Spring Football Practice News & Notes

Notes and quotes from spring football practice are featured as the Auburn Tigers continue to learn the systems being put in by new coordinators.

Auburn, Ala.--With seven practices completed and eight to go for spring training 2002, the Auburn Tigers are continuing to be initiated into the new offensive and defensive schemes brought by coordinators Bobby Petrino and Gene Chizik.

Mark Brown

Several positions have been strong points in spring practice to this point because of the depth and talent from the first team down to the third team. One of those is linebacker where Mark Brown has solidified himself in the middle while athletic juniors Karlos Dansby and Dontarrious Thomas flank him to give Chizik the speed necessary to create havoc against opposing offenses.

That was evident in Wednesday's practice as those three, along with backups Mayo Sowell, Travis Williams, Antarrious Williams and Lemarcus Rowell, were able to put consistent pressure on quarterbacks Jason Campbell and Daniel Cobb in blitz drills. Using stunts up the middle and from the outside, the linebackers used their speed to good advantage and forced the offense to account for them at all times.

Junior Karlos Dansby

"There's a lot of talent," Coach Tommy Tuberville said of the linebacker group. "But they still have a lot of work to do. It's a pretty good group to pick from having to play three. Jake Slaughter is a good linebacker and that (depth) enabled us to move him to defensive end. He'll end up playing mike linebacker and defensive end. He's smart enough to pick up both of them and he'll give us a little added depth over there. The reps he's getting there will really help him understand what to do at linebacker, too. He's a good football player.

"You could tell on the field just watching them play that they are around the football a lot," Tuberville said of the young linebackers' performances in the first major scrimmage of the spring last Saturday. "They didn't do a whole lot right, but we knew they were going to make a whole lot of mistakes mentally--that's the last thing you look for when you're playing linebacker. The first thing you look for when you're breaking them in is, ‘Are they going to get to the football? Are they going to take the right angles? Are they going to shy away from contact or are they going to take on contact? They were looking for somebody to hit, which was good. Now it's our job to teach them what to do and be more consistent."

Junior linebacker Dontarrious Thomas

While the linebackers have been the bellcow group on defense, on the offensive side of the ball it has been the running backs and tight ends. With enough depth at tight end with Lorenzo Diamond, Robert Johnson and the emerging Cooper Wallace to move Jay Ratliff to defensive end, the position is in good hands and that's something this offense should utilize to the fullest. Ratliff is still sidelined with a knee sprain and was working out on an exercise bike during Wednesday's practice.

Coming off a shoulder injury suffered in the Alabama game last fall, some people questioned how effective starting tailback Carnell Williams would be this spring. That question has been answered resoundingly as the sophomore from Etowah High School has been on a mission to show his freshman campaign was just a sign of things to come. Perhaps one of the reasons Williams has been running wild this spring is the competition for playing time at tailback. With junior Casinious Moore looking better than ever, a lighter and quicker Ronnie Brown and the explosive Chris Butler breathing down his neck, Williams has to play well to stay number one on the depth chart.

Ronnie Brown is battling for playing time at tailback.

"He's doing fine," Tuberville said of Williams. "He's gotten hit and knocked around. He's the same old Carnell. He never says a word and does more than his share...he's 10 or 12 pounds bigger than he was at bowl time even though he didn't practice or play. I would say he would probably gain five more pounds, maybe a little bit more, between now and two-a-days and he'll obviously lose one or two or three of those during two-a-days. I would like for him to play around 205. If he's going to have to carry the ball 20 times or more I would like for him to carry a little bit more weight...but he's got some help. He's not going to be the only guy. He's got a couple of other guys that can help him out."

Carnell "Cadillac" Williams

Auburn returns to the practice field Friday at 3:30 p.m. before going through its second scrimmage of the spring Saturday morning inside Jordan-Hare Stadium. The scrimmage is scheduled to begin at 9:30 and is open to the public.

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