The Tigers got started on that project on Thursday in practice three of spring drills, the first time they were allowed by NCAA rules to put on full pads. Tuberville said he liked the intensity he saw in a two-hour plus session that had a significant amount of contact starting with one on one drills and finishing with some 11 on 11 work.
"We are going to really stress (tackling) on defense," the head coach said. "On offense, we worked more on blitz pickup than anything else. Most of it was getting used to our pads. We worked a lot on our running game the first three-fourths of practice and stopping the run.
"It looked like we are way ahead on both sides of the ball. I was a little surprised defensively how much we ran today and how much we were able to get in. Guys are really thinking. They are going to have to concentrate quite a bit--especially on the defensive side of the ball. We are putting in some new things at quite a quick pace to try to get them in before Saturday's scrimmage."
Tuberville and his staff are playing host to several hundred high school coaches at their annual coaching clinic. The coaches were there for practice on Thursday and will be there on Friday, too.
One of the players who stood out to Tuberville is redshirt freshman tight end Tommy Trott. He made several nice catches in the session and got plenty of work with fellow backup Gabe McKenzie still recovering from a hamstring problem and starter Cole Bennett missing the second half of practice due to a class conflict.
Cornerback Aairon Savage (2) chases fellow freshman Tommy Trott during an 11 on 11 drill on Thursday.
"Tommy Trott got indoctrinated today," Tuberville said. "He got quite a few reps and caught the ball well at tight end. He is going to need to improve on his blocking. He got a ton of reps."
In other news:
*Tuberville said that he liked what he saw from true freshman tailback Ben Tate. "He is a bigger running back than all of the other guys, basically. He is a wider body and he looks a little bit different. He looks like a Ronnie Brown type of guy. He has got big thighs."
*Tuberville said Brad Lester had a good day at tailback and freshman fullback Stephan Gowland, a walk-on, did some good things. "He has got a shot to be a fullback for us," Tuberville said of Gowland, who was hurt last fall. "He is looking real good, moving well. Mentally he has got a lot to learn, but he is very physical at the point of attack."
Freshman tailback Ben Tate follows Andrew Turman (47) on a sweep.
*Defensive tackle Andrew McCain was hurt early in practice during a tackling drill. Tuberville said the injury is not serious. It is a bruised shoulder.
*Tuberville said that Pat Sims, who quit the team last fall, is making progress on the defensive line.
*David Irons, who missed the first two practices with class conflicts, practiced on Thursday, but left early to do more academic work.
*Defensive lineman Tez Doolittle participated in the contact work even though he is not full speed yet with his kneecap injury. Tuberville says Doolittle is probably 75 percent of full speed.
*Tim Duckworth, who is coming off having his knee scoped, was able to go through contact and is playing well, the head coach said.
*Linebacker Merrill Johnson had several big hits in Thursday's work. "Merrill is doing good," the head coach says.
*Tuberville had praise for wide receiver Anthony Campbell, who is making the move over from cornerback.
*Tuberville also said he saw some good things from redshirt freshman Montez Billings, who made several nice catches including a long pass from Brandon Cox in the 11 on 11 work when the defense jumped offsides.