Tigers Have Final Tune-Up Before Full Pads Go On

The offense made progress as the Tigers returned to the practice field on Monday.

Auburn, Ala.–-After a day dominated by the defense on Sunday, the offense came to work on Monday and had a very solid day in both the running game and passing game much to the delight of Coach Tommy Tuberville.

With full pad practices beginning on Tuesday, Tuberville said the offense had a good final day in shells.

"Today's practice was a good one," Tuberville said. "It was the last one in shells. We have full pads tomorrow (Tuesday). The intensity was still about the same. We still had to slow them down a little bit because we don't have full pads on, but it was a good day.

"The quarterbacks looked good and sharp," Tuberville added. "You can tell we're getting a little tired, especially the skill players like running backs, wide receivers and tight ends. With the hot weather tomorrow we'll go a little bit earlier and maybe catch a little bit of the cooler weather in full pads."

Ben Obomanu turns the ball upfield after catching a pass during Monday's practice.

Injuries to both Tommy Jackson and Carlos Rogers dampened the spirits on Sunday, but Tuberville said that both got positive returns back after being checked out by doctors. "Tommy Jackson got some good news," Tuberville said. "It's just slightly dislocated. Hopefully, he'll be back on the field in two or three weeks. Carlos Rogers just twisted a knee. He'll be fine in a couple of days--hopefully."

Several other Tigers are battling through the normal bumps and bruises of preseason practice as well. Tight end Cooper Wallace and fullback Jake Slaughter are both sitting out with strained hamstrings, but could return as early as late this week to prepare for Saturday's first scrimmage of the fall. Fellow tight end Danny Perry is also being bothered by a hamstring, but he'll likely return to practice Thursday or Friday.

Despite a solid day by the offense on Monday several young defenders stepped up to make plays during the 11-on-11 portion of the practice. Both Patrick Lee and Courtney Denson came up with interceptions while Pat Sims pushed the pile in the middle. Tuberville said he has been happy with the play of the freshman defenders so far in camp.

"Patrick is getting better," Tuberville said. "All of our young guys are getting better. Courtney Denson is much improved. I'm still really impressed with Tony Bell and Steve Gandy, both of those guys are making a lot of progress. Tristan Davis, Anthony Campbell, they've just got a lot of technique things to learn, but they are so much farther ahead that what young players have been in the past just by being here."

With Jackson out up front the Tigers are looking for depth from a small group of players, including Sims. Tuberville said that right now they have a solid two-deep led by starters Josh Thompson and Jay Ratliff, but are still looking for ways to shore that up until Jackson returns from his injury.

"Josh will be fine," Tuberville said. "We moved Pat Sims to backup defensive tackle and we moved Wayne Dickens to noseguard with the second team. That will be our rotation until we find out where we're at.

"Pat has done fine," Tuberville added. "He's in a lot better shape than what he would have been if he had just shown up in the last few days. He's got a long way to go though. He has a lot of talent and will be able to help us this year. We'll just have to teach him on the run. He has to learn the speed of the game."

Dickens says he prefers to play tackle, but is happy to play inside while T.J. is getting well.

"The big difference between playing noseguard and the three technique (tackle) is space," the junior noted. "There is a lot more space out there at the three technique. At noseguard there is a lot more congestion in there. It is a two-punch fight. If you miss the first time, you lose."

Freshman running back Jerald Watson runs through a drill on Monday as his position coach, Eddie Gran, watches in the background.

Offensively, the Tigers spent much of the day on the passing game with quarterback Jason Campbell having one of his best days ever throwing the ball on the practice field. Receivers Silas Daniels and Courtney Taylor had several big catches with Daniels hauling one in for a touchdown, but the running backs continue to get a lot of work as receivers as well.

Carnell Williams, Ronnie Brown and Tre Smith had little to prove coming into fall camp, but that wasn't the case with the rest of a very deep running back position. The coaches were hoping to see signs of life from redshirt freshman Carl Stewart and true freshmen Brad Lester and Jerald Watson. While Stewart has looked very good in his work, Tuberville said the duo of freshmen is one he's keeping a close eye on to check their improvement each day.

"The young running backs, Lester and Jerald Watson, their heads are spinning but they are really doing well," Tuberville said. "I would love to be able to get both of those guys to where we can play them this year and also use them in special teams."

Philip Yost continued his strong run on field goals in preseason. He was 4-4 to close practice on makes from 28, 37, 42 and 42 yards while John Vaughn hit three of four with a miss that was just wide from 42.

Auburn will strap on the full pads for the first time on Tuesday at a practice scheduled for 9:30 a.m.

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