Final Spring Scrimmage Receives Mixed Reviews

Comments from players, Tommy Tuberville and defensive coordinator are featured along with highlights of the final spring scrimmages.

Auburn, Ala.--After a strong start by the offense, the defense rallied in the final spring training scrimmage and practice produced a standoff between the offense and defense.

Running the ball each time on the opening series, the No. 1 offense pounded the ball 80 yards on 15 plays before junior tailback Tre Smith ran around left end behind a big block from fullback Jake Slaughter for a touchdown from two yards out.

Considering that there were no touchdowns in Saturday's A-Day game, that is what head coach Tommy Tuberville and offensive coordinator Al Borges were hoping to see.

"Coach Borges told us when we went out there we were going to run right at them until they showed they could stop us," said quarterback Brandon Cox. "We kept running it and stayed in good situations where we didn't have to throw it."

All the lefty QB had to do on the first series was read the defense and hand off the ball to Smith or Carl Stewart. Smith opened the drive with runs of 14, 5, 8, 4, 7, 3, 3 and 0 yards before Stewart took over and carried the ball for 19, 2, 3 and 1 before Smith got the ball on the rest of the drive. He scored from two yards out running behind a nice block from Jake Slaughter.

Cox got all of the work with the first offense while Calvin Booker and Blake Field handled the number two offense and a mixture of twos-threes who saw significant action on Wednesday evening.

None of the quarterbacks had a big day passing the ball, but Cox and Field were able to lead the offense to touchdowns while that didn't happen for Booker. Dusty Goodwin, the other QB, didn't get a chance to play in the scrimmage held at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

The head coach said the offense was "very inconsistent" with too many missed assignments. "I thought the quarterbacks did a good job, not a great job," he noted. "We have made some improvement, but we have a lot of room for improvement at quarterback and some other positions that have less experience. It was a good day for scoring some points, but we have a lot of guys beat up on defense so you don't know much we have improved."

Cox completed 6-16 passes for 56 yards and 20-yard touchdown pass to Carl Stewart, who rushed for 70 yards on 14 carries.

Field was 4-11 for 88 yards with touchdown passes to walk-on Rodgeriqus Smith of 50 yards and nine yards to James Swinton.

Booker was 4-10 for 40 yards and one interception.

"It was a good three yards and a cloud of dust day," Tuberville said. "We wanted to come out on offense and run the ball and see if we made any improvement running the football. We did some good things. We scored a few points today. We didn't get shut out.

"I thought the defense played hard," Tuberville added. "We got a lot of guys hurt. End of spring practice, defending SEC champs. We have a lot of room for improvement if we are going to have an opportunity to repeat next year."

Stnaley McClover pressures Brandon Cox.

Defensive end Quentin Groves was the leading tackler with 10 stops, including one sack.

End Stanley McClover and safety Tony Bell each were in on six tackles.

One of the most active players on defense was redshirt freshman safety Steve Gandy. He had five tackles, including two sacks in blitz situations, and he was physical in the secondary.

"It's a lot of fun when we scrimmage like this and get to hit people," he said. "I feel like I am making improvement out there."

Freshman linebacker Chris Evans along with end Marquis Gunn and safety Eric Brock had four stops apiece. Brock left the scrimmage early after being hit by accident in the leg by a defensive teammate, but the initial report is that he suffered just a bruise.

New defensive coordinator David Gibbs gave his players a mixed review immediately after the scrimmage. "It was physical and they came after us. Our offense does a good job and they came out and ran the ball well on us today.

"We played hard, but we just didn't play physical and we didn't tackle well enough, but we will be back in the fall ready to go," Gibbs added. "We had a good spring overall. We learned a whole bunch of new stuff and we'll be ready when we come back in August.

Safeties Brock, Gandy and Bell each showed signs of being physical on Wednesday.

"They had some big hits, but I would rather them be in position all of the time and not have any missed assignments and not have any big hits," Gibbs said. "Big hits come with physical guys and we have got physical guys here. We have got big physical players and they have just got to become football players now.

"You have got to do more than just tackle, but I have been pleased they have had good springs. They have all grown and matured a whole bunch and hopefully we will just keep right on going.

Tuberville said he liked what he saw from Tre Smith on offense. "Every practice or every game he makes a move you don't know he did it. He did it again today. He just keeps getting better. He is a guy who has been looking forward to starting for the Auburn Tigers and he is going to have that opportunity next September."

Kenny Irons, who has been competing for the number one tailback spot, carried the ball 14 times for 46 yards in the scrimmage and was the third leading rusher. He also caught a pass for 12 yards.

Wideout Lee Guess caught four passes for 44 yards splitting time with the first and second units.

Overall, Tuberville said the defense did well with a new coordinator on the field this spring. He said the group probably progressed more than he expected, particularly with key players out with injuries.

Offensively, the head coach was not as pleased. "We didn't play with a lot of momentum the entire spring on offense. The best thing defensively is we have the type of players to play and win in this league. We have just got to find the right ones to do it.

"Over the summer, we will see who is going to work hard and pay the price. We have a lot of young guys on the same level. We are going to find out over the summer which ones want to move ahead of the other ones by work ethic and getting better on their own."

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