Tigers Set To Begin Spring Practice

Auburn, Ala.--It's football time again for the Auburn Tigers as spring practice gets underway beginning Friday with the first of 15 scheduled practices leading up to the annual A-Day game on April 6 inside Jordan-Hare Stadium.

While the excitement is running rampant this spring with new coordinators on both sides of the ball, there is also some sad news as defensive tackle Marcus White has decided to give up football because of a neck injury suffered late last season. Holding on to his dream for as long as possible, the sophomore will receive a medical hardship and remain on scholarship to finish his degree at Auburn.

Marcus White

"Marcus White has decided to give up football," Tuberville said on Tuesday. "He had a neck injury in the late part of the season and has been talking with the doctors and visiting with his parents this past weekend he has decided that he's going to give it up. That was his choice. The doctors basically left it in his hands. Anytime you're dealing with the neck you need to really consider how important this game is...He will be deeply missed because he could have helped us not only on the defensive line, but on the offensive line. But again, health comes first and he'll stay with the football team in some capacity."

The loss of White becomes more problematic for the Tigers this spring when the injury situations of Demarco McNeil and Spencer Johnson are factored in. Both have suffered from knee problems since last football season and are questionable for contact this spring as they rehab towards next season. Saying that both are essential to the success of the 2002 team, Tuberville noted that depth shortages still remain on both sides of the ball until the team can get to full strength in August when the new signees arrive.

"We do have more depth than what we've had," Tuberville said. "We didn't have a lot of seniors coming out, but the area we did have seniors were the offensive and defensive lines. Those are two areas we weren't real deep anyway. It's going to be a strain to go through all this contact we're going to have in 15 days of spring practice to be able to everyday in practice have two full teams."

While things look solid defensively other than up front, on offense there are plenty of concerns but most pressing is at quarterback where Jason Campbell and Daniel Cobb return to continue the battle they waged for much of last season. With senior Jeff Klein giving up football this season, that leaves true freshman Wesley Hill as the only other scholarship quarterback for spring practice and really sets the stage for a two-way battle heading into the fall.

"Jason will be number one, Daniel two and Wesley Hill three," Tuberville noted on the quarterback rotation heading into spring practice. "They have a lot to learn because in this offense we'll put more pressure on the quarterbacks in the sense of identifying defensive fronts, identifying certain people on the field when we're playing a team that has a player we'll want to identify. It's a little bit more mental for the quarterback, but once they get it down it will be simpler when we get into a game situation.

"We won't put as much pressure in a game situation, but mentally getting to the game is going to be a little more difficult. I think it will be a good competition. Jason and Daniel have both had good off-seasons. Both are healthy. Jason really struggled after the bowl game with his shoulder that he hurt. He couldn't throw a football for a few weeks, but he's almost 100 percent. Daniel is excited about the sixth year they gave him and I think both will do fine. I think it will be very competitive."

Jason Campbell will start the spring as the No. 1 quarterback.

Another position that should be very competitive is at the running back spot where Carnell Williams returns from a shoulder injury bigger and stronger to fight off the challenge provided by Casinious Moore, Ronnie Brown and Chris Butler. With a different philosophy regarding playing running backs now, Tuberville said it is very important for two of the four to distance themselves from the pack before fall practice begins, but Williams is at the head of the pack going into the spring based on his play last season.

"Carnell is 100 percent and looking good in the offseason workouts," Tuberville said. "He actually could have played a week after the bowl game, but we talked about it and weren't going to take a chance where he was at because he had not practiced the week of the game. It was just unfortunate for him because he really wanted to play, but he's ready to go now. He's up to, it says 199 but he's probably closer to 205. That's 15 pounds from where he was at last summer and he's going to need that extra if you're going to carry the ball 30 times a game, which is a lot in this league. He's had a great offseason and he's ready to go."

The Tigers open practice Friday at the practice fields located behind the Athletic Complex at 3 p.m. Saturday the team will practice inside Jordan-Hare Stadium at 10:30 a.m. and one week later on Saturday, March 9 the first scrimmage of the spring is tentatively scheduled to be held in the stadium. The second and final scrimmage is scheduled for the following Saturday also at the stadium leading up to the A-Day game on April 6 at 1 p.m. All practices are open to the public.


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