Challenges Issued At AU's Ninth Football Practice

The Tigers got physical, at times, during Friday's football practice.

Auburn, Ala.--With the coaching staff challenging the offense to make a better start and for the defense to have a better finish, the Tigers pushed through a full contact practice on Friday preparing for the second major scrimmage of the spring.

The Tigers worked out for more than two hours at a cold and windy session that featured several scuffles, lots of contact drills and a visit from the Southeastern Conference's referee crew, which is doing its own spring training weekend seminar at AU this season.

The officials will work Saturday's scrimmage at the football complex, which will start shortly after 10 a.m. Like the one a week ago, it will match the first offense vs. the first defense, the second offense vs. the second defense and threes vs. threes. It is open to fans.

A player who will have a lot to say about how the second scrimmage of the spring develops is first team quarterback Brandon Cox. "This week offensively we have put in a lot more plays," the redshirt freshman noted. "We have the screens and the draws in, which is going to slow down the rush of the defense, which really killed us in the first scrimmage last Saturday.

"I am looking for the offense to be able to throw the ball easier and I am looking for the protection to be better," Cox said.

Offense coordinator Al Borges told the offense he expects a better overall performance than a week ago. "He told us the things that we put in this week would help us tremendously with the slowing the rush," Cox explained. "He said it would help the tackles against our defensive ends.

"Coach Borges also told us if something bad happens like it did last week that we need to recover. He always uses that word and he talks about beating the defense to the punch, something we didn't do last Saturday.

"Last year we were good at beating the defense to the punch. We scored on 10 of the opening 13 drives, and that was a statement for Auburn football. We want to keep that going."

Brandon Cox is shown in Auburn's first spring scrimmage.

Coach Tommy Tuberville gave Friday's practice, with winds gusting to around 40 miles per hour, mixed reviews. "Today was a little bit better defensively, but it was still a little bit lackluster," said the coach, who watched the offense dominate the action on Thursday. "We kind of lost our edge the last couple of practices. I think it might be because we've practiced nine times in the last 13 or 14 days.

"We're still not getting the intensity we need on both sides of the ball," Tuberville said. "We didn't have the execution offensively we had yesterday. Our defensive front is not getting off blocks like they should. We're making some mistakes in the secondary. We've just got a lot to work on. I think we've gotten a little bit tired. We're throwing a lot at them that they are having to grasp tomorrow, which will be a big test.

"It will be a big test for the offense to start out a lot faster than they did last Saturday," Tuberville added. "Defensively, we need to play the whole scrimmage instead of half of the scrimmage. We have a lot to work on. I think the effort has been there most of the time. Saturday is going to be a big test. We told them it is going to be a deciding point on whether some of them are going to be in the top two-deep going into the spring game."

Auburn's annual A-Day spring football game is set for 1 p.m. on Saturday, March 19th.

In addition to the challenges from Tuberville to the Tigers, a variety of position coaches were extremely vocal on Friday about the need for players at their positions to do better. Linebacker coach Joe Whitt made that very clear as did wide receivers coach Greg Knox.

Friday's practice got more energetic during the 11 on 11 team drills near the end of the session when there were some challenges from player to player. Defensive end Quentin Groves and offensive tackle Antwoin Daniels got into a scuffle that was quickly broken up, but it sparked the intensity on both sides of the ball.

Another defensive end, Stanley McClover, made a hard tackle on tailback Tre Smith during a drill in which tackling wasn't allowed. Smith took major exception and the two wrestled on the sideline before teammates separated the projected starters.

In other news from Friday's practice:

*Second team safety Steve Gandy intercepted a pass in the end zone thrown by Blake Field and made lot of other good plays in drills. "He is getting better," Tuberville said. "He is finding his way around. For a young guy in the secondary, because there are so many mental things you have to learn, a lot of those young guys have been been in a daze for the past two weeks, but it looks like they are getting a little smelling salts and coming out of it a bit."

*Another backup defensive back, corner Patrick Lee, had a good day on Friday. Secondary coach and defensive coordinator David Gibbs seemed energized by what he was seeing from his defensive backs on many plays.

Anthony Mix catches a practice on Friday.

*Senior wide receiver Anthony Mix is making progress academically and was allowed to practice on Friday and should play at the scrimmage on Saturday. Tuberville noted that Mix still needs to concentrate on academics and may be held out again next week.

*Tuberville said the Tigers are expected to have approximately 100 high school junior prospects/suspects on campus to watch the scrimmage on Saturday, which is at the football complex's artificial turf field.

*The Tigers worked on punting at Friday's scrimmage and will punt in the scrimmage. Redshirt freshman Anthony Campbell is currently the No. 1 punt returner.

*Tailback Brad Lester, who has not practiced yet this spring due to a hamstring problem and groin pull, may see some limited action the last week of spring drills.

*In one on one pass blocking and rushing drills, offensive guard Ben Grubbs had one of his best days. Backup defensive tackle Pat Sims continued his improvement.

*Wide receiver Lee Guess caught a long pass over the middle from Field in the 11 on 11 drills.

*With offensive guard Tim Duckworth out of practice with muscle spasms, sophomore Leon Hart worked with the first team on Friday.

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