Cope Injury Forces Tigers To Shuffle Line

The football Tigers had a more physical practice in their third day of preseason drills.

Auburn, Ala.--The Auburn Tigers put on the shoulder pads for the first time Friday on a sweltering day and Coach Tommy Tuberville said it was another productive session for his team as the Tigers practiced for two hours.

The workout wasn't without incident though as the first injury of the fall occurred and forced some shuffling up front on the offensive line after center Joe Cope went down during a drill.

"It was a nice little contact period today for the first day in shoulder pads," Tuberville said. "Tomorrow we'll have a lot longer practice, we'll go in the morning and then have fan day. We're starting to put in our special teams and it's going to take some time to put those in plus we don't know who is going to be on them yet. We'll take our time with those.

"It was a good practice with a lot of enthusiasm," he added. "We've got a lot of work to do. There was one injury. Joe Cope had a knee injury. We've got to wait and see. They'll evaluate that the next couple of days and see what that was."

Saying that he doesn't like to speculate on injuries, Tuberville noted that without Cope the Tigers went with redshirt sophomore Jason Bosley at center. They also used senior Jonathan Palmer at center as well, moving him from his starting right tackle spot. With King Dunlap back on the practice field but not in shoulder pads that meant Leon Hart worked at left tackle with Antwoin Daniels on the right side. Dunlap missed the first two days of practice to attend his grandfather's funeral.

With the pads on for the first time the day was more physical, especially for the linemen. The highlight of the day came when the offensive and defensive lines came together for one-on-one pass rushing drills. Up to 270 pounds, Marquies Gunn was practically unstoppable coming from his end position. The same is true of Josh Thompson and Tez Doolittle in the middle.

From the young guys Zach Clayton and Mike Blanc both performed well and all the players as a group got after it intensity-wise. Coach Don Dunn said it's hard to tell a lot about them so early, but he was pleased with the effort overall of the group.

"I like their attitude and effort, but we've got a long way to go," Dunn said. "Fundamentally we're learning what we're doing and learning how to practice with the tempo. They're eager and they seem like good kids. We've just got a long way to go and you can really tell the difference when we put on the shoulder pads. I don't think there's any of them that can't help us. I don't know if it's this year or next year, but I don't think there's any mistakes and that's good."

With the shoulder pads going on for Friday's practice, offensive line coach Hugh Nall (right) was able to watch his players participate in contact drills against Don Dunn's and coach Terry Price's tackles, noseguards and ends.

While the offense appears to be running smoothly, which is to be expected in the third season of Al Borges' offense with a returning starter at QB, the defense is constantly putting in new things and the players are learning on the run. Defensive coordinator Will Muschamp said that so far he likes what he's seen out of his unit.

"We're progressing every day," he said. "We've thrown a lot at them so they've got a lot on them right now. We'll continue to install what we're doing and continue to demand effort and execution. That's what we're trying to do right now."

Without as many new players to look at as there are on the defensive front, Muschamp said that he's been watching the guys in the linebacking corps and in the secondary to see if any of the young players are going to be able to help. He said several players have caught his eye so far and will have a chance to make some noise in this camp.

"It's really early but on the back seven Zac Etheridge and Craig Stevens have done a good job for us," Muschamp said. "Hendrick Leverette is a kid that athletically is going to be fine. We've got to make some decisions with the front seven guys. It's the first day in pads so we need to go back in and watch the tape."

Christopher Browder gets inside against offensive lineman Timmy Duckworth during Friday's practice.

With the starting cornerbacks returning intact the watch in the secondary is on the safety position. Both Will Herring and Steve Gandy have moved to play linebacker leaving a void at both the free and strong safety positions. Muschamp said that while nobody has really stepped up the first three days of practice the talent is there to get the job done. Something that should help Auburn's depth at safety is the way Muschamp is working the safeties this two-a-days.

"We'll get to strong and free," Muschamp said. "Right now everybody is so multiple formation-wise with the adjustments it's hard to just play a strong and free. You need to play a right and left. There are going to come times when you have to play strong and free based on the formation shifts. We teach them early in camp to play right and left so they play both positions. When you get in the season and play a multiple formation offense like ours then they understand how to play."

The Tigers will return to the practice field at 8:45 Saturday morning on the intramural fields for the fourth practice of the fall. Fan Day will be held from 3-5 p.m. inside Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum. Fans are asked to limit items to just two for seniors and Coach Tuberville to keep the wait to a minimum. The first day in full pads is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. on Sunday.

Running backs coach Eddie Gran makes a point to freshman tailback Ben Tate at Friday's practice.

2006 Inside the Auburn Tigers Auburn Football Guide

Inside The AU Tigers Top Stories