Pace Picks Up At Third Football Practice

News and notes from Auburn's third football practice are featured.

Auburn, Ala.--After a leisurely workout by normal Auburn August practice standards on Wednesday, the pace quickened on Thursday as the Tigers put on the shoulder pads for the first time since spring training.

The extra gear allowed the wide receivers and defensive backs to get physical with each other during pass drills while the offensive and defensive linemen squared off for one on one pass rushing and blocking drills that got a bit intense.

Freshman linebacker Tray Blackmon lines up in a defensive drills on Thursday.

Overall, head coach Tommy Tuberville gave a thumbs up to day three of practice for his football team.

Tuberville says the Tigers hope to get their latest signee on the practice field on Friday--wide receiver Ulysses Alexander from Northwestern High in Miami.

Originally signed by Tennessee, his scholarship papers were voided with the Vols over-signing and with Alexander not willing to take a grayshirt and sit out of football this fall. UT wanted him to enroll in January.

Under NCAA rules, he will have to practice in shorts until next week. He is scheduled to have paperwork processed and a physical done on Friday and should be on the practice field for a 4:30 p.m. workout.

Tuberville says the coaches debated whether or not to take a fourth wide receiver signee in this class or hold it until next season.

"It will just cut back on the number of receivers we will sign for next year," Tuberville said. "We are looking at him as a big guy who will line up on the outside."

Wide receivers coach Greg Knox said he is looking forward to working with the 6-4, 200 pound freshman. "He is a big kid and he has good hands," Knox says.

"He goes up and gets the ball with his hands. He is a good route-runner with good speed. We are excited about having him in the program. He has the qualities we are looking for in a receiver.

"It is important to get him a lot of seasoning this coming year with all of the seniors we have at receiver," Knox says. "Hopefully, we will have him ready to go for next season."

Tuberville says, "He is a guy who has a lot of height and speed who played defense quite a bit in high school and moved over to offense. I have got a lot of friends down in Miami who are real, real high on him off the field as well as an athlete."

Thursday's practice featured individual teaching by the position coaches and competition between the offense and defense later in the session. There were a variety of good battles on the field.

Senior offensive tackle Marcus McNeill and sophomore Stanley McClover fought to a standoff in the one-on-one pass protection drills. McNeill and fellow senior Troy Reddick could give the Tigers one of their better pairs of offensive tackles in recent years.

Defensive lineman Tez Doolittle, who is coming off rehab from a dislocated kneecap, gave backup center Joe Cope fits in the one on ones.

Noseguards T.J. Jackson and Josh Thompson showed up well in the pass rushing drills, too.

Starting quarterback Brandon Cox had a good day throwing to a variety of receivers vs. the defensive backs. Courtney Taylor was his favorite target.

Backup cornerback Kevin Hobbs picked off a pass from reserve quarterback Blake Field in the pass-skel workout portion of the practice.

Newcomer Robert Dunn showed his athletic ability with an impressive diving catch. Tuberville says to expect to see the true freshman playing this fall.

Senior wideout Anthony Mix looks like he is on target to become a bigger receiving threat this year at approximately 250 pounds. He is off to a good start in preseason.

Freshman offensive lineman Oscar Gonzalez had his third straight good day of practice. Another freshman, walk-on Stephen Gowland, made a variety of good catches in receiving drills.

Quarterback Brandon Cox (12) had a good day throwin the football on Thursday. Cole Bennett (87) is the No. 2 tight end.

In other news:

*Tuberville says the contact will pick up more as the week goes along with the Saturday morning session being the most physical of the first week.

*Freshman tight end Tommy Trott showed his soft hands in the pass-skel drill

*Freshman field goal kicker Zach Kutch was only one of three on short range, angled field goals. John Vaughn drilled all three of his kicks through the uprights. Kutch's misses caused the entire team to run wind sprints at the end of practice.

*Tuberville mentioned true freshman tight end Gabe McKenzie as a player who made strides on Thursday catching passes.

*The Tigers are scheduled to practice again at 4:30 p.m. on Friday at 8:45 a.m. on Saturday.

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