Football Fundamentals Emphasized At AU Practice

Several young defenders should get a chance to play extensively Saturday for the Tigers.

Auburn, Ala.–-Practicing in shorts and shoulder pads, the Auburn Tigers continued work towards Saturday's game with Ball State with a two-hour practice on an hot day on the Plains.

Coach Tommy Tuberville said on Thursday he has been pleased with the effort and concentration the team has shown this week in practice. "The last two days have been two very good, intense practices," Tuberville said. "They've been kind of like spring practice. We've done a lot against each other, a lot of contact.

"We've gone back to fundamentals. Last week we let up a little to let them get their legs back because we looked a little tired coming out of two-a-days going into the Georgia Tech game. Yesterday and today we put our nose to the grindstone and had good practices."

The Tigers will have several players questionable for Saturday's game as both Josh Thompson and Stanley McClover missed Wednesday's practice, but could be ready for action this weekend. Both have ankle injuries.

Linebacker Travis Williams, offensive tackle Marcus McNeill and running back Tre Smith all returned to practice, but it's still unsure if they'll be 100 percent for Saturday. McNeill and Smith have knee problems and Williams has a turf toe injury.

"We'll have to wait and see," Tuberville said of the injured players who missed practice. "They'll be dressed and ready. They could play, but they won't start."

This weekend when the Tigers square off against the Ball State Cardinals, fans may see several young players in on the action on the defensive side of the ball. Tuberville said that several players who haven't seen action may get some this weekend as the Tigers continue to try to find the best players at each position, including wide receiver Robert Dunn, who played briefly last week.

"Tommy Trott could play, Sen'Derrick Marks, Andrew McCain," Tuberville said in addition to Dunn. "We'll still looking trying to get the best ones on the field. (McCain) has practiced well. He's learning." Trott plays tight end, Marks is a defensive tackle and McCain is working at defensive tackle.

Freshman tight end Tommy Trott could see his first action in this weekend's game.

With seniors Travis Williams and Antarrious Williams along with juniors Kevin Sears and Karibi Dede getting the bulk of the action at linebacker early on, there will likely be a chance for some young players at that position to play quality minutes against the Cardinals.

Last week against Mississippi State redshirt freshmen Merrill Johnson and Courtney Harden along with true freshman Chris Evans all got extensive action in the game at linebacker, the first game action for all three in their Auburn careers. While their play wasn't perfect, position coach Joe Whitt said he was pleased with what he saw out of the group.

"I thought they played really well," Whitt said. "I was really surprised to be honest with you. They played a lot better than I thought they would play. I hate to be pessimistic about the situation, but they surprised me. They got in the game and handled that first game better than I thought they would. I was very pleased with that."

For the game the trio combined for six tackles with Evans' three leading the way. With Johnson coming back from a dislocated elbow, Whitt said he made several turn-back plays that helped the defense gang tackle a runner. Overall the performance during plays was good, but Whitt said it was the action done before the plays that has him pleased.

"First of all they lined up correctly," Whitt said. "They were in on several plays, but seriously getting a young guy just to know how to line up, because when you line up (correctly) you've got a chance. So many times they line up and mis-fit, but they lined up and fit the run and pass properly. That was very encouraging."

The Tigers continue to work on kickoffs in practice with Zach Kutch, Kody Bliss and walk-on Matt Clark all getting a shot at the job. Tuberville said all three have done well, but he's not ready to name the first-team guy just yet.

Safety Will Herring was named to the American Football Coaches Association Good Works Team on Wednesday. He is one of 22 players from around the country in Division I, II, III and NAIA combined to be named to the team.

The Opelika native has been very active in the Auburn/Opelika area and participated or volunteered in events such as the Opelika City Police Department Youth Program, served as Youth Football Camp Coordinator for Opelika Parks and Recreation/City Schools Department, and participated in Opelika's Drug Free Camp. Locally, Herring has also volunteered at Story Book Farm, worked with Auburn City Schools Spirit Days and participated in Student-Athlete Day on the Auburn campus.

"I feel that myself, as well as a lot of others, have been fortunate enough to be able to play collegiate football and we need to do what we can for others," Herring said. "For all that we have been given, it is our duty to give back to the community."

A member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, the junior has worked the Youth for Christ Football Camp, volunteered at Southview Elementary, participated in a reading program for students in Kindergarten through second grade, participated in Toys for Tots, aided in Beat Bama Food Drive and participated in the Auburn/Alabama Give Back Camp in Montgomery, Ala.

Kickoff for Saturday's game against Ball State is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. and can be seen on a pay-per-view basis only. Call your local cable company for ordering information. Small dish subscribers can view the game on channel 783 on DirecTV or 456 on Dish Network. Check with your dish provider for ordering information.

Tiger Ticket Extra: An NFL scout watching Auburn's practice from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers told Inside the Auburn Tigers the entire organization was extremely happy and impressed by Carnell Williams so far. The Bucs were one of nearly a dozen teams on hand to check out the practice and watch Auburn's players up close on Wednesday.

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