Following the first round of meetings Tuberville took a moment to speak about his newest recruiting class and its strengths heading into the 2004 season.
"This is a good group," Tuberville said. "They are strong from top to bottom. Obviously, they come in with pretty high credentials both academically and athletically. I would say 95 percent of them have been here with us for at least a month or more. From talking with Coach Yoxall (Kevin Yoxall) they are in much better shape mentally and physically going into two-a-days. They have some idea what they're getting into and what kind of shape they have to be in to play. Some are still a long ways away, but at least we've got a jump start on it."
With a full class of 25 expected to join the team including transfer running back Kenny Irons and walk-on deep snapper Pete Compton, Tuberville said all but two players were on hand for the first day on Thursday. Both tight end Korey Raymond from Louisiana and defensive back Lorenzo Ferguson are waiting on final clearance before joining the team. Tuberville said both should be fine and could be with the team as early as Friday.
When they do they'll have a chance to show the coaches what they can do on the field. Raymond is among the players the offensive coaches have signaled out as having a chance to help the team in much the same mold as Ben Grubbs did last year at tight end. Tuberville said that the coaches expect several players on both sides of the ball to eventually work their way into the rotation this year.
"I would say at least eight players will have a chance to play this fall," Tuberville said. "We'll hold both quarterbacks, but whoever wins the third spot will redshirt. You have to look hard at our interior defensive line with a guy like Pat Sims. We're not short, but we need more guys to be able to practice and be able to work their way into the lineup.
"We'll look at all the speed guys, maybe returning kicks and being on all the speed teams," Tuberville said. "There are quite a few guys that can really run. Jerald Watson, for instance, we'll put him back on day one returning kicks and see what he can do. Leon Hart, offensive line, he's been here and worked real hard. He's in great shape mentally and physically. I think he has an opportunity to work his way in, we just have to find the right position for him."
In past years the freshmen had a chance to practice and learn for several practices before the upperclassmen joined them on the field. That is no longer the case as the NCAA did away with the last season, making the arrival time the same for all players in the fall. Tuberville said not having a few practices to get their feet wet is hard on the freshmen and makes it more difficult for them to play at positions like quarterback and linebacker.
"They just have to catch up," Tuberville said. "We'll start over on both offense and defense, but go at a faster pace. The thing that will help them out is the one-a-days and more meeting time. You just don't go out there in two-a-days right off the bat and run plays. You run one set of plays in the morning and that afternoon you put in five more plays with two more fronts. You can't do that with because of time restrictions. The first five days will give them a chance to catch up, but once we get in two-a-days the ones that can catch on and stay with us mentally are the ones that are going to have a chance."
On a day when four more Tigers received diplomas, bringing the total number to eight off this year's team, Tuberville said the team had a great summer in the classroom and is ready for the season. While some of the team's top players are gone from last season, the senior class has several players that Tuberville said are ready to take on a vital role in order for the Tigers to achieve their goal in 2004-05.
"Everybody is here and ready to go," Tuberville said. "Everybody is eligible academically. We had a good summer academically. I'm anxious to see what our overall grade point will be. It will go up after this summer. Coach Yoxall talked to us about the leadership. This is when you make your leadership, in the last eight weeks, because of the hard work in the sun with no coaches out there. He said it looks like we're going to have an abundance, whatever that means, from not just the seniors but underclassmen."
Tiger Ticket Extra:
*Offensive lineman Leon Hart said on Thursday that his actual weight is 285 pounds, up from the 270 that he was officially listed at by AU on Thursday.
*Linebacker Octavious Balkcom was perhaps the most impressive of the freshman reporting on Wednesday. Up to 240 pounds, he looks to be in prime shape to make a run at some playing time this season.