Young Tigers Kept Busy At Opening Scrimmage

An in-depth report on Auburn's first major scrimmage of the 2004 preseason is featured.

Auburn, Ala.--Tommy Tuberville said he wanted to give his younger players plenty of work at the first major football scrimmage of the preseason and the Auburn coaching staff stuck to that game plan on Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium as a variety young players stepped into the spotlight.

Redshirt freshman Carl Stewart showed the ability to be an effective inside runner on a day when star tailbacks Carnell Williams and Ronnie Brown were spectators. "We already know what those guys can do," Tuberville said of the senior tailbacks. "It was time to let the young guys see what they can do."

Stewart ran the ball 12 times for 71 yards and caught a 27-yard pass. True freshman tailback Brad Lester showed lots quickness, especially on the corner, opening up the possibility that he could see playing time as a true freshman. He rushed for 42 yards on 11 carries and scored two TDs.

Highly regarded true freshman offensive tackle Leon Hart got extensive playing time and Tuberville said at first glance it looked like Hart did some good things, too.

Freshman defensive tackle Pat Sims made several good plays in extensive action. He had four tackles, including one for a loss. He deflected one pass and pressured the QB on another. Freshman linebacker Montavian Collier was around the football whenever he was on the field and redshirt freshman defensive end Quentin Groves was one of the few defensive players to get pressure on the quarterbacks.

"It looked like the offensive line won the match today with the defensive line," Tuberville said following the scrimmage that lasted more than 90 minutes after the Tigers initially worked on punting.

"In the second half we tackled a lot better," Tuberville said. "We have a lot of work to do on defense. We gave up too many big plays and too many third down situations. It kind of reminded me of one our games last year with the number of third down plays we gave up.

"Offensively, we moved the ball pretty consistently. I was proud we didn't have a lot of minor penalties--25 second clock, motion. The big deal this year is that we have to make sure that everybody is on the line of scrimmage. Last year there were some offensive linemen in the backfield with almost every team in the country. The communication was good. We got something out of it."

Brad Lester, a 2004 signee from Parkview High in Lilburn, Ga., played well in his first college scrimmage.

The head coach singled out one of his kickers for having a big day as he was seven of seven on field goals. "John Vaughn had a terrific day kicking as we all noticed," Tuberville said. "That is what we are looking for--consistency."

As is usual for Auburn scrimmages, the first offense worked against the first defense, the second offense faced the second defense and the third offense played the third defense. In Saturday's scrimmage, some of the key players didn't participate even though they are healthy such as tailbacks Brown and Williams, offensive tackle Marcus McNeill, end Bret Eddins, safety Junior Rosegreen and defensive tackle Jay Ratliff.

The first offense set the tone for the day on the opening scrimmage when Jason Campbell hit Courtney Taylor for an 11-yard pass on third down and six to get the offense moving. Taylor also caught passes of 14 and nine yards on the first possession and Tre Smith had runs of seven and 11 yards to set up first down at the 15. However, at that point the coaches sent in the field goal team. Philip Yost, who Tuberville said was ahead in the field goal competition, pushed his kick wide. John Vaughn then made the 32-yard, the first of seven makes while Yost hit just three of seven.

Brandon Cox had a solid day throwing the ball, but didn't get off to a good start. The number two quarterback had the football stripped on the third play of the second possession as Groves took the football away for a turnover.

On the third possession, with the twos vs. the twos again, cornerback Zach Gilbert appeared to have an interception on a pass that Cox lobbed to Devin Aromashodu, but the officials ruled the receiver got the football. However, the play didn't stand due to a penalty. On the next play, Cox threw a swing pass errantly that was ruled a lateral for a six-yard loss, but the redshirt freshman picked up his play after the slow start. A 27-yard catch and run by Stewart got the second offense going.

With a limit on the number of plays on each offensive possession, a field goal was ordered on a third down at the 24-yard line. Vaughn made his and Yost was wide left, a consistent theme for his day.

With the ones back on center stage after starting at the plus 40-yard line, Stewart had one of the best runs of the day to convert a fourth and inches play as he powered through the middle for 10 yards before safety Will Herring collided with the big tailback to save a TD. The drive then stalled at the 18. Yost was wide on his field goal and Vaughn made his from 35 yards out.

With the twos starting at the plus 40, Brad Lester got his first action and opened with an eight-yard run. He added another eight-yarder on the possession that stalled at the 11.

On the next possession, true freshman Calvin Booker got the call at QB as the third stringers squared off for the first time. On his first pass, he completed a nine-yarder to freshman James Swinton. On his second pass, a throw to Lester, the play connected for 28 yards. "I thought Calvin did a solid job in his first scrimmage," offensive coordinator Al Borges said. However, after another completion, he tried to force a deep pass into double coverage and it was picked off by freshman safety Tony Bell.

Tony Bell is trying to work his way into the playing rotation.

The players took a halftime break at that point and the defense came out with a three and out stop against the first offense and then did the same thing to the number two offense on back to back possessions with the offense backed up to its own five-yard line.

The longest play of the day came on the next possession. On first down, when the defense jumped offside, Campbell used the free down to take a shot at a big play to Aromashodu down the sideline. The junior made an over-the-shoulder catch in the middle of double coverage of Kevin Hobbs and Herring for a 69-yard gain to the 26-yard line.

Four plays later Smith sweep left end, cut back against the flow and danced into the end zone for a 10-yard touchdown. "If you ask the defensive players, they will tell you that Tre is tough to tackle," said running back coach Eddie Gran, who cited that play as a good example.

The two offense then put together a long drive that ended on a third down when a 39-yard field goal was ordered. Both kickers were on target.

The first offense had its only turnover of the day on the next possession as Smith lost control of the football on a running play. Linebacker Kevin Sears came out of the scrum with the football in his hands.

The two offense, starting 25 yards away from the goal line, put the football in the end zone on its next chance. Lester, looking like he was shot out of a cannon, streaked around left end in front of the student section of Jordan-Hare Stadium and was in the end zone before the defense arrived.

The defense's finest moment might have been its goal line stand vs. the first offense. On a third and three, Jason Campbell came extremely close to scoring on a QB draw as he was touched down (no tackling of QBs allowed) just outside the goal line. On fourth and one, Stewart was swarmed at right tackle for no gain and that didn't sit well with offensive line coach Hugh Nall. "That can't happen," he said. "We have to score every time in that situation."

Near the end of the scrimmage, working on the goal line offense, Lester scored again, this time going airborne on fourth and goal at the one.

Blake Field, a true freshman QB, got his first work on the next possession with the threes in the game. On the first play, Lester fumbled the ball and walk-on noseguard Todd Hughes recovered the football. Field got to throw three passes, but didn't have a completion.

For the day, Campbell hit 7-11 for 125 yards with the incompletions being passes he threw out of bounds when receivers were covered. "That is what we are looking for from Jason," said Borges. "I was pleased."

Cox was 11-15 for 153 yards as he bounced back nicely after a slow start. Booker hit 3-6 for 30 yards and threw the only interception.

Aromashodu led all receivers with three catches for 88 yards. Taylor had four for 47 yards. Lee Guess had two catches for 33 yards. Carl Stewart had one catch for 27. Silas Daniels caught two passes for 24 and Swinton and Anthony Mix each had two catches for 19. Lester and Ben Obomanu had one catch each for 14 yards, Smith had one for 11, Maurice Anderson one for seven and Kenny Irons one for five yards.

Smith had 13 runs for 58 yards and Irons had 34 yards on 11 carries

Sophomore defensive end Stanley McClover led the tacklers with seven stops, including one sack. Patrick Lee, Eric Brock, Gerald Williams and Hughes each were credited with five stops. Donnay Young, Karibi Dede, Derrick Graves and Antarrious Williams made four tackles apiece. "We have a lot of work to do," Tuberville said. "We will come back tomorrow and get after it again." The head coach added, "We will do this (scrimmage) again. Nobody won or lost their job today.

Tiger Ticket Extra: Cornerback David Irons Jr., who suffered a knee injury on Thursday, is scheduled to have surgery on Monday morning to have his ACL repaired. "We decided it was the best thing for David to have the surgery as soon as possible and get him back healthy and ready to play next season," David Irons Sr. said...True freshman offensive left guard William Sullivan left the scrimmage early with a knee injury. Tuberville said he doesn't know yet how serious the injury is...First team center Jeremy Ingle sat out part of scrimmage when he felt his hamstring tighten. Steven Ross, who has been getting some work with the first unit this week, got extra work at the position on Saturday...The Tigers' other speedy true freshman tailback, Jerald Watson, was held out of action with what coaches said is an injury to his quad...The Tigers are scheduled to have their next scrimmage on Friday...One of the visitors to the scrimmage was Auburn's latest football commitment, cornerback Aairon Savage of Westover High in Albany, Ga.

Tuberville said that he believes the Tigers will be able to play the second offensive line more than in previous season. "In the past Coach (Hugh) Nall has not been big on playing a lot of offensive linemen, but I think he is going to have enough depth to do it this year." Tuberville said...Among the prospects visiting were Trinity of Montgomery stars Tommy Trott, a senior tight end, and junior defensive lineman Bart Eddins...Defensive lineman L.D. Scott from Auburn High also attended the scrimmage.

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