Despite veterans Bret Eddins, Travis Williams, Carlos Rogers and Junior Rosegreen being held out of action to give some younger players extra work, the defense did a much better job of keeping the offense at bay and Coach Tommy Tuberville said in all it was a good day from both sides as they get ready for Saturday.
"We looked pretty good," Tuberville said. "The defense played a little bit better today. We still made a lot of mistakes. The offense continues to improve. We're throwing the ball a lot better down the field. We limited the defense today in what they could do, but I thought we competed a lot better. We had some pretty good individual performances, but we turned the ball over too many times on offense, but we're still making plays and showing improvement."
Early on the defense controlled things as the first offense managed just two first downs on the opening drive before turning the ball over on downs. The second team was held without a first down on its first drive to bring the first offense back on the field. That's when tailback Carnell Williams did his thing.
The offense moved the ball down into scoring position on the 29-yard line, setting up Williams for one of his patented scoring runs. Taking a handoff from quarterback Jason Campbell, Williams raced around the left corner and put a move on defensive back Kevin Hobbs before racing down the sidelines for the score.
Not to be outdone, transfer Kenny Irons got into the action on the next series with a long 41-yard run before being caught inside the 20-yard line, but that's when the defense stiffened. Three-straight plays netted very little as the offense had to settle for a field goal, something that was a theme on the day.
Williams again provided some electricity later in the scrimmage when the offense worked from its own goal line. On first down an incomplete pass to Williams was sniffed out well by Derrick Graves, but on second down the senior tailback got a seam up the middle and was off to the races. Dodging a tackle from Montae Pitts around midfield, Williams pulled away and looked like he would take one 99 yards, but David Irons had something to say about that.
Racing down the field from his cornerback spot, Irons turned Williams back into the middle of the field only to find a sprinting Stanley McClover waiting for him. In a tremendous athletic move for a defensive end, McClover sprinted nearly 70 yards behind the play to get in position for the tackle. His play forced a fumble from Williams that Irons pounced on, bringing a loud roar from the defensive sideline.
Tre Smith scores on a tough run near the goal line.
The offense was held in check for much of the day until the red zone situations when they again got the best of the defense with touchdowns from Carl Stewart and Tre Smith highlighting the play. Stewart took a handoff from the 15-yard line and burst through a hole at the line to get into the secondary. It was all over after that as he powered through a tackle at the two-yard line for a score. Smith's run was a strong seven-yarder where he showed his strength by pushing the pile to the goal line and sticking the ball over for the score.
While the running game had the big plays, the focus of the offensive day was on the passing game as the Tigers threw the ball 40 times and ran it just 21 times from the backs. Campbell finished 14-24 for 88 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions. Back-up Brandon Cox was 4-9 for 30 yards while Kelcy Luke finished 4-7 for 39 yards. The passing game was solid without a turnover on the day.
Wide receivers Courtney Taylor and Anthony Mix were the busiest of Auburn's group on Thursday as Taylor caught four passes for 34 yards while Mix added three catches for 32 yards, including an impressive 15-yarder for a first down over the middle when he broke a tackle for extra yardage.
Defensively several players stood out as cornerback Courtney Denson had a big day with three tackles and several pass-breakups. Freshman linebacker Montavian Collier had his best day to date for the Tigers with seven tackles, several coming on big hits to draw yells of encouragement from his teammates. Coach Joe Whitt said Collier and several young linebackers stood out to him in Thursday's scrimmage.
"I thought Montavian Collier made some play," Whitt said. "All of them did, but particularly Montavian and Karibi Dede. Those were two guys in particular along with Quentin Groves. Those three, I thought, made some plays and ran to the football very well.
"When he came here he didn't know anything because he had never played linebacker before," Whitt added of Collier. "Everyday is a learning experience for him, something new. He's getting better. He's just now adapting to being a linebacker. Today he actually moved around like a linebacker, stance, start. For the first five or six days here he was still in a backpedal in running plays, but he's beginning to feel and look like a linebacker. He still has a long, long way to go."
Safety Andrew Letts contributed six tackles on the day along with Groves while Irons and Kevin Sears had five tackles each. Montae Pitts and Kevin Hobbs both addded four tackles on the day. Marquies Gunn had two sacks while Antarrious Williams, Tez Doolittle and Todd Hughes added one sack each.
The kicking game continues to be a source of frustration for the Tiger coaching staff as John Vaugh had the best day on Thursday, making three of four with his only miss from 41 yards. Phillip Yost was 2-4 with misses from 39 and 41 yards, while walk-on Matt Clark was also 2-4 with misses from 39 and 41 yards.
"The kicking game was a little bit better until right there at the end and we had a collapse in what we were doing," Tuberville said. "
The Tigers will take Friday off before Saturday's A-Day game. The game is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. on Saturday in Jordan-Hare Stadium and Coach Tuberville said it will be a very vanilla day for both the offense and defense as they get closer to the end of spring practice.
"It won't be as competitive as this scrimmage because we won't do as much on A-Day," Tuberville said. "We're going to do some things Saturday that we won't do next week (the final scrimmage of the spring). We want to see what they can do in certain situations. We're going to have fun Saturday."