Smith's Return Energizes Offense

The return of two offensive starters to the practice field was a reason for excitement Monday for the Auburn Tigers.

Auburn, Ala.–-A running game searching for an identity got a much-needed boost on Monday morning with the return of Tre Smith to the Auburn backfield. Out since the start of preseason practice after having an emergency appendicitis, Smith said that he was glad to be back on the practice field with his teammates once again.

"It felt real good," Smith said. "I think I had a little bit of a step on everybody because I've got fresher legs. I felt real good out there. I felt quick and fast. Everything felt good. I didn't feel my stomach or anything."

Although he's been running on the sidelines and taking part in special teams practices since late last week, Smith had not been cleared for contact until Monday. While he said he felt like he could go earlier, he's glad he waited to make sure everything was 100 percent for the final scrimmage of the preseason sometime this week.

"I thought I was going to be back last Thursday so I could scrimmage," Smith said. "That's what I had planned on doing. They kept me out a couple of days and said there was no need to let me scrimmage. They kept me out a couple of extra days to make sure everything is all healed up.

"I thought this Saturday was the last scrimmage," Smith added. "I really want to go through one. If we have another one I'll be happy because I don't want to go into Georgia Tech without getting tackled or being in a live situation. Scrimmages are fun. I like them. I hope we do another one."

Tre Smith runs through traffic during Monday morning's practice.

There's no doubt that Auburn's Tommy Tuberville liked having Smith back on the practice field. His most experienced back and the projected starter going into the season opener, Smith's return allows Kenny Irons to rest some. Bothered by a sore knee, Irons will likely sit out the afternoon practice with Smith back in the rotation.

"Tre has fresh legs," Tuberville said. "He's running around out there like everybody else's feet are in mud...he needs to get hit. When we scrimmage again he needs to get his clock cleaned a little bit. He needs to go into that first game and it not be his first contact.

"Kenny just has a bruised knee," Tuberville added. "He could go with it, but we need Tre to get reps right now. Now that Tre is coming back we'll put Kenny on the shelf for 24 hours. These guys have taken a beating. Little Tristan Davis has been a warrior. He's earned a day off come Wednesday."

Another return on Monday morning was that of receiver Courtney Taylor. Bothered by a strained groin, the junior was back practicing and looked good running routes for the first time in nearly two weeks. The routes in the day's first practice came from back-ups Calvin Booker and Blake Field as starter Brandon Cox took the morning off from throwing with a tired arm. After a preseason of throwing a wet football, Tuberville said they wanted to give Cox another day off to let the young quarterbacks get more time in under center.

"That's the reason that it's really not bothering us much that Brandon is not going," Tuberville said. "Brandon, mentally, has been real sharp. We're not putting anything in new. These guys need more reps and we need to find us a number two quarterback. That's another reason we're locking Brandon down and trying to get him fresh for one-a-days coming up."

Will Herring picks off a pass Monday morning.

While there was missing personnel all over the field with several freshman in a one day Camp War Eagle class and defensive ends Stanley McClover and Marquies Gunn still hampered by sore hamstrings, Tuberville said the day was a good one for his team as they continue to correct mistakes made in Saturday's scrimmage.

"Hopefully after today we've got all the testing and small stuff out of the way so we can get right into practicing," Tuberville said. "We've still got a bunch of guys banged up. We've got to start getting them back. It was good to see Tre back out here and Courtney Taylor. It was the first contact for them in a while and it went good. It was a better practice and we're getting more mentally into practice. It's hard during two-a-days, but today is the last two-a-day. Tomorrow we'll go one time."

While the offense worked on the running game more during Monday's practice, defensively the Tigers worked on several areas including the nickel package against the pass. Sophomore Patrick Lee, who has improved tremendously, was working as the nickel back on Monday but that could also be junior college transfer Jonathan Wilhite's job. He missed the practice attending Camp War Eagle.

The safeties had a strong day against the pass as junior Will Herring had one of his better days this preseason. Early in team drills Herring stepped in front of a Booker pass for an interception that would have gone for a touchdown. Later in goal line he broke up two passes in the endzone. Also Steve Gandy had several pass break-ups on the day.

The Tigers return to the practice field Monday afternoon at 4:30 for the final two-a-day practice of the preseason. Tuesday the Tigers will practice at 9:30 a.m. before taking Wednesday off for the first day of classes.

Inside The AU Tigers Top Stories