Defensive End Duo Returns For Stadium Practice

Two key defenders were back at practice Sunday night as the Tigers went under the lights for the first time.

Auburn, Ala–-The defense got an emotional and physical boost on Sunday night as defensive ends Stanley McClover and Marquies Gunn returned to the practice field full speed for the first time together in almost two weeks. Coach Tommy Tuberville said that although neither went the entire time, it was good to see them on the field as the Tigers went inside Jordan-Hare Stadium for the first time this preseason.

"McClover practiced about half of the practice and Marquis Gunn went almost all of the practice," Tuberville said. "It was a good sign for those guys. I didn't think Stanley was going to come back until Wednesday, but he came out a little earlier and looked really good in what he did. He should be ready to go full speed by the middle of the week."

Although the defense got some new blood it didn't translate into a great practice on either side of the ball for the Tigers on Sunday as the coaches put the team through about 30 minutes of 11-on-11 work inside the stadium. For the first time this fall the team used 25 second clocks and Tuberville said it was clear that having to work on a clock was something the team didn't do well.

"The transition from the practice field to the stadium wasn't real good," Tuberville said. "We turned the 25 second clock on and we started seeing a little stage fright. We're going to need to do a lot of work with the 25 second clock in the next two weeks. The only good part we had over there was the goal line. I thought the goal line turned out good. We had pretty much live goal line for 10 plays. The defense won their share and the offense won their share. We've got a lot of work to do on our tempo and rhythm on both sides. We're kind of still in the practice mode."

Coach Tuberville took this photo of Stanley McClover coming back onto the practice field for the first time. Both McClover and Gunn bring two physical bodies back to the defensive end position for the Tigers.

Offensive coordinator Al Borges agreed with the assessment of Tuberville following the late night practice. While he said that Brandon Cox had another good day of throwing and only missed a few throws while throwing a full team session and almost a full skelly session, Borges added that the team desperately needs to get more work with the clocks on to become a more efficient machine in the next two weeks.

"Today, for the first time, really we worked as close to game conditions with the 25 second clock, working third downs, working goal line, working blitz, the whole deal," Borges said. "You learn a lot when the lights go on and you put a little more pressure on the players and I think that showed up a little bit today. We're going to keep doing that, whether we're in the stadium or not.

"I think for everybody in general, even the guys that have played before, you have to get back in the groove of game conditions," he added. "I don't care if you've played a hundred games you have to get back in the groove of game conditions. You break the huddle at a certain time, you get to the line of scrimmage at a certain time, you get down, be able to audible, be able to check, be able to call the cadence. All those things combined. You have to get back in the groove. If you don't practice it you can't expect all of the sudden for it to come back right away."

Both Blake Field and Calvin Booker continue to battle for the back-up job in a race that could go on for several more days. While Borges said it's imperative that a second-teamer be named soon after the Tigers begin scout team preparations for Georgia Tech, he doesn't know exactly when that will take place.

"I want to believe that shortly after we break into scout teams obviously you have to rep the second quarterback," Borges said. "It's going to be somewhere around there. I would guess that scout teams will be sometime around the middle of this week, Wednesday or Thursday. It's going to be around there sometime. He (Tuberville) doesn't want to commit to a day and I'm not sure I do either."

Still bothered by a hip flexor strain that kept him out of several two-a-day practices, center Steven Ross was held out of Sunday's practice. That allowed junior Jonathan Palmer to work at second-team center and coach Hugh Nall said he had a very good day. In fact it was good enough that he might get some snaps with the first-team despite the good job Joe Cope is doing as the starter at the moment.

In other injury news true freshman defensive back Jerraud Powers will be out for at least a month to have a pin inserted into his broken foot. Tuberville said the injury is one similar to one that tight end Robert Johnson had while at Auburn. He said that he's hopeful Powers will be back practicing by the middle of the season, but that the freshman is headed for a redshirt year unless there are some strange developments.

Auburn has spent more time than usual on special teams this preseason because of extra practice time and that means more and more players are getting a chance to impress the coaching staff with their hustle and attention to detail. Special teams' coach Eddie Gran said that this season they are hoping to use the added depth to make some of the special teams groups better than in past years.

"I think we have to do it wisely," Gran said of using back-ups on special teams. "You have to pick and choose your times. You can maybe start out a game where you're using starters, but then I think you need to give them the rest they need and you've got to have somebody else come in there. A guy like Lorenzo Ferguson, Patrick Lee and some of those guys have to make plays too. Those are guys we're going to be counting on."

While two-a-days aren't as tough as they used to be, this season has been a different kind of tough for the Tigers. Usually a team practices roughly three weeks getting ready for the season, but this year Auburn will have a full month to get ready for Georgia Tech. Although the practice time is good, sophomore running back Carl Stewart said that it makes it tough because of the time spent working against each other.

"It has been a really long grind," Stewart said. "I think it's starting to wear on everybody. Legs are getting hurt and there are nicks and bruises and small injuries here or there. We just feel like it's kind of dragging. I think everybody is really ready for Sept. 3."

The Tigers will take Monday off before returning back to practice on Tuesday afternoon. The team will begin a normal work week with preparations starting for Georgia Tech.

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