Young Linemen Showing Improvement

Auburn's new-look interior defensive line is making strides, Coach Don Dunn says.

Auburn, Ala.--The fact that Josh Thompson had a strong performance on the defensive front in Auburn's first spring scrimmage was no surprise to Tiger assistant coach Don Dunn.

The defensive line coach has come to expect that from his redshirt junior noseguard, who is the favorite to win the starting spot held by graduated 2005 senior Tommy Jackson.

However, some of the other Tigers receiving the thumbs up from the AU coach have not been regulars on Dunn's praise list.

"After looking at the film and grading it I was real happy," Dunn tells Inside the Auburn Tigers. "Of course, Josh had a real productive scrimmage. Pat Sims and Tez Doolittle probably had their most productive practice since they have been here."

Tez Doolittle is playing his best ball at AU although he isn't full speed yet due as he rehabs from a knee problem.

Doolittle, who will be a junior this fall, and Sims, who will be a sophomore, are talented athletes who have seen very little playing time at the college level. With Jackson and Wayne Dickens, the two inside starters from last year's team, being gone, this is a big opportunity for the Sims and Doolittle. So far with six of the 15 days of spring practice completed, the linemen are making a move for playing time.

"The thing we told them, which is what we told them in the team meeting and the individual meetings, is that they have got to be consistent," Dunn says. "They have to put good days back to back. They can't be hot and cold."

Pat Sims (95) is shown in a passing drill during the first week of spring practice.

Thompson challenged Jackson for the starting noseguard spot last season and looks like he will be tough to push off the top of the depth chart if he continues to perform like he did in the scrimmage.

"Josh played hard," Dunn says. "The thing we are looking for is production and he had a lot of production points. He played with great effort. He still has got to get better. His technique isn't where it needs to be, his punch isn't where it needs to be, but for the first scrimmage I was pretty pleased.

"Now, the offense was pretty base, but that is good because we need to get more physical and tougher overall," Dunn adds. "That is our goal."

Dunn also closely watched senior Christopher Browder, who is being tried at tackle this spring after playing end last season. That move inside has been a good one for players in recent years such as Spencer Johnson and Jay Ratliff, who are now playing in the NFL.

"Browder was not bad although he didn't play the position as well as I hoped," Dunn says. "You have got to realize that is the first time he played there in a live fire situation with tackling in a scrimmage. His effort wasn't what I wanted it to be, but that is something we can work on."

After taking Monday off, the Tigers are scheduled to return to work on Tuesday for their seventh of 15 allowed spring practice days.

The Tigers will scrimmage again on Saturday.

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