The Pads Go On And The Intensity Goes Up

The report is a detailed look at Auburn's first full contact practice session with photos and notes.

Auburn, Ala.--Tommy Tuberville was complaining about the injuries, but it was hard to find fault with the overall intensity and the quality of the contact work in the first day of full pads spring training on Tuesday.

Roshard Gilyard made the offensive coaches wince with a huge shot to Carnell "Cadillac" Williams on a toss sweep at left end. However, the Cadillac drove away from that wreck without any major dents or other permanent damage.

Not to be outdone by his teammate in the secondary, senior Rashaud Walker flattened tight end Robert Johnson when the six-foot-six, 265-pounder caught a short pass near the sideline. Walker came flying in like a cruise missile with a direct hit under the chin and Johnson was down for the 10 count and more.

There were other good hits from the defensive group, which got off to an embarrassing start to the two hour and 15 minute practice session by getting crushed during three-on-three inside drills. However, that was not the worst of it for the defensive staff. Junior Jay Ratliff was one of the crushees and injured both his ankle and knee. He was carted off the field and will be X-Rayed to see how serious the damage is.

Another defensive lineman didn't make it through the first day of contact. Senior tackle Dante Booker injured his ankle. An offensive player was also injured. Redshirt freshman lineman Steven Ross suffered a leg injury, too. The combination of three players going down in one day had the head coach less than pleased with Tuesday's practice.

"Those are three guys who really need a lot of work and we don't have a lot of depth on the line and that is really hurting us," Tuberville said. "We have got to get those guys back if we possibly can." The head coach added that he is hopeful that it won't be too serious on the injury front."

Tuberville wasn't the only unhappy coach on Tuesday. Hugh Nall was about to blow a gasket as his offensive linemen didn't follow up with their strong three-on-three drills with good performances in the one-on-one drills vs. the defensive tackles and ends. Guard Nate French and centers Danny Lindsey and Ben Nowland had some good moments, but the line coach was not happy with what he saw from the group as a whole. The main objects of his scorn were Monreko Crittenden and Ryan Broome, however, he called the group "marshmellow soft>" and had a parting shot as they left the drill to begin the 11 on 11 scrimmage part of the practice. "If you guys don't do any better than this, next year I will be selling onions."

Nall had a lot less to complain about as the one offense squared off against the one defense and the two offense faced the two defense. For much of the session, the offensive line got the better of the defensive front or least held its own. Later in the action, perhaps excited by the big hits from guys like Gilyard and Hood, the defense controlled the tempo near the end of the 11 on 11 work.

Defensive tackle Spencer Johnson had a good day in individual and team drills on Tuesday.

Players who stood out on defense included linebackers Mark Brown, Dontarrious Thomas and Jake Slaughter, a redshirt freshman who won praise from defensive coordinator Gene Chizik. Defensive tackle Spencer Johnson showed his athleticism when he intercepted a pass over the middle thrown by Jason Campbell and took it the distance for a touchdown.

Neither Campbell nor Cobb were particularly impressive in the 11 on 11 drills.

"They are making a lot of mental mistakes," Tuberville said. "They are still not playing full speed because their motor is not running 100 percent because of having to think so much. We knew that was going to happen because of what we are doing offensively.

"We are going to have to be patient and let them learn what they can do, get them to Saturday and see if they can execute. We are putting a lot at them. We are not going at a slow pace."

Cobb, who is running second team, said Tuesday evening he and the other quarterbacks are definitely in a learning stage. "The entire offense is based on timing and rhythm and getting the ball out on time. If it is not out on time, checking down to a back and getting a completion and avoiding bad plays. The whole thing is based on the synchronicity of the quarterback and receivers.

"There is more emphasis this year on getting the ball off on time and where to go with it. There is more reading during the dropback to where you are going to go rather than after you set up with the ball."

Tuberville said he did see some bright spots. While not singling out any players, he said, "Guys are trying to impress coaches and trying to make the team. We have gotten better in three days. We know a lot more about what we are doing. We are getting better at learning the new schemes."

Freshman linebacker Lemarcus Rowell makes a hit in Tuesday's practice.

Tiger Ticket Extra: Tuberville said the Saturday morning scrimmage will probably start at 9 o'clock and it will be 130 to 150 plays. The Tigers will practice on Wednesday and Thursday, too. Redshirt freshman Wayne Dickens had a solid day playing noseguard with the first team...A defensive player who didn't have a good day was tackle Ronald Samuel, who was pulled out of the 11 on 11 scrimmage and made to do grass drills...With Donnay Young out with a hamstring injury, senior Travaris Robinson is running first team free safety and is making some good plays at the position. Overall, the secondary was the bright spot of Tuesday's practice. Tuberville said that is not surprising considering that the group has a lot of depth, talent and experience and is trying to impress new coordinator Gene Chizik. "Anytime you make changes, guys have to concentrate more and I am sure they are trying to make an impression with the new coach so they can get on the field," Tuberville said...Wednesday's practice is scheduled to be at Jordan-Hare Stadium at 3 p.m. The Thursday practice will be at the practice fields so there will be more room for several hundred high school coaches expected at the session which is part of Auburn's annual coaching clinic. The Saturday scrimmage will be at the stadium.

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