Although they don't get recognition after being moved to the scout team, a collection of redshirted players and walk-ons quickly becomes one of the most important parts of the team when they take on the role. Having to adapt to knowing they're not going to play, the group has to put the team first and Coach Tommy Tuberville says he's never had a better group of scout teamers than on this year's team.
"Every week we give a player of the week on offense, defense and special teams, but the two most important awards are a player of the week on the offensive scout team and defensive scout team," Tuberville says. "These are guys that show the picture of the other team's offensive plays to our defensive players or the defensive plays against our offensive players.
"This is the best scout team we've had. We've got depth. We've got guys that each week give tremendous effort to simulate the Matt Jones', which Calvin Booker did, or a Cedric Houston, which Kenny Irons did."
Calvin Booker will compete for the starting quarterback job in spring training.
It doesn't stop there as up front guys such as Antwoin Daniels on offense and Tyronne Green on defense add to the list of players helping out the team. Defensively, it's names like Tristan Davis, Anthony Campbell and Merrill Johnson that have caught the eye of the coaches for their hustle on the practice field. Tuberville says the play of the guys up front, in particular, has helped this team improve on game days.
"I think the biggest improvement in our offensive and defensive lines are the lines on each side that they have to block every day in practice," Tuberville adds. "We've got tremendous redshirt players and we have walk-on guys like Matthew Motley, Alex Howell and Rhett Autry, they're important as anybody for what they do to help put in the gameplan each week."
One of the main scout team players getting involved on a daily basis is Booker. A true freshman from Atlanta, Ga., Booker could have gone to a college where he would likely be challenging for the backup role or even the starter's job by this time, but that's not what he was looking for, he says. A team player, he says that he's doing his job and enjoying watching the team excel with his help.
"It's hard, but you have to understand why you're down here," Booker says. "We're paying our dues and it's all about getting better. Before we signed our letter of intent we said we would do whatever it takes for the team to win. That's what we're doing. Our defense is the second-ranked scoring defense in the country, we're 9-0. It's all working.
"It really makes you feel good to see them doing so well knowing that you prepared them during the week," he adds. "Even though we might not get all the shining light that they get, it doesn't matter because we're winning. We look at them on Saturdays and see that we've worked on that all week. When they recognize it you know you've had something to do with it."
Teaming with Irons and receiver James Swinton, Booker has been able to play many different players this season, including Jones, Erik Ainge and this week David Greene. Along with fellow freshman quarterback Blake Field, Booker has given the defense a good look each week and says that he's having a good time competing against the first team defense every day in practice.
"It's fun because on the first couple of days we're practicing they are trying to implement the game plan so when we do real well the coaches get mad at the defense," Booker says. "We thrive off that because in the end it's all about giving them a good look. When you have guys like Kenny, who was one of the best running backs in the league at South Carolina, it's almost like a blessing to have guys like that going against you every day."
Expected to challenge Brandon Cox and Field for the starting job in the spring, Booker has been busy doing double duty. In addition to his time spent on the other team's offense, he has also been watching and learning from current starter and senior Jason Campbell. Booker says that being able to watch Campbell play the way he's done this season has been one of the best things that could possibly happen to him and is preparing him for his chance down the road.
"I think it really helps my maturity, especially with the year Jason is having," Booker says. "You just get to sit back and watch him excel after all that he's been through. Then mentally going against the first team defense, sometimes full speed, you can't get any better than that. We're probably going to be one of the most prepared scout teams in the country after going against those guys. It's like sparring with Muhammed Ali or somebody. After doing that there's not too many people that could beat you."