For the quarterbacks, that meant working on very specific things such as reading defenses and making the proper throw. Since moving into the job of Quarterback Coach this past spring, Steve Ensminger has preached to his students some very basic fundamentals, reinforcing what Coach Bobby Petrino built last season. Now almost one week into fall practice, he said he likes what he has seen to this point of his charges.
"I've been very pleased with them, I really have," Ensminger said. "I think we've improved every day. We've limited our turnovers. When we get them down to zero I'll be very pleased. I think percentage-wise we know where we're going with the football. If you noticed yesterday and today at practice, we're still emphasizing throwing the ball downfield and we're getting better at it."
Junior Jason Campbell has been very impressive this fall throwing the ball downfield and making decisions at the line.
One of the main points of emphasis this fall has been getting rid of the football on time. That is designed not only to have a better chance of completing the pass, but to also lessen the chances of a sack. The job has become tougher in recent days with veteran offensive linemen like Monreko Crittenden (heat) and Taylor Bourgeois (sore shoulder) missing practice. With young guys filling the void, Ensminger said it has forced the coaching staff to adjust, something that could be very beneficial in the long run.
"It's tough," Ensminger said. "You get into a comfort zone and all of the sudden there is two or three new ones up there. I think that's our job as a coaching staff, to simplify it with our young guys in there or put our quarterbacks in a better situation by not having to sit in the pocket too long."
After getting fluids back in his body following Saturday's practice when he lost 15 pounds, Crittenden was working with the first team offensive line Monday morning. Bourgeois was missing from the morning workout, but could return as soon as the afternoon workout. Fullback Brandon Johnson also returned to Monday's practice and appeared to be back to full speed after missing several days with a virus. Tight end Anthony Mix was riding a bike on the side and should be returning to practice as early as Tuesday.
Defensively Dontarrious Thomas took part in some of the learning phase of Monday's practice, but still appeared a little tight and continued to rehab his hamstring. He should return to full speed work sometime later in the week. Defensive tackle Josh Thompson was wearing a boot on his left foot after straining a muscle in his arch. He should be back later in the week as well. There is no word yet on defensive end Kyle Derozan, who left Sunday's practice with a knee injury. The same is true of linebacker Kevis Burnam, who had an MRI Sunday just to make sure there was no damage to his knee. He had very little pain, but the doctors wanted to take all precautions.
Practicing for just over an hour on a muggy Auburn morning, the Tigers stayed exclusively in offensive and defensive units, working on short yardage, goal line and special situations. Special attention was given on offense to the passing game, with quarterbacks Jason Campbell, Josh Sullivan and Brandon Cox getting the bulk of the reps in practice.
The Tigers hit the field running in the afternoon with a full pad practice scheduled to begin at 4:30 on the intramural field. It will be open to the public.