Rain Doesn't Slow Offense In Sunday Practice

Despite rainy conditions for much of the practice the Auburn offense had a very good Sunday.

Auburn, Ala.–-The weather was far from perfect on Sunday evening, but it didn't stop the Auburn Tigers from having perhaps their best practice so far this preseason on offense.

Working for two hours in full pads during times of pouring rain, the Tigers spent much of the day working in team situations, something Coach Tommy Tuberville said his squad needed coming into the day.

"We did team earlier so we could at least get it in," Tuberville said. "We need more team work than we do individual work right now. We need some film where these younger guys can learn. These young guys' heads are spinning. We're getting a lot done. It's four weeks from yesterday that we kick off the season so we've still got plenty of time."

As is the norm for the first few weeks of fall practice the injuries have begun to mount for Auburn as the team gets into full pads. Tuberville said defensive end Stanley McClover, who injured a hamstring during Saturday morning's practice, will be out for at least a week before he returns to practice. Center Steven Ross injured a hip flexor on Saturday and should be back for the scheduled scrimmage on Wednesday.

Continuing the theme of injuries on defense is tackle Tez Doolittle. Already hampered by a dislocated kneecap earlier this summer that still isn't 100 percent, Doolittle banged up a shoulder Saturday that has also given him problems in the past. He should return to practice Tuesday along with safety Steve Gandy, who had a minor concussion earlier in the week.

One player who returned to some action on Sunday was running back Tre Smith. Still not able to have contact, Smith got in some special teams work and Tuberville said he looked good back on the field so soon after having his appendix removed.

"Tre returned punts today and caught the ball well," Tuberville said. "I think he could go and he thinks he can go, but we're not going to take any chances. We'll wait through this first scrimmage and then start him going."

Wide receiver Ben Obomanu catches a pass and turns upfield against Montae Pitts.

Putting more and more of the offense into the package each day has given the unit a spark of life since the middle of the week. Despite a tough day on Saturday there were some bright spots in the passing game, something offensive coordinator Al Borges said he saw more of during Sunday's practice in the rain.

"It was really good," Borges said. "Considering the conditions I thought we really took a step today. The kids kept their focus pretty good. Brandon Cox is starting to show more and more command of the offense. I thought he did a really nice job. He had a couple of bad balls, but goodness gracious if conditions got this bad you're not going to throw it 40 times. I really was happy with the step we took today.

"I told them afterwards that these types of conditions test you a little bit because there's going to be some adversity," he added. "In these kinds of conditions you find out what you're all about."

This photo of Tray Blackmon tackling Karibi Dede (21) during a linebacker drill gives an idea of how hard the rain fell at times during Sunday's practice.

While the offense had a better day, the defense had its share of playmakers on Sunday as well. Among those were defensive ends Marquies Gunn and Quentin Groves. Gunn continued his impressive play this fall by pressuring the quarterback on several occasions with one sack and also doing a good job against the run.

Defensive ends coach Terry Price said at the moment he considers Gunn right at the top along with Groves and McClover.

"I tell you what, there is a world of difference between him at 230 and at 255," Price said. "He's really played well and works hard. He's physically the toughest guy I've got. I wish they were all that tough.

"We're working to get them all that tough. He works hard. I love the way he plays and he's getting better. He's just as much of a starter as those other two guys. I have no problems starting any one of those three guys right now in a ball game."

Even though most had Groves and McClover penciled in as the starters coming into the season, that might not be the case because of the way Gunn has been playing. Price said that, just like every season before, the best guy will win the job regardless of reputation.

"There's no set starter at any position right now," Price said. "I go into two-a-days like that every single year. If there's a starter going into the season and somebody's not playing well, we'll make a change in a heartbeat. You've seen that over the last five or six years. The best player is going to play and whoever comes out of two-a-days the starter at the strongside and weakside positions will be the starter."

The Tigers will just have position and team meetings on Monday before they return to the practice fields on Tuesday for the first of three two-a-day practices scheduled for next week. Wednesday afternoon will be the first scrimmage of the fall and, weather permitting, it will be held in Jordan-Hare Stadium and open to the public.

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