Good News For The Football Team's Defense

Coach Tommy Tuberville has several reasons to be pleased with developments on the defensive front.

Auburn, Ala.--There is good news for the defense on several fronts.

After watching two major scrimmages this spring, head football coach Tommy Tuberville says he likes what he is seeing so far. He says the 150-play session on Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium was a good one.

"That was probably the most physical scrimmage we have had since I have been at Auburn," Tuberville told Inside the Auburn Tigers. "I thought we got a lot of accomplished and we got through it in good shape physically."

Tuberville says the defense is definitely ahead of the offense and one of the standouts of that group, senior Mark Brown, agrees with his head coach.

"We had a pretty good scrimmage," the middle linebacker says. "We started off good and the most important thing is we finished strong."

The defense set the tone early with big hit after big hit and the number one unit did not allow a touchdown in the scrimmage. The more big hits the defense made, the more excited the defenders got. "Anytime you feel like you're getting the better of the offense, you're going to be more excited than if they run the ball up and down all night," Brown says. "I think we took pride in not letting the offense score on the first team. We just had a lot of fun running to the football. We made some decisions and made them full speed."

Of the 26 offensive possessions in the Saturday scrimmage, only six resulted in touchdowns. All came against second or third string players. Defensive coordinator Gene Chizik says that it is obvious there is a dropoff from the first to the second defensive units. "The disappointing thing with the twos is that we gave up some deep balls. In this defense that should never happen. You should never give up a deep play. We have got some work to do, but I think we are kind of working in the right direction right now."

Brown says the point of emphasis for the defense in the second scrimmage was getting more players around the football and that the Tigers did better in that area. "In the first scrimmage, we made a lot of mistakes we didn't make in the second scrimmage. We want to try to perfect our game by getting around the football and executing. We just need to keep giving great effort and don't be satisfied with what we've got so far because we've got so much further to go."

Fellow linebacker Dontarrious Thomas says he also sees signs of improvement in the defense and adds that it was exciting to see end Reggie Torbor back in the lineup. Torbor, a junior who missed the first scrimmage with a hamstring problem, was credited with six sacks in the scrimmage.

"With Reggie putting pressure on the offense from the outside, that makes our jobs as linebackers much easier," Thomas says. "Having Reggie back at end is a big plus for this defense."

Tuberville says the news on the injury front has been good this spring. Auburn got through the lengthy scrimmage without any major injuries and the defense came through with nothing more than bumps and bruises. Offensively, tailback Casinious Moore suffered a stinger and tight end Cooper Wallace played through a hip pointer. "Considering how much we have been running the ball in practice, we are doing real well with the injury situation," Tuberville says.

Signee Antwarn Franklin

Injuries could be less of a concern on the still depth short defensive front with the news that more help is on the way. In addition the new 2002 signees who will join the program for two-a-days in August, reinforcements are expected from a pair of late qualifying re-signees. Antwarn Franklin, a 6-5, 300-pound tackle from Woodlawn High in Birmingham, attended Saturday's scrimmage with good news that he finally made a qualifying score on his ACT after narrowly missing on his previous attempts. The news is also good on former Baldwin County High star Anthony Mix, who has been attending Hargrave Military Academy in Virginia to improve his ACT score, which he has accomplished.

Tuberville says that Mix, who was a standout at receiver and defensive end, will have a chance to contribute right away. "He weighs around 250 pounds now and he is a player who will get an immediate look at defensive end, a position where we are still looking for help," says Tuberville.

Lemarcus Rowell (left), Anthony Mix (center) and Carnell "Cadillac" Williams left were standouts for the Alabama High School All-Stars in their team's victory over Mississippi in Mobile.

With the exception of end Jay Ratliff being sidelined by an MCL sprain and the offseason surgery to tackle DeMarco McNeil, the ends and tackles were all available for duty in the second scrimmage and showed signs of improvement from the first scrimmage. Defensive coordinator Chizik says that was a highlight for him on Saturday.

Going into spring drills, Tuberville had said the possibility of not having enough defensive linemen to get in quality scrimmage time was a major concern, but with six more spring practice days to go, the situation seems to be working out nicely for the Tigers.

Tiger Ticket Extra: Fifth-year senior middle linebacker Mark Brown says he likes the 4-3 defense the Tigers are running. "I think the scheme is better for our talent that we have got at Auburn. It lets you be more aggressive and lets you run more. Instead of having to worry about your gaps, you run to the ball." Brown predicts that the linebackers will be a position of strength for the 2002 Tigers. "The linebackers are going to be a real good group, the first team through the third team. Anytime you have a strong defense, your linebackers have to be good because that is the middle of the defense so we take pride in being good and try to be one of the best groups out there. We are not resting on our laurels. I am not saying that just because we're dominating the offense now or we're doing better than the offense. We just want to keep getting better every day."...The Tigers will practice on Wednesday and Thursday this week and be off until Tuesday, April 2nd. They will practice April 3 and April 4 and wrap up spring drills with the annual A-Day Game on Saturday, April 6th at 1 p.m.

More Tiger Ticket Extra: While there is good news on re-signees Mix and Franklin, another Auburn signee will not be a part of the 2002 football team. Tommy Tuberville says that defensive end Forrest Tucker from Lillington, N.C., who is currently attending Hargrave Military Academy, is no longer being recruited by the Tigers. Tuberville says the 6-4, 235-pounder has not been taking care of his business academically and it is time to move on and look in other directions for future Tigers. Tucker originally signed with the Tigers in February of 2001 when he was a senior at Western Harnett High School...Saturday's football scrimmage attracted some current high school juniors who are expected to be prospects this fall. Among the players visiting the scrimmage were:

6-3, 290 defensive tackle Cedric Boone from Americus, Ga., High;

*6-0, 175 wide receiver/defensive back Derek Douglas from Pacelli High in Columbus, Ga.; *

*6-5, 270 lineman Antonio Godfrey from Tri Cities High in East Point, Ga.

*6-0, 226 linebacker Dishun Harris from Eufaula High;

*6-5, 275 offensive lineman Albert Lewis from Riverdale, Ga., High;

*6-1, 230 tight end/defensive end Avery Hannibal from Troup County High in LaGrange, Ga.;

*6-4, 275 tight end and defensive tackle Mike Hill from Smiths Station High; Eric Owens from Smiths Station;

*6-3, 300 offensive/defensive lineman Aaron Pouncey from Fairhope High;

6-1, 235 fullback Luke Scott from Sylacauga High;

6-3, 210 linebacker running back Mitchell Thomas from Smiths Station.

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