The intensity may have been a little too much though as the players went all out early on and that resulted in two injuries to key defenders on the day. Before any of the contact drills began senior cornerback Carlos Rogers sprained his right knee. Coach Tommy Tuberville said the injury didn't appear to be serious and the defender should be back practicing soon.
Junior defensive lineman Tommy Jackson may not be as fortunate. The nose tackle got injured during an inside running drill on Sunday and his status is unknown after a visit to the hospital for X-rays. He injured his left elbow after falling to the ground and Tuberville said they should know more about his injury on Monday.
Despite the losses of two projected starters the day was a good one for the defense as that side of the ball controlled much of the action in drills and in team work in the practice. That was particularly evident up front where the front seven were constantly in the backfield. As a former defensive coach Tuberville said that's what you want to see at this time of the year.
"The defense looked real good today," Tuberville said. "The offense couldn't block them. That's always good early. I was really pleased with the way the defense played today and how much pressure we got on the quarterback. Again, we have to do it consistently.
"It was a good first day in shoulder pads and helmets," he added. "There was a lot of intensity. The guys were really fired up. You can tell they are anxious to get in full pads, which will be later on in the week. It was a good day."
With Jackson and Rogers out on Sunday some of the younger defenders had a chance to show what they could do in 11 on 11 situations. Tuberville said he was very impressed by several of the newcomers, but it reserving judgement until they get more involved in the defense in a few days.
"Pat Sims was really coming off," Tuberville said. "Steve Gandy is really making a lot of progress, him and Tony Bell. It's hard the first day though. It's going to take two or three days for us to get them on film to look at them and tell exactly if they're doing the right things or just guessing."
Quarterback Jason Campbell hits a deep bomb to Courtney Taylor with offensive graduate assistant Patrick Moore and Coach Al Borges in the background studying the action.
Because of his play on Sunday and the effort he's shown since arriving there is a good chance that Sims will be a player to watch early this season. That definitely will be the case if Jackson's injury keeps him out of action for any extended period of time. Tuberville said the backups on the front four are going to have to step up in his absence.
"We'll probably move Pat Sims over," Tuberville said. "We'll look at him some there (nose) along with Wayne Dickens. They all can play each position. We just don't have numbers right now. That's one area where we don't have a lot of numbers. Todd Hughes is practicing there. Hopefully, it's not bad so we can get T.J. back in a week or so."
While the defense got the best of the offense on the day it wasn't for a lack of execution by the quarterbacks and receivers in the passing game. Senior Jason Campbell continues to throw the ball exceptionally well along with the others in the rotation behind him. Juniors Ben Obomanu and Devin Aromashodu had strong days catching the ball as well. Tuberville said he's been extremely pleased with how solid the quarterbacks are looking through just three days of practice this fall.
"They are throwing the ball great," Tuberville said. "I'm really pleased with Jason and how he's throwing it. Brandon's (Cox) arm has gotten a lot stronger. That's what has to happen. Jason is really looking more comfortable in this offense everyday. I think he has a ways to go. He gets confused at times with some of our protections because he's calling it all. It's a little bit different for him, but it's good to see him come out and have the confidence to throw the football like he has early."
Confidence is something that has been lacking in the kicking game for much of the last two seasons for the Tigers and that's something that Tuberville hopes won't be a problem in 2004. Both Philip Yost and John Vaughn have kicked the ball well in practice through three days and Yost was perfect from yardages of 20, 29, 32, 37 and 42 yards to wrap up Sunday's practice while Vaughn missed one from 32. Tuberville said that was good to see, but it has to continue heading into the season.
"They missed a couple yesterday, but today was the first day in pads," Tuberville said. "We need both of them to step up, not just one of them, so we'll have a choice on who to pick from. I'm real encouraged with Kody Bliss also. He looked really good. The deep snappers looked good. They've come a long way since the start of spring practice last year, but we still have to get it done in a game."
Auburn returns to the practice field for one practice on Monday at 10 a.m.
Tiger Ticket Extra: The Tigers spent a long time on special teams work to begin Sunday's practice and the punting game got the most attention. Working on punt protection and kicking as well as fielding kicks, the special teams appeared smooth on the first true run of the preseason. Fielding punts were Brad Lester, Tre Smith, Courtney Denson, Silas Daniels, Carnell Williams and Jerald Watson. In addition to Bliss punting was walk-on Patrick Martyn, who kicked the ball well and could be a solid backup to Bliss.