Big Plays Highlight First Scrimmage For Offense

Coach Al Borges talks about the play of the quarterbacks in the first scrimmage and which players stood out to him.

Auburn, Ala.-–Since the first four days of fall practice the Auburn offense has come on strong working against the defense and that continued Wednesday morning with a solid effort in the first scrimmage of two-a-days.

Despite missing projected starting center Steven Ross and wide receivers Courtney Taylor and Jamoga Ramsey, the offense clicked from the very first play of the day when Brandon Cox hit running back Kenny Irons for a 68-yard gain and rarely slowed down until the end of the 80-play scrimmage. In all Cox threw for 199 yards and two touchdowns on 11-17 passing.

While Cox was sharp from the beginning, the same can't be said for back-ups Calvin Booker and Blake Field. Both struggled to find a rhythm in the pocket and, although both threw a touchdown pass, both also threw an interception. Booker's numbers were a decent 3-8 for 85 yards, but 71 came on one play to James Swinton for a touchdown. Offensive coordinator Al Borges said the day was up and down like he expected.

"For the first one that's not bad," Borges said following the scrimmage. "There are so many things that look like we've just started playing again. For some reason as a coordinator I tend to remember those better than the good things, which is unfair. We did some nice things. I thought Brandon was on target for most of the day. When he got good protection I thought he held up nicely. I thought when we ran the football we came off better than we've been coming off. I know Coach (Hugh) Nall has been upset, he didn't feel like we've been getting good surge. Today was much improved. We've got a long way to go, but it's a good start."

Calvin Booker completed 3-8 passes for 85 yards and one touchdown in the scrimmage.

While Cox was on target, the job for his number two is still wide open after the first scrimmage. Both players have made strides in getting the offense down and making plays, but Borges said they need to become more consistent in the coming days with the second scrimmage coming on Saturday.

"If I told you one was better than the other then tomorrow the other one would be better," Borges said. "I can't tell you that there is any clear-cut number two. Every day is big for deciding that (back-up job), but Saturday is huge because it's closer to a game-type situation.

"You know what's good about the two of them is that they're actually starting to iron out some of the little things, the game management things. How to check on the line of scrimmage and make less mistakes there. We've got to be better with our passing game. When the receiver is open we have to make the throw and we're still not as consistent on that as we should be."

Starter Brandon Cox sets in the pocket during the scrimmage. Cox was very good throwing the ball down the field during the morning workout.

Borges had high praise for all of the running backs that saw action in Wednesday's scrimmage that saw Carl Stewart lead the way with 44 yards rushing while Kenny Irons added 23. For the day the backs ran the ball 25 times for 89 yards with one touchdown. Borges said all of them brought something to the table during the scrimmage that was positive.

"I thought they did a good job," Borges said. "Kenny is Kenny. Every time Kenny touches it or every fifth time something is going to happen. He pretty much held to that today. Brad Lester, who pulled a hammy (hamstring) a little bit today, made a couple of real nice runs. He runs with reckless abandon and no fear. He doesn't care how big he is. Carl Stewart is the same old Carl Stewart. He picked up right where he left off in the spring. He had a heck of a spring and he looks like he's right back to where he was.

"I want to mention Jake Slaughter too," Borges added. "Jake, from about the third game on last year, has steadily improved. I don't know if we would ever be what we could be if Jake wasn't as good of a role player as he is."

Maybe the most important player in Wednesday's scrimmage for the offense was Jonathan Palmer. Working at second-team center since Ross went down with a strained hip flexor, Palmer was thrust onto the first team during the scrimmage when Joe Cope went down with a strained knee. Palmer said that he felt pretty comfortable out there and thinks it went well.

"I think I did decent," Palmer said. "There is always room for improvement. This is just my second day for real (at center) since the spring. I just have to get back into the swing of things. Playing guard for so long I have kind of picked up on the calls that the center makes so when I move over there everything comes back to me."

With the possibility that Palmer may be the first-team center for the immediate future until Ross and Cope return, he said that all he wants now is a legitimate chance to win the starting job. Judging from the way he's played in the last two days that could very easily happen if he remains the only healthy body for any extended period of time.

"That's all I ask for is to get out on the field," Palmer said. "That's what I want. It's a new challenge for me and that's always exciting."

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