surgery who did not play last season, was impressive with six tackles, including five solos, one tackle for a loss and one pass deflection.
The first team offense, which was dominated in the major scrimmage on Wednesday, scored in surprisingly rapid fashion to open the game. Tight end Anthony Mix raced down the sideline on a 35-yard scoring pass from Campbell a minute and 29 seconds into the action to cap a drive that took just four plays. Campbell started the day with a 19-yard pass to Ben Obomanu and Brown carried for 11 yards and five yards prior to the touchdown.
That ended the scoring until the second quarter when Philip Yost made a 45-yard field goal after missing on a 45-yarder in the opening period. That put the Blue up 10-0. Dede jumped on a Campbell pass and raced 24 yards for a touchdown with 7:36 to play before halftime to cut the lead to 10-7. "I thought Karibi Dede did some good things out there," Chizik said. "That was encouraging to see."
The Blue team took a 17-7 edge at halftime as Smith scored on an impressive seven-yard run with 34 seconds left in the period to cap a drive that covered 86 yards on 14 plays with Campbell at the controls. That was the final action of the day for the junior, who completed 14-23 passes with one interception for 155 yards and one touchdown. "Overall, I thought we made some progress with the offense this spring," the returning starter said.
In the second half, Josh Sullivan ran the first team offense while Brandon Cox and Wesley Hill split time running the White team offense. Sullivan didn't have one of his better days of what had been an overall strong spring. He completed just 6-19 passes for 78 ytards and was intercepted twice. Cox hit 4-5 passes for 59 yards and showed good poise in the pocket and the ability to scramble for extra time. Hill was 1-3 for eight yards and one interception. Cox will go into the preseason as the No. 3 quarterback, Tuberville says.
Steve Ensminger, the new quarterback coach, said that Cox did a good job. "He is definitely improving," the coach noted. Cox agreed, noting, "I feel like I got a lot better from the start to the finish of spring practice, but I know I still have a long way to go. I am looking forward to working hard this summer and come back stronger and ready to go."
Mix, the offensive star of Wednesday's major scrimmage, was the leading receiver with three catches for 64 yards while Silas Daniels caught three balls for 51 yards. Cooper Wallace, the No. 1 tight end, caught four passes for 35 yards and said that he and Campbell are beginning to develop a good chemistry now that he is the main man at the position with Lorenzo Diamond and Robert Johnson gone.
In the third quarter, Smith again drew cheers from the crowd as he showed his cutting ability and strength on a 13-yard TD run to make the score 24-7 in favor of the Blue.
Yost, who made three field goals and missed two, added a 46-yarder in the third quarter and a 24-yarder on the last play of the game.
The final touchdown was an eight-yard scamper by Smith for the Blue team with 7:55 to play to complete a drive of 63 yards that took seven plays.
"I think Tre Smith has made everybody aware of how good he is, but he has two guys he is going to compete with," Tuberville said. "Carnell looks good, but he still has a ways to go coming off his injury. Ronnie Brown was relentless last summer getting ready for the season and he will be again this summer. Jacobs will learn to do the same. It is really a great option to have with four capable running backs."
Smith, the star of Auburn's victory over Alabama last season, said, "I am just trying to work as hard as I can and make everybody else work as hard as they can," Smith said. "I think we got better as a team. You could tell the improvement from the first scrimmage to the following scrimmages."