Defense Making Progress In Spring Drills

An in-depth report is featured on Auburn's eighth spring football practice.

Auburn, Ala.--The secondary continues to perform well and the defense in general continues to have the edge in most of the 11 on 11 work as the Tigers passed the halfway point of spring football practice 2006 on Wednesday.

The Tigers had a full pads session that featured work on both the running and passing game with the one offense going against the one defense and the two offense vs. the two defense.

Safety Eric Brock and defensive lineman Pat Sims had interceptions in the 11 on 11 work.

Head coach Tommy Tuberville notes the secondary is having a good spring under the direction of new coordinator Will Muschamp, who coaches the cornerbacks and safeties.

"They are flying around," Tuberville said. "We have a lot of work to do. We have a lot of inexperience, but the communication is good. The guys are having fun. They are trying to make plays.

Carl Stewart had perhaps his best day of the spring running the football on Wednesday.

"We are making some mistakes," the head coach added. "We are looking real good in man coverage right now and that is usually different--we probably should look better in zone.

"This is the most depth we have had at corner. Knock on wood, hopefully we will keep them healthy and they will keep getting better and better."

The workout was the eighth of 15 practices allowed in the spring. The Tigers will not practice on Thursday as originally schedule, but will be back on the practice field at 3:15 p.m. on Friday to tune up for Saturday morning's scrimmage, the second major scrimmage of the spring that will be in Jordan-Hare Stadium. Both the offense and defense are expected to add new wrinkles they will display on Saturday.

"It was a good practice," Tuberville said. "We had a little more contact. We had a goal line session at the end, but it wasn't live all the way.

"Today we mixed up run and pass and did a lot more blitz. We looked pretty good. We missed a couple of guys on and off. Some guys had to leave early for class and some got here late from class."

Looking at the big picture, the head coach said, "We are probably ahead of schedule a little bit. We still have 2 1/2 weeks to get seven practices in so we have plenty of time."

Offensive guard Nathan Farrow (65) and defensive end Alonzo Horton (85) mix it up during Wednesday's practice.

Redshirt freshman linebacker Tray Blackmon had several big hits on Thursday. Defensive lineman Pat Sims continued his improved play and redshirt freshman Antonio Coleman had a good day at defensive end.

Cornerbacks Montae Pitts and Jerraud Powers had good days in the one on one pass drills.

Offensively, tailback Carl Stewart ran the ball well, Lee Guess continues his push for playing time at wide receiver and Courtney Taylor made several nice catches.

However, all things considered, the defense still is ahead of the offense.

"The big thing about the defense in the spring is they are having fun," Tuberville said. "You have got guys with smiles on their faces running around and they are trying to learn.

"We are making a lot of mistakes, but we are a little bit different defense than we were last year. We have put a few new things in that Will (Muschamp) has convinced us will make us better and the coaching staff agrees. We are slowly putting them in.

"We will put them in one day and run them a few days and there are a lot of things we ran the first few days in practice we have already moved to the end of the playbook because we have gotten those out of the way and we will get back to them in two-a-days.

"Guys are having fun," Tuberville added. "The position changes, I think, have helped us. We have got some good speed on the field. We have a lot of guys trying to work into the starting lineup. There is going to be a lot of competition during two-a-days. It is good to see them having fun because defense is tough in the spring, but they have rallied. It looks like we have gotten a little better in the first eight days."

In other news:

*Tuberville praised the work of tailback Brad Lester, who was injured last spring and much of the 2005 season. "He is having a good spring. He has a lot of quickness and speed. He has that extra gear. He is really going to be a factor for us this year. This was going to be a big spring for him to see if he could go healthy all the way through it. So far so good."

*In the goal line session, Lester powered up the middle for a touchdown.

*Redshirt freshman Gabe McKenzie returned to practice and got some limited work. He is expected to be ready to scrimmage on Saturday. He has been slowed by a hamstring problem.

*Safety Lorenzo Ferguson (bruised shoulder) got non-contact work on Thursday.

*Two members of the University of Arizona coaching staff were guests of the AU staff at Wednesday's practice.

*Another visitor to the practice was Auburn University interim president Dr. Ed Richardson, who was there to see some state legislators who were visiting campus.

*Kickers Matt Clark and John Vaughn were cheered by their teammates when they closed the practice by making 52-yard field goals that got the team out of running wind sprints. The trio of kickers, which included Zach Kutch, had to make two out of three. The last time they were challenged all three missed and their teammates weren't thrilled with the extra wind sprints.

Vaughn was 5-5 on field goals on Thursday. Kutch was 4-5 and Clark made his only two tries from 47 yards and 52. Both of Clark's kicks would have been good from more than 60 yards out.

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