Taking A Look Back At Friday's Scrimmage

Following Saturday's practice the Auburn Coaches took a look back at Friday's scrimmage.

Auburn, Ala.–-Following Friday evening's scrimmage at Jordan-Hare Stadium, the Auburn Tigers practiced in shorts and shoulder pads on Saturday for two hours in what Coach Tommy Tuberville described as "a learning day". With the season opener two weeks away, Tuberville said the major focus of the team now is getting everyone back healthy and on the practice field as soon as possible.

"We had our whole starting defensive line going through drills," Tuberville said. "They won't practice tomorrow. I'm going to give them another couple of days and hopefully they're back full speed by Tuesday. I would say 3/4 of them would be right at 100 percent. A couple of more will be at 90 percent, but they'll be back by the end of the week."

Disappointed in the play of the tight ends with junior Cooper Wallace still sitting out because of a strained hamstring, Tuberville said they made a move today that could help the team down the road. With several drops from the group he said they're looking for someone that can catch the ball consistently and they hope they've found their man.

"We moved Octavious Balkcom to tight end," Tuberville said. "We moved him over there to give him a couple of weeks to see if he can break into the lineup. It kind of reminds me of Ben Grubbs last year, moving from defensive line to tight end. It will give him a chance to play. Just watching him catch the ball, he might give us a shot in the arm."

Tuberville said that Wallace is about 90 or 95 percent healthy, but they want to wait until he's completely ready before putting him back on the practice field. He should return to practice on Tuesday after getting a day off on Monday to help the healing process. Wide receiver Silas Daniels returned to practice on Saturday and was full speed.

Cooper Wallace's health is very important for the Auburn offense.

With both Brad Lester and Jerald Watson back practicing, the race is on to see if one or both will play this season and avoid a redshirt year. Tuberville said the staff will meet on Monday to begin getting scout teams together as well as potential redshirts. Tuberville said they're still not sure what role either will play this fall for the Tigers.

"We're still looking at both to play special teams," Tuberville said. "Only one will play running back. You don't get a lot of reps because you don't have the room."

After looking back at the film from Friday's scrimmage, Coach Al Borges' wasn't as unhappy with the performance as he was with his first impression. Although there were plenty of mistakes, he said some people did some good things and it was an improvement over the first scrimmage.

"I think we got a little better," Borges said. "We really did. We're not finishing drives and that bothers me a little bit. I told you yesterday that I thought goal line improved, and it did improve. We did much better down there. That's just a matter of reps.

"The quarterbacks were pretty accurate again," he added. "The numbers were up. We did a nice job in the two-minute drill moving the ball down the field. We dropped a couple of balls, which we had not been doing a lot of. Overall, I won't say we were great, but we got a little better."

One player that caught the eye of Borges was running back Carl Stewart. A forgotten name among the names of Carnell Williams, Ronnie Brown and Tre Smith for the Tigers, Stewart had a good scrimmage on Friday and is steadily showing his new coach that he's going to be a player to feature in the coming years.

"I've been telling guys since I've been here," Borges said. "When I came here everybody was talking about the big names, Ronnie, Carnell and even Tre to a degree. The thing I noticed as soon as I got here in the first few scrimmages of spring football was this kid Stewart was a good player. Nobody talks about him and I don't get a lot of questions about him, but when he gets a chance to do what he can do he's a good receiver and a good runner in open space. He's hard to tackle.

"The thing I like about him best, as much as anything, is that when Ronnie is gone I think he'll serve a good purpose as a Ronnie Brown-type player to play a little running back, a little fullback. He'll have to get a little bigger to be a real effective fullback, but I don't want him to get too big. He can serve that role and we don't have to change much."

While Borges was mostly happy with the performance of his offense on Friday, the same can't be said for Coach Gene Chizik's defense. Following a long night of film study both Tuberville and Chizik said that there weren't many positives to take out of the scrimmage.

"Defensively we ran to the ball well, but made a lot of mental mistakes on defense," Tuberville said. "We ran a lot more of our fronts and blitzes. It was a pretty average practice on defense. We have to get a lot better on defense to have a chance."

Chizik echoed those sentiments from Tuberville, saying that with the exception of a few players the day was a bad one for a club looking for help from its defense.

"I'll start with the secondary, which I didn't see very much good of anything really," Chizik said. "I thought Zach Gilbert, once again, was a great effort guy. He's really making some promising strides on what we need to do and can really help our football team this year at corner. Montae Pitts did not play bad. He got one interception. There are some technique things that we need to work with him. He didn't go backwards."

Pleased with the performances of both Travis Williams and Antarrious Williams at linebacker, Chizik said the rest of the defense was lackluster and didn't have the consistency he's looking for with just two weeks left before the first game. He said that having so many players banged-up and out of the lineup each day has been a hindrance, but something he hopes will be a thing of the past next week.

"I don't know if everybody else has had as many injuries as we do, but we've had kind of an odd number. Then you lose David Irons. It's been frustrating because I can't think of a day we've had our defense together. I can't think of one day except for maybe the first day in shorts."

Defensive line Coach Don Dunn said he saw some good things and some bad things out of Friday's scrimmage. The positive was the play of Josh Thompson, who Dunn said had a good day and showed a lot of effort at the point of attack. With both Tommy Jackson and Jay Ratliff sitting out it meant a lot of work for guys like Wayne Dickens and Pat Sims. Dunn said that the group still has a long way to go, but got a boost during Sunday's practice.

"You could see the difference today," Dunn said. "Tommy was going through a lot of things and Jay was back. That gives us what we need and hopefully what we'll be able to keep the whole season."

Auburn returns to practice on Sunday afternoon in full pads before taking Monday off. All practices are now closed to the public.


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