New Look Football Practice With New Coordinators

Auburn opened spring football practice on Friday and some changes were obvious.

Auburn, Ala.--It was back to school for Auburn's defensive and offensive players as the football Tigers opened spring drills with a two-hour plus teaching session on Friday.

With new coordinator Bobby Petrino showing the offense what he is expecting and new defensive coordinator Gene Chizik directing traffic there was some opening day tentativeness at times.

Bobby Petrino is shown in action at his first Auburn practice.

"Overall, it went pretty well for the first day," notes Petrino, who the Tigers hired away from the NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars to pump some energy back into an offense that struggled throughout the 2001 season. "One thing we need to work on is practicing at a higher tempo, but I think that will come as the players learn what we are looking for."

Petrino raised his voice a couple of times to make sure the Tigers understood he meant business about practicing hard. On the adjacent field, Chizik used one of the first drills of the season to emphatically make his point about practicing hard as he pushed the defensive backs through a pursuit and fumble drill in which they tried to punch the football out of the arms of a ball carrier. Chizik made it very clear that the his defenders needed to go hard or go home.

Overall, the man who hired the new coordinators, Tommy Tuberville, called it a solid opening day on a cold and windy Friday. He says that he hopes he can put the Tigers through two more workouts over the weekend with a 10:30 a.m. session scheduled at Jordan-Hare Stadium and the first contact workout of the spring set for 3 p.m. on Sunday. However, if the heavy rain that is forecast comes as expected, the head coach said he will call off the Saturday session.

"We are going to work outside or not practice at all," Tuberville says. "The (assistant) coaches want to get their work in outdoors."

Defensively, the Tigers were concentrating on the basics on Friday. Tuberville says this is the time of the season when Auburn is trying to get the right players in the right positions.

Defensive coordinator Gene Chizik studies his players.

Chizik says, "We may move some players around in the secondary or from linebacker to the secondary or from the secondary to linebacker. We will just have to wait and see what develops as practice progresses." Players in that category include sophomore Derrick Graves, true freshman Karibi Dede and redshirt freshmen Travis Williams and Antarrious Williams. There could also be some movement from cornerback to safety, Chizik adds.

Offensively, the positions look to be mostly set although Victor Horn is getting looks at both fullback and tailback. With Brandon Johnson sidelined for the spring after having shoulder surgery, Horn's best shot for playing time looks to be at fullback. Johnson watched the action on the practice fields and was joined for part of the practice by former Tiger star fullback Heath Evans of Seattle.

Wesley Hill (2) and Jason Campbell (17) pass at Friday's practice.

Tiger Ticket Extra: Jason Campbell is getting instruction on a different way to grip the football when he throws it and a new way to grip the football when he is handing it off on running plays. Campbell says he can already tell that he will have more zip on his passes and throw a tighter spiral with the new grip. He threw some mid-range post routes in passing drills against the No. 1 defense that had some major league heat on them...Daniel Cobb and Campbell struggled with their consistency passing the football on Friday. Newcomer Wesley Hill threw the ball well for his opening day as a college player. Petrino is also working on the true freshman's mechanics...Petrino singled out sophomore Silas Daniels for catching the football well despite playing with his hand bandaged to protect an injury...Redshirt freshman wide receiver Andrew Letts practiced but was less than full speed with an ankle sprain suffered in a pickup basketball game.

Jay Ratliff made the move from tight end and is running first string at defensive end.

More Tiger Ticket Extra: Rashuad Walker was a rover last season, but with the change in defenses he is now a strong safety and the senior says he is enjoying his new role. "Coach Chizik goes into great detail showing us how he wants us to play. He is a very good teacher. I feel like I am taking another class. Personally, I like the new scheme. I think it is going to fit well with our personnel. For me playing at strong safety I will be back on the hashmark and will be able to read the quarterback and move forward to react on the ball. In the old defense, playing rover, I was in the box and felt like I had to have eyes in the back of my head at times to make plays on passes."...Defensive tackle Spencer Johnson is not going to need knee surgery and practiced on Friday. He moved well and has been cleared to have full contact. He is taking anti-inflammation drugs for his problem, which involves the kneecap...Free safety Donnay Young missed the practice with a hamstring problem, but should be back soon, Tuberville says...Defensive end Reggie Torbor is out for a week with a hamstring problem...One of the most impressive looking players at the session was sophomore tailback Ronnie Brown, who looks like he is quicker than ever following offseason workouts and is showing no signs of the foot, thigh and shoulder injuries that slowed him last season. Linebacker Mayo Sowell made several nice defensive plays in passing drills.

Sophomore tailback Carnell Williams carries the football in Friday's practice. He has made a complete recovery from a shoulder injury suffered in November.

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