On a day when several scuffles broke out between offensive and defensive players, the focus was on learning as a load of new things were introduced on both sides of the ball.
Offensively, the Tigers spent much of the day installing the "Bunch Package" as receivers move in closer to the ball for routes run short and over the middle, a staple of the West Coast offense. Coach Al Borges said his team had some lapses in fundamentals and didn't make some plays, but that's to be expected when you put in new things.
"One time it looks pretty good and the next time it's like, ‘Oh my goodness, we're the keystone cops,'" Borges said. "But that's natural. Every place that I've installed this stuff there are a few bumps in the road, but after they get a feel for it things get better and better. They have to keep repping it."
Defensively, it was business as usual for the first-team as they continue to install blitz packages and step up the coverage in the secondary. The front four saw some shuffling on Tuesday as well as Stanley McClover split time with the starters along with Marquies Gunn at weakside defensive end. Coach Tommy Tuberville said that both sides of the ball did some good things on Tuesday as the weather brought out the attitude in both teams.
"Defensively, we put a few new things in," Tuberville said. "You can tell the new formations we saw on offense we kind of struggled with, too. We kind of hit the wall on technique and I told the team we have to start working and concentrating more on technique and fundamentals. That's what spring practice is about."
Through seven practices of the allotted 15 the Tigers are allowed, Tuberville said his team is probably a little farther along than he would have imagined coming into the spring. The week will continue to be a busy one for the team as they will have a short scrimmage on Thursday and practices Friday and another scrimmage Saturday morning before taking some time off. Tuberville said he's pleased with how things have gone so far.
"Halfway through spring practice we've got a little bit more done than I thought we would," Tuberville said. "We're still not settled on a few positions and a few players on where they'll be. We'll make a few changes, probably after Thursday's practice and maybe after Saturday. We still have a lot of work to do."
Tuesday's practice was probably the most physical of the six normal practices to this point this spring as the Tigers did more 11-on-11 work than they've done at any time. That led to several minor scuffles as Marcus McNeill and Gunn got into it as well as Rich Trucks and Jay Ratliff. That was broken up by a defensive student assistant, who got the raw end of the deal by Ratliff before things were cleared up. The final scuffle was a lightweight bout between Ben Obomanu and David Irons. All were harmless, but served to bring the intensity level of the practice up a few notches.
Even though the offense struggled at times to move the ball while learning a new offensive formation and plays, Obomanu and fellow receiver Lee Guess stood out as having good days in the passing game. Tuberville said that Guess is a player who has shown he can get the job done and will be a contributor for the Tigers next fall at some time.
On the defensive side of the ball noseguard Josh Thompson continues to make plays up front no matter who is lined up in front of him. Linebacker Travis Williams stood out as having a good day and Coach Joe Whitt singled him out as the player that has been a good leader for his group as he tries to replace Dontarrious Thomas and Karlos Dansby from last year's outstanding group. Tuberville said former safety Karibi Dede is a player that has caught his eye at linebacker so far this spring.
"Karibi is an undersized linebacker that should make a lot of plays, but the thing I like about him is that he probably has more football instincts at linebacker than he does at safety," Tuberville said. "He's around the ball a lot more and is very aggressive. Sometimes you can play a small linebacker like that if he has an aggressive nature. He has the same kind of football instincts and aggressive nature as Travis Williams. I think he's going to help us there he just has to keep learning."
Several key defensive players watched practice from the exercise bike as defensive backs Kevin Hobbs and Eric Brock both sat out of Tuesday's practice and are expected back soon. Defensive end Doug Langenfeld left the practice with what appeared to be an ankle injury, but his exact status is not known. Wide receiver Anthony Mix also missed the practice with a sprained knee and ankle, suffered in Saturday's scrimmage. He's expected back next week.
There were several interesting spectators at Tuesday's practice as former Auburn Coach Rodney Allison and his offensive staff from Chattanooga were on hand to check out the Auburn offense. Also the coaches from Albany State in Georgia were in town to check out the staff and watch film on their day off from spring practice.
The most interesting of all the visitors was Coach Ted Tellian from Northgate High in Concord, Calif. A protege of Borges who has been to 19 consecutive spring practices with the coach, Tellian made his way into Auburn on Sunday and has been taking in the sights and sounds of football in the South. Borges said he warned him before coming that things were a little different at Auburn and to expect a little different atmosphere. Tellian has been coaching football for over 25 years and his team's most famous opponent is De La Salle High in Concord, the team with the nation's longest winning streak at well over 100 games.