Going into the 15 days of spring workouts, one of the big questions on offense was who would emerge as the backup to returning starter Jason Campbell. Although he didn't have impressive numbers during the A-Day game, redshirt freshman Josh Sullivan's overall spring performance puts him number two on the depth chart going into the preseason.
"I think that I am throwing OK," Sullivan says. "I have been working a lot on my drops and my timing. That is one thing Coach Ensminger has been stressing--getting good drops and getting the ball out on time. I have all summer to work on that. Hopefully, by next season I will be better at that."
Sullivan says he enjoyed playing in front of an A-Day crowd announced at 38,016. "I think that sets the tone of what it is going to be like this fall," he notes. "I understand it is only about half of what will be out there in the game, but the atmosphere and the whole air is different. I don't think it had a too much effect on my play. We were a little sloppy out there and I think we have room to improve."
Campbell says he saw Sullivan improve throughout the spring as well as the entire offense. "Overall, I thought we had a great spring and I saw a lot of positive signs of what kind of team we can be if we work hard and put everything together," the redshirt junior adds.
Ensminger agrees with Campbell. "I thought it was a very productive spring," the quarterback coach says. "I don't put a lot of stock in spring games because a lot of people aren't in there and the timing is usually off because of the new players and all of that, but with the exception of our scrimmage last week (Wednesday) that I was very disappointed with I will take it any day.
"You are always looking for perfection and you would love to say you had 15 good practices out of 15, but I feel like as quarterbacks we had 14 out of 15."
Campbell, who played only in the first half, had the most passing yardage. He hit 14-23 passes for 155 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He and Sullivan both could have put up bigger numbers if the receivers did a better job of catching the football, particularly in the first half that was plagued by several rain showers. Sullivan hit 6-19 passes for 78 yards and was picked off twice. One of those was a tough break for the QB, whose pass to tight end Anthony Mix bounced off the receiver, enabling safety Will Herring to make an interception and nice return.
Brandon Cox and Wesley Hill played in the second half. Cox was 4-5 for 59 yards. Hill completed one of his three passes for eight yards and was picked off by linebacker Travis Williams on a short pass over the middle.
"I thought Brandon Cox competed very well and Josh Sullivan had a good day," Ensminger says. "He was very close on a lot of big plays. Those are the type of plays we have to make during a ball game. I think we were just a little bit off as far as our timing on our throws, but we were close."
One of the A-Day traditions is honoring outstanding players from the previous season. Free safety Travaris Robinson won the Shug Jordan Award as the most outstanding senior on the 2002 team. Mark Brown, a senior linebacker last season, won the Mike Kolen Award as the leading tackler with 97. The Zeke Smith Award, which goes to the Defensive Player of the Year, was won by linebacker Karlos Dansby, who returns this season as a senior.
Center Ben Nowland, a senior last fall, picked up the Ken Rice Award, which goes to the team's top blocker. Ronnie Brown, who opened his sophomore season as a backup tailback, won the Pat Sullivan Award as the team's top offensive performer.
Spring training 2003 award winners include fullback Brandon Johnson and defensive end Reggie Torbor, who won the Eddie Welch Attitude and Effort Award. Campbell and Dansby won the Pat Dye Leadership Award. Wide receiver Ben Obomanu was named the Most Improved Offensive Skill Player. Offensive tackle/guard Jonathan Palmer was named the Most Improved Offensive Lineman. Bret Eddins, who will be a junior defensive end this season, was named the Most Improved Defensive Lineman. Linebacker Travis Williams, who moved up the depth chart to first string status and was the spring game defensive MVP, won the most Improved Linebacker/Defensive Back Award. Linebacker Dontarrious Thomas won the Off-Season Conditioning Award.
Tiger Ticket Extra: The replay of the A-Day game will be televised on April 11 at 11:30 a.m. CDT and April 13th at 8 p.m. on Comcast...Varsity players report for preseason practice on August 5th in preparation for the August 30th season opener vs. Southern Cal at Jordan-Hare Stadium.