Auburn's first spring football scrimmage opened with domination by the defense, but by the end of the day the offense had improved enough to make a case that the offense held its own against the quick and athletic defense.
A couple of things were clear from start to finish. The offensive execution with new centers and new quarterbacks leaves a lot to be desired and the pass protection was inconsistent.
Although first stringer Brandon Cox was okay early and better later in the day, no other QB had a solid practice day on Saturday at the nearly three-hour scrimmage at the football complex. Cox's stats were nothing to write home about as he completed 8-22 for 97 yards and a pair of TDs to Ben Obomanu.
"We have a long way to go," said new defensive coordinator David Gibbs. "This is just the first scrimmage so there is plenty of time to improve and we are going to need to do that."
Gibbs did see some positives, especially early in the scrimmage when the first, second and third offenses had to struggle for every foot they gained and first downs were few and far between. His defense was aggressive and finished with 10 sacks.
"We played physical and we ran around and played hard," Gibbs said. On the minus side he said the tackling needs to improve. "We have to clean it up," he noted. "Everybody made mistakes out there, but there is no reason to panic. We have plenty of time to get it corrected."
Groves led all tacklers with 10 nine stops and four sacks. McClover was very active two with a pair of sacks and eight tackles. "We got after them pretty good early in the scrimmage," McClover said with a smile.
The defense made the first big play of the game as middle linebacker Kevis Burnam picked off a short Booker pass and ran 13 yards for a touchdown. The defense scored again later in the scrimmage when Booker bobbled a snap in shotgun formation for a safety.
It took a 61-yard run by tailback Kenny Irons to finally get the offense out of its funk.
"I think that play gave us a lift," the junior said. "I should have scored, but I was trying to use a block from Devin (wide receiver Devin Aromashodu) and I tripped."
Irons finished with 98 yards on 11 carries, but Carl Stewart, who scored the first TD on a two-yard run on the seventh series of the scrimmage, was the leading rusher with 120 yards on 15 carries. It often took two or three defenders to put the 218-pound tailback on the ground.
"I added some weight and strength and I think it helped me today," the redshirt sophomore said.
Number one tailback Tre Smith netted 35 yards on 12 carries and scored on a leap over the top from the one-yard line.
AU didn't have a lot of receiving yardage. Both Booker and Field passed for just 28 yards. Booker hit 3-8-1 with one interception and one TD, a 17-yarder in the corner of the end zone to Maurice Anderson over anthony Campbell. Field hit 3-10 with no picks and one TD, a five-yarder to tight end Charles Mullen. Goodwin was 1-4 with no interceptions or TDs, but had a nice scramble to get the offense off the goal line.
Maurice Anderson catches at TD pass over Anthony Campbell on a throw from Calvin Booker.
Obomanu caught three passes for 55 yards and two scores. Cooper Wallace had three catches for 21 yards. Fullback Mike McLaughlin caught two passes for 23 yards. Lee Guess had one catch for 12, Courtney Taylor had one catch for nine, Irons had one catch for six, wide receiver Sean Alexander had one for five and tight end Rick Pollard had one catch for five.
Freshman linebacker Merrill Johnson was active with nine tackles, Evans had eight, safety Eric Brock had seven, Montae Pitts had six, Kevin Sears made five tackles, defensive tackle Neil Brown, Burnam and Travis Williams had four each, safeties Will Herring and Tristan Davis had three, DE Marquis Gunn had three, Tommy Jackson, Josh Thompson, Kevin Hobbs, Anthony Campbell and Courtney Harden each had two tackles, DE Chris Browder, CB Zach Gilbert and LB Justin Connally made one tackle.
Coach Tommy Tuberville gave the scrimmage, which was watched by approximately 80 prospects, and around 1,000 fans, mixed reviews. "Offensively, we didn't execute well at all in the first half of the scrimmage," he said. "We came on strong at the end. We had a lot of problems with the quarterback-center exchange. That's going to happen with a new center. It will get better as continue to practice.
"We threw a lot at the offense," Tuberville said. "The quarterbacks didn't do anything special. Their heads are spinning. We blitzed quite a bit today and that's unusual for the first scrimmage.
"We have no time to waste. We have to get after it with these young quarterbacks and let them see everything they're going to see. Overall, it was a good day, but not great. We have a lot of room to work and improve on."
Cox, who had finger dislocated on a sack by tackle Sims, gave his performance mixed reviews. "We had a slow start on offense, but throughout the scrimmage we got better and better. Personally, I missed some receivers and I think I did okay picking up blitzes and directing runs and making checks."
Booker said, "I wasn't satisfied with my play at all," he said. "My touchdown pass felt good, but I had a horrible day leading up to that. That is part of the game. You have to be able to recover when things don't go your way."