Tigers Have Tune-Up Before Final Spring Scrimmage

Several young players had good days in Tuesday's practice, the final regular season practice before Wednesday afternoon's final spring scrimmage.

Auburn, Ala.–-Following a stormy early day in Auburn, the afternoon turned out to be pleasant as the Tigers practiced for the final time before Wednesday's scrimmage that brings spring practice to a close. Coach Tommy Tuberville said the day was a good one for the defense as it continues to improve both up front and in the secondary and he added that several players have caught his eye with their recent play.

"Tony Bell is looking good after his first couple of weeks off," Tuberville said. "He's made some improvements in the last couple of days. I'm really proud of him. I watched the secondary most of the day and I'm really pleased with Steve Gandy, he's come a long way. Also Eric Brock is making plays.

"The guy that Coach (David) Gibbs keeps talking about is Lorenzo Ferguson. He's really made a lot of progress. We're going to leave him at corner. I thought he might be too tall to play there, but Coach Gibbs thinks he can play there. He's made a lot of progress and played good last Saturday in the spring game."

Offensively the day belonged to the quarterbacks, and in particular back-up quarterbacks Calvin Booker and Blake Field. Both had their best days of the spring according to offensive coordinator Al Borges and that translated into a better passing game down the field. Both Booker and Field made plays and Borges said that comes when players become more familiar with what they are doing.

"What happens is the paralysis through analysis goes away as you understand and can conceptualize the offense," Borges said. "That's the difference in quarterback play because you can't just look at the plays and memorize the plays and expect to perform. You can't do that. You can do that with a test in school and grade very well, but you have to be able to conceptualize what we are trying to teach them.

"They are now starting to do that," he added. "I think a huge thing that has happened the last couple of days, and particularly today, is that they're standing in the pocket and throwing the ball. This position is about footwork, it's not about arms. We recruit arms. We coach footwork. Once they learn that they have to transfer their weight, they have to set their hips and they have to finish with their momentum towards the target regardless of how much traffic is in the pocket, they'll start to be more accurate with their throws."

While both Booker and Field have been around since last summer, their knowledge of the offense mainly comes from what they've learned in the last 14 practices. Last season while Campbell and company were heading towards a perfect 13-0 season, both Booker and Field were learning the opposing offense to help out the defense. Borges said that's something that always affects a young quarterback just like it has done with his two this spring.

"It's a culmination of 14 days of being critiqued and critiqued and critiqued," Borges said. "It's hard for a kid who's never been in an offense that is so demanding, not from just a physical standpoint but from a mental standpoint. You go from a high school offense to a NFL offense in one fell swoop and you have to learn it in 15 days. If the truth be told, they weren't coached much last fall. They were on the scout team. Through osmosis they might have learned a little bit, but they've really only had 14 days to progress.

Booker throws a pass during Tueday's practice on the Plains.

Overall Borges said he was pleased with what he saw after watching the A-Day game from Saturday. Despite not scoring when it had the opportunity, the offense did some things right and he said it gives them something to build on heading into next season.

"It wasn't the most exciting game to watch that's for sure, nothing compared to last year," Borges said. "But, we actually did some nice things in the game. I would have liked to score more points, but we did some nice things. Now I want to see how that carries over to tomorrow because I know if we're getting better we're going to be okay. That's the way it worked last year.

"I thought King Dunlap had a hell of a day day," Borges added. "He did a nice job. Courtney Taylor did a great job with run after the catch. Brandon Cox was middle 80s (grading scale) and our goal is always to be in the low 90s. Jason (Jason Campbell) consistently last year was in the low 90s with his grades, but in the spring he was about where Brandon is right now. He was still a work in progress at this time too."

The injuries up front on offense continue to mount for the Tigers as freshman guard Jason Bosley hurt his knee in a non-contact drill early in Tuesday's practice when the offensive line was working on steps in the indoor facility. The severity of the injury is not known, but he won't participate in Wednesday's scrimmage. That is true of sophomore guard Jarrod Britt as well after another shoulder injury sidelined him early in the spring. Tuberville said he'll have surgery, but his status for the future is still to be determined.

Wide receiver Devin Aromashodu is also out for Wednesday's practice after he broke his collarbone in Saturday's A-Day game. Surgery will not be needed for his injury and Tuberville said he'll be back for two-a-days in August. That is the same situation with running back Brad Lester, who has missed all of spring practice with a strained hamstring. He won't return to full speed practices until two-a-days.

Tuberville said depending on the depth up front on the offensive line, Wednesday's scrimmage should last around 125 plays. It will begin at 4 p.m. inside Jordan-Hare Stadium. Tuberville said he hopes to see a more competitive scrimmage on both sides of the ball after the defense has dominated the last few head-to-head match-ups.

"Tomorrow will be a day basically for the quarterbacks and a lot of the younger guys on defense," Tuberville said. "We'll pull one or two guys out. Offensively we have to get better, but tomorrow will be a scrimmage where we're not going to hold anything back. We'll turn them loose. It might be as ugly as it was Saturday. I hope not because we need to score some points."

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