Young Defensive Linemen Win Praise At Practice

Auburn's first full pads practice was a day for the defense to shine with veterans and young players having strong performances.

Auburn, Ala.--Defensive line coach Don Dunn was smiling after Auburn's first practice in pads, offensive line coach Hugh Nall was not pleased and head coach Tommy Tuberville wants to see a lot more action before he has much to say about individual football players.

In a day that featured contact with some limited 11 on 11 work, nine on nine and one on one drills, the defensive front was the highlight of the Thursday practice, day three of 15 spring training dates.

"I was real proud of them," Dunn said of the defensive front. "To be honest with you, I was kind of shocked. I know it is only the first day, and I have been in this long enough to know that one day doesn't make it, but I was real pleased with Tez Doolittle. I was real pleased with Pat Sims. I was real pleased with Tyronne Green.

"Those are kids we have been preaching to since bowl practice, ‘You have got to step up now.' The key is with young guys can you do it tomorrow, and the next day. What happens is the grind and the constant pressure is going to get tougher every day for them, and they have got to step up.

"I haven't seen the film yet. You know the old saying, it not as good as it is or as bad as it is, but I thought the whole group, ends and tackles, tried to do the right thing, running around, flying to the ball, playing with a lot of enthusiasm."

Doolittle is a sophomore noseguard, Green is a redshirt freshman noseguard and Sims is a redshirt freshman defensive tackle.

"It's make or break for him (Sims) and Tez because they have been around here collecting dust, eating and sleeping, enjoying the good life and it is time for them to step up," Dunn added.

Another young interior defensive lineman won praise from Dunn. Nathan Farrow, a 6-3, 310 walk-on redshirt freshman from Clay-Chalkville High School, was buried on the scout team last year, but is getting a chance to show what he can do.

"I am just so happy for Nathan," Dunn said. "He is such a good kid. He even improved since yesterday. We are real pleased with him and he is going to get better and better.

"Will he be a defensive lineman in the future? He could be an offensive lineman who helps us. That is something I don't know, but we need kids like him in the program. He is a pleasant kid. He works a job in the afternoons when we aren't practicing to pay his way through school. That is what I love about him. He is a big kid and he is playing very well."

Noseguards Tommy Jackson and Josh Thompson caused major problems for centers Joe Cope and Leon Hart on Thursday. Hart is trying to learn how to play the position after moving inside from tackle. Defensive ends Stanley McClover, Quentin Groves and Marquies Gunn all had impressive practices.

"Those defensive ends are pretty good I would say," offensive line coach Nall said.

Tackle Marcus McNeill and tight end Cooper Wallace block defensive end Chris Browder at Thursday's practice.

Nall said the offensive line needs to improve at playing as a unit and the linemen need to pick up the intensity to match the defense. "I thought we were five individuals," Nall said. "We aren't an offense line yet. We have to replace the two that left and build a chemistry. It was the first day. I have been through a lot worse and I have been through a lot better. We have a long way to go. We are certainly not an offensive line yet."

"We have a lot of learning to do, a lot of chemistry to build and a lot of mistakes to make and we started today by making a lot. I thought the first group did some good things at times, but it is not consistent enough. The second group has a long way to go."

As promised, the quarterbacks were pressured with blitz drills in Thursday's practice. Head coach Tommy Tuberville said it looked like QBs struggled with that aspect of the game, although Brandon Cox had another very good day throwing the football.

Cox said there was room for improvement, but he was encouraged, "My head was spinning a little bit trying to direct protections, pick up this, pick up that," he said. "Overall, I think I did all right.

"I have been throwing the ball pretty good this spring," Cox added. "I just have to keep working at getting better and getting better at the things like picking up the protections and blitzes, keep throwing ball and hopefully it all comes to together."

Commenting on Cox, Tuberville said, "You can tell he is much farther ahead of the other quarterbacks. That doesn't mean a lot to this point because they are going to get a lot of reps, the kind of reps he has been getting over the last year, but he is definitely a lot more polished with what he is doing."

Chris Evans makes a tackle on running back Carl Stewart.

In other news from Thursday's practice:

*Offensive guard Jarrod Britt left the workout earlier with a shoulder problem, something that sidelined him for the entire 2004 season. William Sullivan, a redshirt freshman, moved up to second team guard when Britt left.

*Tuberville noted that wide receiver Anthony Mix and Tony Bell are making improvements academically after being held out of practice this week to catch up on classwork. "They are here to earn a degree and I want to make sure they do that," the coach said. "Playing runs second to that. I think if you look at what we have done over the long run what players do off the field reflects what they do on the field. I am not punishing these guys. I am just trying to help them out."

*In one on one drills, senior offensive tackle Troy Reddick was very impressive.

*True freshman linebacker Chris Evans intercepted a deflected pass from Blake Field and continues to look good in the first week of practice.

*Travis Williams is off to another strong start at middle linebacker.

*Tuberville said he expects around 500 high school coaches to be on campus through Saturday for the annual Auburn Coaches Clinic.

*The Tigers will practice at 4 p.m. on Friday in full pads, but Tuberville said there won't be much contact other than in drills. The first scrimmage is 10 a.m. on Saturday.


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