What might be surprising is that a new offense under the direction of Coach Al Borges has already been showing signs that it could be a unit to be reckoned with this season. With veteran quarterback Jason Campbell at the helm, the preseason practices have been solid for the offense as it works towards the season opener against Louisiana-Monroe.
Returning starter at quarterback Jason Campbell is a big key for the Auburn offense. He missed Wednesday's practice with flu-like symptoms, but was back on the field the next day.
Because key players have been missing from the preseason practices due to minor injuries, the 2004 Auburn defense hasn't been at full force the last two weeks, but that improved earlier this week. The first day when Jay Ratliff, Stanley McClover, Marquies Gunn and Tommy Jackson were all back on the field the tables were turned and the defense won praise from head coach Tommy Tuberville for outperforming the offense in that session.
Borges says it was impressive to see the defense have a good day in 11 on 11 work vs. the offense, especially when it caused quarterbacks Jason Campbell and Brandon Cox to be off their games.
"They've got Stanley McClover back and they've got some guys back," Borges says. "They did a good job and they're starting to familiarize themselves with the stuff, too. They see it everyday and they work on it. They're athletic, too. If you think you're just going to blow them away everyday, they're too good for that."
Al Borges has been busy this year as the new member of the AU coaching staff.
As someone who studies what Auburn's defense is doing in practice, Borges is an authority in assessing what the group is going to be like in 2004. Because of the numbers of newcomers getting major work this preseason and the numbers of minor injuries to veterans, Borges says he didn't really get a feel for them early, but notes that the defenders have come on strong with the return of key players up front.
"When those kids mature and learn and the coaching really starts taking, because we've got some really good defensive coaching, we're really going to be a good defensive team because we can run," Borges says. "We've got good speed and we're tough. When you run the ball directly at our defense it's not easy to get yardage because they hold up pretty good. You have to jerk them around pretty good to have a chance, in my opinion."
Borges and company continue to work towards the Sept. 4 season opener against Louisiana-Monroe. The Tigers are taking the day off on Saturday and will return to the practice field on Sunday.
With AU still installing new parts of the offense, it's a good bet that the Tigers will be adding new things well into the 2004 season because Borges says they still have plenty to learn with just one week left before the opening day kickoff.
"We've got about 60 or 65 percent in," Borges says. "It's up a little more now because we're playing with a couple of things. What we're trying to do is get them some plays we may not run in the first game, we may not run in the first five games, stuff that down the line we may use. If we practice it not it's not totally new to them when we do it."