Tuberville Sees Progress at Second Major Scrimmage

A variety of players on offense and defense stood out at a lengthy football scrimmage on Saturday.

Auburn, Ala.--In the opinion of head coach Tommy Tuberville, the Tigers made progress on both sides of the football on Saturday as the Tigers completed their 10th day of spring drills and their second major scrimmage.

The not so good news is that the injuries continued to mount on defense where noseguards Tommy Jackson and Josh Thompson, who were having impressive springs, went down with knee injuries. Tuberville said the initial reports are that the injuries aren't serious and wouldn't rule out a possible return by either of those two players later this spring.

The Tigers are also playing defensively without three starting linebackers--Travis Williams, Antarrious Williams and Kevin Sears. All are out for the rest of the spring with injuries.

"Offensively, our timing was a lot better," Tuberville said. "I thought Brandon Cox threw the ball well even though the wind was blowing 20 miles per hour. It was a lot better execution."

Cox completed 8-12 passes for 98 yards and one touchdown running the first offense vs. the first defense. The sophomore said he believes he played significantly better in scrimmage two, but noted he made two major mistakes when he tried to force balls into coverage and was picked by Will Herring and Kevin Hobbs, who both made their big plays in the end zone.

A third interception came against Blake Field, who was picked by safety Steve Gandy, who had five tackles and won praise from Tuberville and defensive coordinator David Gibbs. Gandy returned his interception for a TD, running over Field to get into the end zone.

That was the only score for the defense. Tre Smith ran for TDs of five and 10 yards and was impressive as a receiver, too, catching three for 66 yards to go with 56 yards rushing on 16 carries.

Kenny Irons had a good day, too, at tailback, gaining 77 yards on 12 carries, while showing he could break a tackle.

Tailback Carl Stewart suffered a hip pointer and bruised ribs. He carried the ball 10 times for 52 yards.

"We are still not as consistent defensively in some situations," Tuberville added. "We are throwing it at the offense. It is not one of those springs when we are just playing technique and base defense. We are turning it loose."

One of the most impressive things turned loose was the defensive end corps. Stanley McClover stayed at weakside end where he had seven tackles and three sacks. His backup, Quentin Groves, moved to strongside end and had a good day, too, with five tackles and three sacks.

The move was designed to put two of the best athletes on defense on the field together and Groves said he felt good about the way he played on Saturday. "It went pretty well," he said. He also said he thought the defense improved during the course of the scrimmage after the offense played better to start the two-hour session.

With Cox at quarterback, the first offense scored on drives of 90 yards, 20 and 15 yards. With Calvin Booker at QB the second team offense had one TD, a 15-yard drive. With Blake Field at QB, the offense didn't get into the end zone. The other quarterback, Dusty Goodwin, didn't get a chance to play.

Booker was 7-15 for 83 yards and Field was 2-6 for 17 with one interception.

Stanley McClover sacks Brandon Cox.

"I thought the lines, offensive and defensive line, were much improved over last week," Tuberville said. "Stanley McClover and Quentin Groves continue to get better. They are playing a lot better with their hands behind their pads on pass rush. That is making our offensive line work a lot better."

Tuberville had praise for the tailbacks, including sophomore walk-on Alex Howell who ran for 20 yards on 10 carries and caught an 11-yard pass.

"Tre Smith still fascinates me on his vision at the line of scrimmage--how he can see guys coming," the coach said.

Linebacker Merrill Johnson tied McClover for the lead in tackles with seven. He left the scrimmage early after taking a blow to the shoulder, but it is not believed to be serious, Tuberville said.

Defensive end Marquis Gunn, Groves, safety Tristan Davis, safety Eric Brock, safety Steve Gandy, noseguard Tez Doolittle and linebacker Chris Evans each had five tackles. Doolittle had a sack as did tackle Pat Sims and end Chris Browder.

Safety Will Herring and cornerback Kevin Hobbs ended scoring threats from the first offense by intercepting Cox passes in the end zone.

Despite those two turnovers, Tuberville said that he liked most of what he saw from Cox and said that Booker improved. "He looked a little bit more calm in the pocket," he said of Booker. "He didn't have his happy feet. Field made two bad mistakes. He threw one up for grabs on an interception and he tried to tackle the guy (Gandy). It looks like he may have knocked his shoulder down. I don't know serious it is. He didn't do any more after that.

"Leon Hart looked good. I thought Tez Doolittle showed up today. I was really focused on him and Pat Sims to see how much farther they have come. I am really encouraged by Gandy, Tristan Davis and Chris Evans. Those guys are really tackling hard with good technique and running to the ball. Now, are they doing the right thing? We will have to wait and see."

Tuberville said that defensive tackle Wayne Dickens (four tackles) looked like he had a good scrimmage.

Linebacker Kevis Burnam, Herring, cornerback Montae Pitts and tackle Neil Brown had four tackles. Hobbs had three stops. Linebacker Courtney Harden, cornerback Anthony Campbell, end Octavious Balkcom and safety Kevin Beall had two stops.

Cornerback David Irons played briefly and had one tackle, cornerback Patrick Lee, T.J. Jackson, Josh Thompson, Pat Sims, linebacker Justin Connally, safety Blaker Shrader and safety Josh Hebert had one tackle apiece.

WR Ben Obomanu caught two passes for 41 yards, WR Jamoga Ramsey caught three for 23, WR Courtney Taylor caught two for 22 including a TD pass from Cox. WR Devin Aromashodu and WR Lee Guess each had one catch for 11 yards. Tight end Jonathan Isbell had one catch for nine yards, WR Maurice Anderson one for eight, TB Kenny Irons one for seven, WR Clayton Jones and TE Rick Pollard had one for four and tight end Charles Mullen had one reception for three yards.

The Tigers won't return to practice until Wednesday. The A-Day Game is next Saturday at 1 p.m.

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