Tuberville Likes Team's Energy, Competition

Auburn's head coach is upbeat about what he is seeing in spring drills.

Auburn, Ala.--Coach Tommy Tuberville is upbeat about what he witnessed at practice, a walk-on had a big day on Wednesday and the Tigers continued to work on offensive and defensive execution in spring drills.

Tuberville called the two-hour plus session "a very good practice" and says, "I thought it was one of our better ones early."

Auburn's head coach notes that he likes the competition he is seeing for playing time on both sides of the football. "The biggest thing I have been impressed with the entire spring is how we have kept our quickness," he says. "We haven't lost a lot of that considering how many days we have gone.

"So far it has been a good spring," Tuberville says. "We have had good weather. The enthusiasm has been good. We have kept the team's attention.

"Usually, at this time, it gets a little boring, but what we are doing on both sides of the ball has really kept the guys' attention and they have responded, which has been good, especially with the younger players. Sometimes they get lost.

"They have done a good job of keeping up and keeping it going all the way through spring," the coach says. "We wish would have 15 more days, but we are getting close to the end.

Offensive lineman Oscar Gonzalez blocks against Josh Thompson on Wednesday. Gonzalez, a redshirt freshman tackle, had one of his best days of the spring in the workout.

"I have seen a different speed from a lot of our younger guys I haven't seen for a long time," Tuberville adds. "We have got a lot of quickness in this redshirt group that has been with us for the first spring. They have really picked up the tempo of practice.

"This has been a group, when you throw Ben Tate in there, that has really kept the enthusiasm of practice up because they are hungry. They keep the older guys flying around knowing they are right behind them wanting some playing time. There is a lot of competition out there because of all those guys were redshirted.

"Having a new coordinator, and two new coaches overall, has energized the group," Tuberville says. "I have seen a lot of competition and it is going to be probably halfway through two-a-days before we have a real good idea of who the starting lineups are going to be even though we do have a lot of guys coming back. There are going to be some challenges. There is going to have to be a lot of work done between now and August out of everybody."

Some of the redshirt freshmen who have stood out with their quickness include defensive backs Aairon Savage and Jerraud Powers, end/linebacker Alonzo Horton, linebacker Tray Blackmon, end Antonio Coleman, tight ends Tommy Trott and Gabe McKenzie and defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks.

The Tigers are scheduled to practice Thursday and Friday and then wrap up spring drills with the A-Day Game that will kickoff at 1:05 p.m. on Saturday.

"We have done a lot more fundamentals the last couple of days and then finished off with a lot of team work," Tuberville says. "It is going good. We are still putting a lot on the offense. Their heads are spinning. It is good to see them having to work to struggle to get everything accomplished every day. Every yard they get, it is pretty precious. It has been a lot of good competition."

One of the highlights of the past week of spring training has been the accuracy of the field goal kickers. That continued on Wednesday even with a new face in the mix.

With Zach Kutch out of practice after having a wisdom tooth removed, junior walk-on Tyler DiPace got a chance to show what he could do and he was 4-4 making kicks of 20, 34, 42 and 49 yards.

"He did a good job," Tuberville says. John Vaughn, the returning starter, was 3-4 with a wide right kick from 42 yards out. Matt Clark made the kicks from 20 and 34, but he was wide left from 42 yards out and hit the upright from 49.

Quarterback Jason Campbell of the Washington Redskins gets a hug from strength and conditioning coach Kevin Yoxall at Wednesday's practice. Campbell was the 2004 SEC Offensive Player of the Year for the Tigers.

In other news:

*Tuberville says starting next week the Tigers will concentrate on weight training as well as individual programs to gain or lose weight, depending on the player.

*The coaching staff will spend time with players going over video in the coming weeks. The last week in April the coaches will hit the road for four weeks of evaluation of high school junior football prospects.

*Fullback Mike McLaughlin continues progress from his ACL surgery, Tuberville says. "Mike McLaughlin did great. Dr. (Larry) Lemak performed the surgery. He is rehabbing well. He has full extension. Watching him he is obviously still in some pain. It takes a while to go away. We are hoping for a full recovery and he is going to be 5 1/2 to 6 months out. We will see if he will be able to go at the start of next season."

*Quarterback Jason Campbell attended the practice. He is in town for the week and will be joined by former players Ronnie Brown, Carnell Williams, Rudi Johnson, Carlos Rogers, Dontarrious Thomas and former Ole Miss star Deuce McAllister for the Sydney Gran foundation banquet on Saturday night. Sydney, who was the daughter of AU running backs coach Eddie Gran, died of a rare childhood disease at the age of six. Tuberville says he expects to see some of those players at practice this week.

*Cornerback David Irons was back at practice on Wednesday. He has missed much of spring drills due to academic conflicts. The senior is trying to graduate prior to the start of the 2006 season.

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