A Day Of Moving And Shaking For Tigers

Coaches Terry Price and Gene Chizik talk about Auburn's preparations for the Vanderbilt Commdoroes and position changes made this week.

Auburn, Ala.--Following a month of waiting, defensive end Stanley McClover finally learned his fate on Tuesday from the NCAA and, while it wasn't the best news, he'll be able to stay in Auburn. The standout defender from Fort Lauderdale, Fla. was ruled as a partial-qualifier by the NCAA and will be allowed to attend school full time and practice with the team. He can't participate in games until next season and will have the chance to earn back his fourth season of eligibility by being on track to graduate following his senior year. Position Coach Terry Price said Tuesday it's not what he wanted, but he'll take it.

"I've been feeling bad for the kid for the last three or four weeks," Price said. "It's not fair to leave him hanging like that. At least he knows what the situation is now. He can go out there and go to class and practice football and become a better football player. He's going to be a really good football player for us here in the future. I hate that he won't have the opportunity to help us this year because he could help us this year."

Couple the news with the loss of junior defensive end Jay Ratliff for Saturday's game because of an ankle sprain and redshirt freshman Kyle Derozan bothered by a shoulder sprain and you have some potential depth problems at end this weekend. Price said they made one position move to help by bringing Dexter Murphy back to strong-side end and also a promising true freshman may be called into duty if needed against Vanderbilt.

"The good thing is we've got some guys to pull up like a Marquies Gunn," Price said. "He's a guy you would like to redshirt, but if we have to play him we'll play him this year. We're giving him some reps to try to get him ready to play.

"He's not the biggest guy out there but he plays with a strong motor. He's quick and he's done some good things during two-a-days. We'll give him a shot and see if he's ready to go."

Another loss from the 2003 signing class was a story on Tuesday as speedy wide receiver Bruce Edwards has decided to give up football to pursue his dream of playing professional baseball. Expected to redshirt this season, Edwards made the travel squad for the Georgia Tech game, but had yet to see any action.

Edwards becomes the second member of the signing class to leave the team this fall, joining defensive lineman Tony McClain. That brings the total number missing from signing day to eight with Lloyd Blevins, David Irons Jr., Kevin Williams, Kenny Williams, Rudy Taylor and Montavian Collier failing to make the grade this fall. Irons, Kevin Williams and Collier are all expected to join the Tigers in January.

Offensive linemen Monreko Crittenden and Troy Reddick work on staying low and driving during Tuesday's practice.

On the injury front safety Donnay Young is questionable for Saturday's game after being kicked in the shin during the Georgia Tech game. He still has some swelling and was having problems running on Tuesday. That prompted Coach Gene Chizik to do some juggling in the secondary as Will Herring made the move to strong safety to shore up the depth at the position.

"We're kind of rotating safeties around right now because Donnay is going to play Saturday, but he's moving a little bit slow right now," Chizik said. "He's going to be fine, but we're just kind of rotating some people in there. The safety position is interchangeable anyway.

"We made that move and we'll see how that all ends up. That's where we're at right now with that. We'll try to work Eric Brock a little bit at free safety. That's about it."

Working on fundamentals both offensively and defensively, the Tigers practiced for nearly three hours on a humid September Auburn afternoon. With the prospect of facing a much-improved Vanderbilt team this weekend, Chizik said he thought the team had a good day of practice.

"I thought today was a very good day," Chizik said. "I thought they were all focused and very intent on doing whatever it takes to practice the right way to win. I was very pleased with it today. I thought they all had great attitudes."

One of the main areas of emphasis in practice was getting better at the point of attack. For the offense line that meant working the sleds to improve drive blocking and staying low. The same is true for the tight ends, who worked with Coach Patrick Moore on staying on blocks longer and driving their feet.

Defensively the line did much of the same, practicing pass rush techniques as well as containment. That will be a big part of Saturday's game with the dangerous Jay Cutler adept at both throwing the ball downfield and running the option. Chizik said the challenge of facing Cutler will be a tough one for his defense because of his abilities as both a runner and passer.

"He has improved 110 percent since we played him last year," Chizik said. "He's come into his own. He throws the football really, really well. He's probably made his biggest strides in that area. He's got two very good receivers that he can go to. They're replacing guys from last year that are supposed to be good, but I think these guys that have come in are as good as those guys if not better. They are doing a lot of damage and throwing for a lot of yards."

The Tigers return to practice Wednesday and will have a final campus practice Thursday before heading to Nashville on Friday afternoon. Kickoff for the game is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. and can be seen on Jefferson Pilot.

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