Cox Makes Move In QB Race In Scrimmage One

Brandon Cox had a good day passing the football for the offense, but overall the defense held the upper hand in the first spring scrimmage for the Tigers.

Auburn, Ala.--For the defense, it was a no holds barred Saturday and for the majority of the time during Auburn's first major spring football scrimmage the defenders held the upper hand at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

However, sparked by reserve quarterback Brandon Cox, the offense came on later in the day during the scrimmage that ran 134 plays (not including kicking) and lasted almost three hours. Cox completed 9-15 passes for 175 yards and one touchdown. He nearly had a second TD on a bomb to Devin Aromashodu that covered 54 yards before the wide receiver's foot was ruled out of bounds by officials.

Neither head coach Tommy Tuberville nor new offensive coordinator Al Borges would say that Cox has moved up to number two on the depth chart yet, but it will be a surprise if that doesn't happen next week after the coaches grade and study the scrimmage video over the weekend.

"I thought Brandon Cox really showed up," Tuberville said. "He made some plays and was very accurate. We always knew that. The thing about Brandon is to continue to learn the offense and work on releasing the ball and getting it down the field a little bit quicker.

"Defensively, we looked strong at the beginning," Tuberville noted. "We didn't look very strong at the end. We didn't tackle very well, we didn't play our techniques very well so we have got a lot to pick up on.

"This was more than just a scrimmage for the defense," Tuberville said. "That was about what we run all year long. We have got everything in on defense. That allows you to do a lot of different things. Some of the younger guys made some mistakes. It went pretty good."

Defensive end Marquies Gunn had a sack and five tackles on Saturday.

Last year in the first scrimmage, the defense was not allowed to blitz, but this time the defense served noticed early on a safety blitz for a big loss by Will Herring that the defense was not playing a vanilla style on Saturday.

In contrast, quarterback Jason Campbell noted that the Tigers had about one third of the normal number of plays they would use in a scrimmage and that the offensive players were not allowed to cut block. Week two is expected to include more work on adding new plays to Borges' version of the West Coast Offense.

Tuberville said earlier in the week that the scrimmage would be a big factor in determining who will be the backup for Jason Campbell at quarterback. Kelcy Luke hit 5-13 passes for 84 yards and one TD while Campbell completed 6-12 for 52 yards with no TDs vs. the first defense while Cox and Luke played against the second and third team defenses.

"The biggest thing about a backup is knowing what to do," Tuberville said of the quarterback battle. "You can't just go out and do your own thing. What we will do is take a look at the film tonight or tomorrow and grade both of them.

"From stats, obviously (Cox) played pretty good and executed, but he might have thrown it to the wrong guy. We are going to look at that more right now than making plays...running the offense and doing the things we ask him to do. I thought that Kelcy did a good job the times he was in there. We are going to name somebody--probably Monday we will have a two-deep to three-deep at every position and we will create some competition where everybody has to fight for their way in or out."

Cox said he was encouraged by Saturday's scrimmage. "Getting out there in a game-like experience is a little different than practice," Cox said. "For me it started off slow reading the defense. The defense is moving a little faster. On my second series, I relaxed and felt comfortable back in the pocket reading the defenses and I was able to make better reads. It was good getting out there in a game-like experience."

Borges said Cox needs to improve his execution on both the running and passing game said that Luke needs work, too. "I think both of them showed some flashes of being able to play at Auburn," the QB coach said. "I think both of them showed some flashes being able to play at Jones Junior High. Overall, as long as both of them demonstrate the skill level they have got a chance. Both of them today certainly did that at times."

Borges said that he needs to study video of the session before being too specific on what areas need the most work. "My expectations were that it was a first scrimmage and there were going to be some first scrimmage problems," he noted. "That is about what happened."

Defensive coordinator Gene Chizik said the Tigers have lots of defenders who have a long way to go before they are ready for the 2004 season. However, he did see positives such as a good pass rush much of the scrimmage and good effort by a variety of players.

"I liked some of what I saw, but we have got a lot of young guys that we threw in the fire and they learned a lot of valuable lessons out there today," Chizik noted. "When our ones were in there and when we had some continuity, I thought we played well. When the young guys like (redshirt freshman cornerback) Courtney Denson were in there, we didn't play so well and got beat deep on a pass for a touchdown. We just have to continue to do better."

Saturday's practice was the sixth of 15 this spring for the Tigers, who won't be back on the practice field again until Tuesday.

"Next week we will go closer to 200 (plays)," Tuberville said of a scrimmage set for next Saturday. "We made a lot of mistakes. A lot of them were mental. We got tired as the time went on, but we want to push this group as much as we can and make them concentrate more as the scrimmage goes on.

"We threw a lot at them on offense," the head coach added. "We made a lot of mistakes. Overall, we got a little stronger offensively. We ran the ball pretty well and some new guys kind of showed up. David Irons and Kenny Irons looked like they showed up pretty good on both sides of the ball.

"It was good to see our offensive line play a little better," Tuberville said. "We looked a little bit stronger as the scrimmage went along."

One of the highlights of the scrimmage was the running of transfer tailback Kenny Irons, who showed good bursts of speed and quickness off his cuts. He led all rushers with 103 yards on 18 carries and scored two touchdowns. The transfer from South Carolina will have to redshirt this season and will compete for playing time in 2005 and 2006.

"Man, it surprised me," Tuberville said of the performance by Irons in his first Auburn scrimmage. "I knew what the kid could do. He has great vision and tremendous acceleration. That is a kid who when he gets in the hole can leave you behind. He doesn't have to break a lot of tackles."

Kenny Irons (41) can't play this season, but served notice he will be a running back to watch in 2005.

Irons is a 5-11, 191 pounder from Dacula, Ga., High. "He really showed a lot and is very tough," Tuberville said. "You can tell he is a little bit older than some of the younger guys we have got."

Kenny's older brother David, a juco transfer who will be a junior this fall, made five tackles as a second string cornerback and won praise for his play as the backup to Montae Pitts.

Other highlights and notes from the scrimmage include:

*Backup linebacker Derrick Graves suffered a knee sprain. Tuberville said a more complete medical report will be available on the junior next week, but the head coach is hopeful that the injury was not as serious as it looked when the defender was carried off the field on Saturday. "Derrick Graves is making some strides at linebacker," says Chizik, who notes that the junior is pushing Kevin Sears for a starting job.

*Both field goal kickers missed short ones in the scrimmage. Philip Yost was wide on a 31-yarder and made field goals of 27 and 36. John Vaughn missed a 28-yarder on a high snap from Pete Compton to holder same Rives and made field goals of 35 and 38 yards out.

*Tre Smith had a spectacular 20-yard TD run when he escaped trouble in the backfield and reversed field on his way into the end zone. The junior tailback had 73 yards on 13 carries.

*Redshirt freshman Carl Stewart had a solid outing. He caught four passes for 34 yards. He scored the first TD of the scrimmage and netted 38 yards on 10 carries. "It felt good to get back in the swing of things," Stewart said. "This is really our first time as a team to get everything going full speed. Overall, I think it went pretty well."

*The defense did a tremendous job preventing Carnell Williams from getting any running room. The senior tailback had just one net yard on eight carries. He caught one pass for 11 yards.

*Tailback Ronnie Brown, who lined up with Williams in the backfield on many of his plays, had four runs for 44 yards and and two catches for 15 more.

*Speedy walk-on wideout Jamoga Ramsey, a 5-10, 162 sophomore from Delray Beach, Fla., caught a 54-yard TD pass from Cox after he got behind cornerback Denson.

*Devin Aromashodu had the most receiving yards with two catches for 67 yards. Lee Guess had two catches for 54 yards as he wrapped up a very solid first week of spring drills. Other receivers making catches included walk-on tight end Danny Perry (2 catches for 18 yards), walk-on wideout Maurice Anderson (1 for 17 yards), Anthony Mix (2 for 15 yards), Cole Bennett (1 for 14 yards and a TD from Cox), Cooper Wallace (1 for 11 yards). Wideout Silas Daniels had two runs for 17 yards.

Defensive linemen Bret Eddins and Wayne Dickens had two sacks apiece. Chizik said he noticed both of those players doing good things. "Bret Eddins--he knows how to play the game," Chizik said. Other Tigers with sacks included Jay Ratliff, Karibi Dede, Will Herring, Kevin Sears and Marquis Gunn.

*Defensive end Stanley McClover was the leading tackler in the scrimmage with eight stops, including four solos, one tackle for a loss, one deflected pass and three quarterback pressures.

*Weakside linebacker Dede, noseguard T.J. Jackson and middle linebacker Quentin Groves tied for the number two spot in total tackles with seven. Jackson had four solo stops and two QB hurries. Dede had two solo tackles. Groves recovered a fumble, and had one tackle for a loss to go with one solo stop and six assists.

Other tacklers include Lemarcus Rowell (5-1), Mayo Sowell (3-3), Travis Williams (2-3), Montavian Collier (2-3), Andrew Letts (2-3), Tim Duckworth (2-3) Junior Rosegreen (2-3), Donnay Young (2-3), Will Herring (1-4), Wayne Dickens (4-0), Marquies Gunn (3-1), Tez Doolittle, Lamel Ages (1-3), Kevin Sears (2-1), Carlos Rogers (2-1), Kevin Hobbs (0-3), Gerald Williams (2-0), Bret Eddins (2-0), Jay Ratliff (1-1), Derrick Graves (1-1), Eric Brock (1-1), Todd Hughes (0-2), Zach Gilbert (1-0), Blake Shrader (1-0), Greg Johnson (1-0), had Strachan (1-0), Antarrious Williams (0-1), Courtney Denson (0-1), Montae Pitts (0-1) and A.J. Ruffin (0-1).

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