AU Coaches Encouraged After First Scrimmage

Commments from Tommy Tuberville and his coordinators plus players are featured along with statistics from Auburn's first scrimmage.

Auburn, Ala.--Head coach Tommy Tuberville and his offensive and defensive coordinators said at first glance that Auburn's opening scrimmage of the preseason wasn't a thing of beauty, but all three men said they were encouraged by what they saw.

"It was a good start," Tuberville said after the Tigers worked out on a hot muggy day at the intramural fields that were still wet from rains the previous evening. "We made a lot of mistakes, but that is the reason you scrimmage.

"Some guys showed up, but we won't know how we did until we see the film," Tuberville added. "I don't think injuries were too significant. Joe Cope looks like he is going to be all right and Brad Lester stretched his hamstring."

Cope, who was running at first string center, went down early in the scrimmage when his leg was stretched in the middle of a scrum. Jonathan Palmer took over the first team center duties with projected starter Steven Ross expected to be out for several more days while recovering from a hip flexor.

Leon Hart played center for the second team and freshman walk-on Tyler Maloney moved up and played center with the third offense. Lester, a backup tailback, had a solid day running and catching the football before his hamstring problem. He missed all of spring training with a hamstring injury and a groin problem.

"There were some good efforts, but it was a little sloppy," Tuberville said. "It was good to have the referees out here to kind of get us on the right track."

Senior receiver Anthony Mix scored a pair of touchdowns in the scrimmage.

Tuberville praised the play of first string quarterback Brandon Cox. "I thought Brandon did a good job. He made good decisions...He looked calm and cool under pressure. It looks like he is getting better."

Cox completed 11-17 passes for 199 yards and two touchdowns. He did not throw an interception.

Tuberville said it is still a "tossup" on who the number two QB will be with Calvin Booker and Blake Field not playing as well as Cox. "Neither one really knows what is going on yet with the whole offense. They make so many mistakes now it is hard to evaluate them with the naked eye. We will have to look at the film and see what they did right and wrong."

Offensive coordinator Al Borges said, "For the first one, it was not bad. There are so many things that look like we just started playing again and for some reason, as a coordinator, I tend to remember those better than the good things, which is unfair.

"I thought Brandon (sophomore quarterback Brandon Cox) was on target for most of the day," Borges said. "When he got good protection, he held up real nicely.

"When we ran the football, we came off (the line of scrimmage) better than we had been coming off. I know Coach Nall (offensive line coach Hugh Nall) had been upset and didn't feel like we had been getting enough surge, but today looked much improved. We have a long way to go, but this is a good start."

At the start of the scrimmage, the offense came out smoking, beginning with a 68-yard pass play to tailback Kenny Irons on a perfect toss deep over the middle from Cox. Irons, Carl Stewart and Brad Lester all were successful running the ball early in the scrimmage. Tre Smith, the project starter, wasn't allowed to participate as he continues to recover from surgery to remove his appendix. Smith is scheduled to be ready in time to play in the opener vs. Georgia Tech.

"Our offense is good," said defensive coordinator David Gibbs. "Coach Borges and those guys do a great job and they schemed us and they got us and we can't let that happen from now on, but the kids gave great effort and we will be okay.

"One of the things about the kids here is that they practice hard and they play hard and they run around and hit and all of those good things," Gibbs said. "We have just got to get them in the right positions.

Jonathan Wilhite leaps over receiver Maurice Anderson to make an interception.

After Gibbs and his staff made some adjustments during the scrimmage the defense played better and held the upper hand much of the second half of the scripted, situational scrimmage. Most of the scrimmage, regardless of what happened on the previous play, the ball was moved to a pre-determined yard line with most of the plays being first down and third down situations.

Senior Anthony Mix led the receivers with three catches for 63 yards and two scores. "I had a couple of big plays in the passing game, but I made some mistakes in the running game so I still have a whole lot to work on," he said. "I think that is the case for the offense as a whole."

Stewart ran the ball four times for 44 yards and Irons had seven carries for 23 yards and three catches for 66 yards.

Quarterback Cox was smiling after the action. "For the first scrimmage we did good, a lot better than I thought we would do," he said. "We got off to a fast start and I was throwing the ball well today. I made a lot of mistakes that I can work on, but I felt comfortable. I look to build on it."

In other scrimmage notes:

*Travis Williams had a strong scrimmage at middle linebacker. Gibbs said he was very impressed with what he saw from the All-SEC senior.

*AU coaches pulled down the barrier ropes to let fans who showed up on the hot and muggy day get a closer look at the scrimmage.

*True freshman linebacker Tray Blackmon, who is running third string, made several impressive plays, stopping plays for no gains or lost yardage.

*True freshman cornerback Walter McFadden made a nice interception on a sideline route thrown by Field when the third stringers were on the field while newcomer Jonathan Wilhite picked off a deep pass thrown by Booker when the twos were in the scrimmage.

*New tailback Tristan Davis didn't have much running room as he finished with 14 yards on six carries, but he continued to show his good quickness.

*Fullback Jake Slaughter got tackled in the end zone by Pat Sims with help from the entire defensive front and linebackers for a safety in a series in which the offense had to get the ball off the goal line with the football spotted just inches past the end zone stripe. The defense guessed right and attacked the center and Slaughter didn't have a chance.

*The second offense had more success on its try getting the ball off the goal line with fullback Mike McLaughlin having room to bull to the two yard line.

*Defensive linemen Quinton Groves, Josh Thompson Alonzo Horton and Pat Sims had "sacks" on the QBs who wore yellow jerseys and were off limits to contact. The SEC officiating crew called plays dead when the defensive player was reaching to touch the quarterbacks. Thompson had a pair of sacks and safety Will Herring got one.

*Redshirt freshman wide James Swinton scored on a 71-yard bomb from Booker that was slightly underthrown.

*Booker was 3-8 passing for 85 yards with one TD and one interception. Field was 2-7 for 23 yards with one interception and one TD. Two of his perfectly thrown passes were dropped.

*Lester ran the ball six times for 16 yards and caught one pass for 11 yards.

*Devin Aromashodu had two catches for 31 and Ben Obomanu had two for 13. Carl Stewart had one for 26, Maurice Anderson 1-20 while freshmen Gabe McKenzie and Robert Dunn had one each for three yards.

*Travis Williams led all tacklers with seven solos and two stops. Safety Will Herring had three solos and four assists. Linebacker Chris Evans had two solos and three assists while corners Montae Pitts and David Irons had four tackles and three tackles with Josh Thompson also adding three tackles.

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