Long And Spirited Thursday Practice For Tigers

The Auburn Tigers had a long and entertaining practice on Thursday featuring the second scrimmage of the spring.

Auburn, Ala.--With well over 100 of the expected 350 high school football coaches in town this week for the 37th annual Auburn Football Coaching Clinic, the Tigers spent the better part of two and a half hours on the practice field Thursday going through drills and then taking part in a situational scrimmage that featured the first goal line work of the spring.

Coach Tommy Tuberville said he was happy with the effort on the day, but there were some things that need to be improved before Saturday's full scale scrimmage.

"The guys practiced hard," Tuberville said. "We worked a lot on fundamentals. We had a 62-play scrimmage and we wanted to work on certain situations before Saturday's scrimmage, goal line being one. We ran a couple of new blitzes and wanted the offense to look at them on film and we ran a couple of new running plays.

"Overall, it was pretty good. The quarterbacks didn't execute as well as I hoped, but they were a little nervous with the new formations that we put in and a few different reads."

Despite some execution problems, the quarterback trio of Jason Campbell, Brandon Cox and Kelcy Luke had a good day throwing the ball. Campbell finished 3-6 for 68 yards and one touchdown, a 55-yarder to Courtney Taylor on an out-and-up route. Campbell said the defense had been sitting on the slants all day long and they knew they had a chance for a big play.

"I feel like we started off real slow, but once we got it going as a team and got everything moving it was kind of hard to stop," Campbell said. "We had momentum going and the guys really got into it. The thing we need to improve on is our slow start.

"You always have to keep the defense on its toes. If they know what you are doing it's hard to beat anyone, to outflank the defense. You have to keep them on their toes and if you can hit them with mis-direction run plays and mis-direction pass plays and always keep some nakeds (Bootlegs) in there it's hard for them to stop that."

Tre Smith breaks a run outside against the defense.

Cox was a perfect 3-3 on the day with two touchdowns to Ben Obomanu, the longest from 22 yards out. Cox finished with 39 yards through the air. Luke was 2-4 for 61 yards with 58 coming on a long strike to walk-on Maurice Anderson late in the scrimmage.

On the ground Tre Smith led the way with 48 yards on seven carries while Carnell Williams added 25 yards on eight carries. Carl Stewart was next with 22 yards on five carries while Ronnie Brown and Kenny Irons combined for just 18 yards rushing on six carries.

Offensive coordinator Al Borges said his unit had some up and down moments during Thursday's scrimmage.

"I thought they did a pretty good job," Borges said. "If you look at our overall scrimmages we've been scrimmaging pretty good, but we're not starting well. We have to start well and do better at the beginning of scrimmages. We're taking too much time to get in sync and in games that can hurt you. If you start off and don't beat your opponent to the punch it gets harder and harder against a good team."

There were also some changes on offense as redshirt freshman King Dunlap moved ahead of Marcus McNeill as the first stringer at left tackle. Despite playing well this spring, McNeill has been hampered by a back problem that has limited his performances and time on the field. Tuberville said that was a consideration in this decision going into Saturday's scrimmage.

"We moved King Dunlap to number one left tackle," Tuberville said. "He's been practicing and playing good and he can go everyday. The thing about Marcus (Marcus McNeill), we just have to get him where he can practice everyday. He's kind of hit the wall on improving, but it's nothing he can control. We moved him into the number one to try to get more consistency with our timing and see if that helps come Saturday."

Mayo Sowell launches himself into Devin Aromashodu as he comes across the middle for a catch.

Defensively, the first unit played well much of the day as Josh Thompson moved to the first team and responded with three tackles and one tackle for a loss from his noseguard position. Leading the team in tackles during the scrimmage was senior linebacker Mayo Sowell with nine. Backup free safety Andrew Letts finished with eight tackles while Donnay Young had six tackles and one sack.

Tuberville said the move of Thompson is something that the coaches felt like needed to be done after his performance last week.

"Josh is practicing hard and working hard," Tuberville said. "He's earned the chance to move up. We play a lot of players and we wanted to move some players in and out with this scrimmage coming up."

The most improved area of the Auburn defense this spring is in the secondary where a large group of Tigers are fighting for playing time behind starters Carlos Rogers, Montae Pitts, Junior Rosegreen and Will Herring. Tuberville said he has been pleased with the play of the guys to this point and that continued with a strong scrimmage session on Thursday.

"There is a lot of competition," Tuberville said. "I'll tell you, David Irons has got about the quickest feet I've ever seen. He's really going to help us. Montavis Pitts has really improved. Will Herring right now is playing better than he played the entire fall. That's just by experience and learning what to do."

The scrimmage was highlighted by several big hits and two skirmishes between the offense and defense. The hit of the day came from Sowell on Devin Aromashodu as he was on a crossing route over the middle. To Aromashodu's credit he held on to the ball. The other hit was from Courtney Denson, who leveled Daniels after the receiver caught a pass heading towards the sidelines.

Josh Thompson is pulled off center Will Ward after the two got in a fight during Thursday's scrimmage.

Tempers continued to flare during the practices as two fights broke out on Thursday. The first involved Thompson and center Will Ward. After jawing back and forth for a few seconds, Thompson lifted Ward off the ground and planted him on his back before throwing a few punches. It was quickly broken up, but not before several players commented that wasn't the right person for Ward to tangle with considering Thompson is perhaps the team's strongest player.

The second fight was a battle royal between several players, Dunlap and Tim Duckworth included. It lasted just a few seconds before being broken up by the coaches, but it served to pick up the energy as the team headed for the goal line drills.

It didn't take long for the first offense to set the tone for the day as Ronnie Brown scored on the second play of a possession that began at the seven-yard line. The second-teamers also allowed a score to Smith before both would buckle down and hold the next series.

Practice came to a close with kickers Philip Yost and John Vaughn both kicking well from outside 30 yards. Yost missed just one of six kicks while Vaugh was four of six.

On the injury front running back Carl Stewart turned his ankle and is likely out for Saturday's scrimmage. He should be back next week. Wide receiver Anthony Mix returned to action while safeties Eric Brock and Kevin Hobbs sat out of contact because of minor injuries.

The Tigers will have a walk-through practice on Friday showing drills to coaches and will scrimmage Saturday morning. The 150-plus play scrimmage is scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

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