The Tigers were chased off the intramural practice fields by a thunderstorm on Sunday, but came back later in the evening and were able to go through a full pads practice that featured individual drills for the first hour and some 11 on 11 work in the second half of the session plus some more one on one contact work for the linemen.
The most interesting development was offensive line coach Hugh Nall promoting Cope to first string center after he graded 97 percent in Saturday's scrimmage.
"I am going to try to keep working hard and hold on to that spot," says Cope, who walked on to the team in 2002 from Andalusia High School. He hopes to fill the vacancy left by 2004 starter Jeremy Ingle, another unlikely former walk-on who moved up the depth chart to become the starter. Like Cope, Ingle was undersized, but he managed to become a key part of last year's SEC Championship team.
Cope and Ingle are close friends and the junior says he called his father and Ingle to tell them the news when Nall let him know he would be running with the first team on Sunday.
Joe Cope (50) spent the spring as the first stringer with Steven Ross out with an injury.
The six-foot, 277-pounder is undersized, but has won praise from Nall for his excellent technique and intensity. He is also excellent at reading defensive fronts, Nall says.
"Right now he has been in the system long enough he knows what to do," Nall says of Cope. "He has had a bunch of reps lately. Right now, he is performing the best."
Also at Sunday's practice, Nall had praise for redshirt sophomore King Dunlap, who played right tackle in the workout instead of his normal left tackle slot. Nall says that Dunlap is the third best tackle on the team behind starters Marcus McNeill and Troy Reddick and is the first option off the bench behind those two players.
Steven Ross, the projected starter at center, is still in the hunt for a starting job. However, he missed all of spring drills with a knee injury and has missed much of the preseason with a hip flexor and has fallen behind. He started last year when Ingle was injured, but was hurt himself late in the season and needed knee surgery.
Jonathan Palmer, the second team right guard, will continue to work at center. Leon Hart has also worked some at center, but is likely to see game action at left guard. Hart was ill on Sunday and missed the workout.
Nall, who is known for being reluctant to substitute his starters in game-type situations, has been looking at a variety of combinations this preseason. During Saturday's scrimmage, he took his search for different combinations to another level with plenty of substituions. "Right now, I am looking to shore up my number twos," Nall notes. "If you noticed in the scrimmage yesterday, I started substituting every four plays. I thought (Tommy) Tuberville was going to pass out out there when he saw that."
The head coach didn't pass out, but he did see some good things from the offense after watching video of the second scrimmage of the preseason. Sunday's practice was designed to correct mistakes made on both sides of the ball.
"It was a good practice today," Tuberville said Sunday evening. "We had a lot to work on. The scrimmage yesterday was good, better than the first one. We made a lot of mistakes, especially defensively. The defensive backs made a lot mental mistakes. We have got a lot to correct there. The effort was good though. As long as the effort is good, we will have a chance.
"On offense, we were a lot more consistent. The running game has got to be a little better. We missed a few mental blocks, but again we tried to run ball that much the last couple practices. We are going to start picking that up once we start school.
"We have got a lot of guys banged," Tuberville added. "We need to get some of them back. It doesn't look like we are going to get some of them back anytime soon so we are going to have to practice the guys we have got."
First team wideout Courtney Taylor, who has a groin pull, is expected back this week as is the case with wideout Anthony Mix who took a blow to the stomach in a collision with cornerback David Irons (bruised ribs). Irons was at the practice, but held out of the contact work.
Another tailback, Tre Smith, was running full speed at the practice, but hasn't been allowed to have contact after having his appendix removed 12 days ago. Tuberville says that Smith getting into the playing rotation is "getting close" to happening.
The Tigers will have their final two-a-days sessions at 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. on Monday and will practice once on Tuesday afternoon before taking Wednesday off as fall semester classes begin.
In other practice news:
*The entire team had to run 60-yard wind sprints after practice when John Vaughn missed a 45-yard field goal wide right.
*After that, defensive line coaches Don Dun and Terry Price kept their players on the field for extra work.
*King Dunlap and freshman defensive end Antonio Coleman had two scuffles during an intense one on one drill that obviously pleased offensive line coach Nall, who liked the big tackle's aggressiveness.
*QB Brandon Cox, who was sharp throwing the ball in Saturday's scrimmage, was on target again on Sunday, something that has been a regular event at preseason practices.
(More practice notes are on the Tiger Ticket message board.)