Tiger Secondary Suffers Another Setback

While the defense had one of its best days of the preseason, the injury situation still lingers with another defensive back going down.

Auburn, Ala.–-In one of the more physical practices of the preseason, Coach Tommy Tuberville said the defense handled the offense at the line of scrimmage, but that was of little concern for Coach Gene Chizik following the two-hour day as another defensive back went down with an injury during the practice.

Working his way all the way up to second-team at cornerback behind Carlos Rogers, redshirt freshman Zach Gilbert has shown an ability to get the job done in the defensive secondary. Tuesday brought concern about his future though as he got tangled up with a receiver during practice and left the field with a leg injury.

"They took him to the hospital to see about X-rays," Tuberville said. "We're a little concerned about that. We don't know anything about that, they haven't told us. It was his leg, but wasn't his knee." Gilbert was taken to East Alabama Medical Center for evaluation for what appeared to be a lower leg injury. Chizik said all they can do now is wait and see what is status is in the coming days before they make any more changes in the secondary.

"I don't really know anything," Chizik said. "We'll just cross that bridge when we get there. I don't know where we're at with it right now. We'll have to sit down and look when we get a report and see what happens."

His absence means that Patrick Lee moves into the back-up role behind Rogers with true freshman Anthony Campbell likely moving behind him as well. Both have been getting plenty of reps at the position this preseason and should have a chance to get some experience early this season. Auburn had already moved safety Kevin Hobbs to cornerback in the wake of a season-ending injury to David Irons Jr. at corner and the loss of Courtney Denson, who transferred to South Florida.

With under two weeks left until the first game the practices are beginning to take on a different level of intensity. On Tuesday that meant a version of the inside drills that the team does during two-a-days. This time three offensive linemen, a quarterback and one running back take on two defensive linemen and one linebacker in a gap just six yards wide. The drill promotes being physical at the point of attack and got the intensity up quickly to begin the practice.

Marquies Gunn, Jay Ratliff and Tommy Jackson fire off the ball in a drill designed to keep the defensive lineman low coming off the ball.

Having Tommy Jackson, Jay Ratliff, Marquies Gunn, Stanley McClover and Rogers on the field meant a different look for the defense as well on Tuesday and it resulted in a stronger showing for the unit. Tuberville said it was pretty evident that they won the battle for supremacy on this day.

"It was a good practice today on defense," Tuberville said. "We had a lot of contact. The defensive line really played well. I thought Wayne Dickens had his best practice. He really played well and he's going to have to play well for us to have a chance defensively. A lot of younger guys are going to have to step up, but him knowing what to do he's going to have to step up and give us some leadership on the defensive line."

Following the practice Coach Al Borges reiterated the thoughts of Tuberville. After watching his offense struggle against the defense, Auburn's newoffensive coordinator said that he's not sure what the reasoning is for the recent problems, but he won't be concerned until the Tigers are closer to the first game.

"It was terrible," Borges said. "The truth be told, they won it (the line of scrimmage) Sunday, too. The last couple of days we have not been very good. You can make a million excuses for it. It's that time of camp and we're a little tired, but so is the defense. We just have to pick our weapons up and move on and play better tomorrow. We have to correct our mistakes. It's fall camp and we're going to have dips and downs.

"You just can't blame the players because it could be you (coaches), too," Borges added. "But at this point, until we get into scout teams, that doesn't concern me too much. When we go to get ready for the first game and we're not executing and looking bad, then you better look at what you're doing."

Defensively, Tuberville said that he expects Bret Eddins and Doug Langenfeld to both be back by Sunday's practice. Bothered by a stinger in his neck the last week, Eddins has been running and Tuberville said he should be in good shape to return to practice by the end of the week.

"He got some practice time before he got hurt," Tuberville said of Eddins. "He also had a good spring. Now we've just got to get him 100 percent healthy."

Freshman Montavian Collier was practicing with the linebackers on Tuesday and Tuberville said that's where he'll be staying for the time being, although he didn't rule out a move to safety in the future. Former safety Andrew Letts was at outside linebacker once again and appears to have found a new home on defense.

Both kickers again had a good day as John Vaughn was perfect on the day and made a 42-yard field goal to keep the team from running sprints at the end of practice. Yost missed just one kick on the day and is keeping the race close for the number one job with Vaughn. Tuberville said a starter will be named next week to give the player a chance to think about his job for a few days. Yost will remain the long field goal kicker as well as the man on kickoffs.

Finding someone to return kicks shouldn't be a problem this season for the Tigers. With almost 10 players getting looks this preseason both at punt and kickoff returner, Tuberville said they have an idea of who they're going to use, but nothing has been settled to this point.

"First of all we have to find out who's healthy," Tuberville said. "Carnell will be a returner. (Devin) Aromashodu will be a returner. Right now those two are going to be the first group on kickoff return. If Carlos Rogers hadn't gotten hurt we would have had him back there somewhere, maybe not with the first group. We're going to try Jerald Watson and probably Brad Lester back there. For punt returns it's Tre Smith along with Carnell and Silas Daniels. That's probably how we'll go into the game barring injury."

Auburn will return to practice Wednesday for a light scrimmage featuring short yardage and goal line situations. The team will practice Thursday and Friday before taking Saturday off. With classes in session the Tigers are practicing later in the day. Wednesday's workout will start just before 5 p.m.


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