Saturday's Practice A Good One For Tigers

Coach Tommy Tuberville and defensive back Donnay Young talk about the progress the Tigers are making this season.

Auburn, Ala.--One of the big question marks heading into the 2003 Auburn football season was at free safety where Travaris Robinson has gone on to try to earn his way into the NFL, leaving a void at the position. While there are several candidates, the leader at the moment appears to be junior Donnay Young, who had an outstanding practice Saturday and has looked good all week.

A part-time starter his freshman season, Young played behind Robinson last season and rarely got into the action. Still, the experience he's picked up in two seasons gives him a leg up on competitors Will Herring, Karibi Dede and Andrew Letts for the position. Young says that he hopes to solidify his position before Auburn begins working on the game plan for USC.

To do that he'll have to continue to not only be a playmaker on defense, but also a quarterback in the secondary. In Coach Gene Chizik's defense the free safety controls much of the action behind the front seven. Young says that the unit is becoming more comfortable each day and trying to come together to get the job done.

"We're coming along real well," Young says. "We're just trying to go out there and make plays every day and get better every day. We're young at safety and don't have that much experience. We just have to make plays and get better every day."

Donnay Young

In the final practice before putting on full pads, the Tigers had their longest workout of the preseason on Saturday morning with several hundred fans on hand along with almost a dozen prospects. Spending a great deal of time on situations such as short yardage and special teams, Coach Tommy Tuberville said this was a practice his team can build on.

"This was a good practice," Tuberville said. "We had a lot of enthusiasm and guys giving a lot of effort, but making a lot of mistakes. If we keep practicing like this we've got a chance, we just need to keep everybody out to practice as much as we can. We've had a few bumps and bruises and some guys have missed practice."

Among the players absent from practice on Saturday were fullback Brandon Johnson, who has a virus and is expected back early next week, and linebacker Dontarrious Thomas. Slowed by a slightly strained hamstring, Thomas will probably be out until late next week to make sure he's full speed before returning. Tight end Anthony Mix left practice early after hitting his head on a metal sled in a blocking drill. He's expected back to practice as early as Sunday.

With Thomas out of the practice, Karlos Dansby moved inside to middle linebacker just to get some work in at the position like he did in the spring. That left the outside spots to Derrick Graves and Travis Williams with the first team while Mayo Sowell worked at all three positions. Tuberville said Sowell's flexability should be a big plus for the Tigers this season because of his knowledge of all three linebacker spots.

Brandon Jacobs runs for yardage on Saturday.

Once again, Coach Eddie Gran put his special teams units through the grinder with punt protection the name of the game on Saturday. With a scout team of players designed to do nothing but rush the punter, both Michael Gibson and Kody Bliss punted the ball well with Gibson again the more consistent of the two. In field goals John Vaughn struggled for the second day in a row, hitting the ball solid but missing to the right because of alignment. Philip Yost had a solid day, missing just one field goal in live drills.

"It was good today," Tuberville said. "The guys knew they were going to have the afternoon off basically because of fan day. They are excited about that. We're looking forward to tomorrow afternoon's full pad practice."

The Tigers will take the field at approximately 4:30 Sunday afternoon with full pads on for the first time this fall. Monday begins two-a-days with a short morning session in shorts and shoulder pads, followed by a physical afternoon session.

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