Mistake-Filled First Scrimmage For Tigers

Both the offense and defense did good things at times but mistakes were the order of the day for Auburn's first scrimmage of the 2006 preseason.

Auburn, Ala.--With temperatures in the 90s and a heat index well over 100 degrees before noon the Auburn Tigers held their first scrimmage of the 2006 preseason and it was a day when both the offense and defense had good and bad moments. Scheduled for just 40 plays the scrimmage lasted just over 80 plays and was the most physically demanding practice of the new season to this point.

"It was a good long practice of about 80 plays of scrimmage," Coach Tommy Tuberville said. "It went about 30 more than we had planned. We needed to go a few extra to get everybody in the scrimmage. We had good effort but a lot of mistakes. We're not a very good football team right now but it's early. We've still got about three weeks and we've got a lot of work to do."

Despite a solid day of running the football the Auburn offense couldn't get out of its own way with seven turnovers during the 80-play scrimmage. The first came on the very first drive of the scrimmage as a Brandon Cox pass was deflected at the line of scrimmage and intercepted by Jonathan Wilhite and returned for a touchdown. That was the first of many turnovers on the day with four by freshmen, two by Mario Fannin and two by Neil Caudle at the snap. Tuberville said it was obvious the defense had the better day and that's how it should be this early in training camp.

"They better be (ahead of the offense)," Tuberville said. "During two-a-days if the defense is not ahead of your offense then it's going to be a long season. I like where we're at on defense. We've still got some holes to fill. Tristan Davis didn't practice today. He had a mild headache and they kept him out of contact. He'll be back tomorrow. We're trying to put as much pressure on the defense as we can with formations we'll see the first few games.

"We also ran the ball pretty good today," he added. "I thought Kenny (Kenny Irons) ran well and Carl Stewart. We've got a lot of work to do."

Cornerback Jerraud Powers covers Tim Hawthorne off the line of scrimmage. Powers continues to be a big play guy for the defense with another interception on Wednesday.

While the defense caused turnovers, which is something coordinator Will Muschamp has preached since he arrived in the spring, the offense ran the ball effectively with both Irons and Stewart having very good days. Carrying the ball just five times, Irons ran for 64 yards. Stewart was just as effective with seven carries for 67 yards.

All total the running backs ran the ball 45 times for 280 yards and one touchdown, a 10-yarder by Tre Smith. Offensive coordinator Al Borges said that their intention was to test the offense up front by running the football and creating some toughness.

"We're behind in pass protection, there's no question about that," Borges said of his thoughts on the scrimmage. "We ran the ball pretty good. We had the best surge we've had since I've been here. We reduced the menu of runs that we were going to use and mostly worked on our zone plays and a couple of our guard-around plays. That's pretty much all we did. We didn't get real fancy with our run game.

"The intent of this scrimmage was very similar to the first scrimmage of last spring," he added. "We were going to run the ball and establish a little toughness and go-man go. That was it and get out of here. It was okay but it wasn't great. It's hard to make a judgment until you really see what happened. I like what we did in terms of aggressiveness. I think we've got to get used to when its hot and running a few plays because we're still not game ready mentally or physically."

True freshman running back Mario Fannin works on pass blocking before the scrimmage. Fannin fumbled twice but returned to make several nice runs before the day was done.

While the running game was in midseason form the passing game wasn't crisp and looked very bad at times. With the interception on the first drive setting the tone Cox finished the day just 1-6 for 10 yards and the Wilhite interception. Back-up Blake Field didn't fare any better at just 2-4 for nine yards. The true freshmen struggled as well as Steven Ensminger was 1-5 for 25 yards and two interceptions while Neil Caudle was 2-4 for 25 yards and one pick. Borges said the struggles throwing the football were a combination of many things during the scrimmage.

"The first one got tipped and that's a tough one to control," Borges said. "The receiver was open on an option route and somebody inside tipped the ball. That happens. The quarterback can't throw the ball worrying about it getting tipped. How many bad decisions there were, I don't know, I have to see the tape. I don't think there were a lot of bad decisions but there were a few by the young guys.

"I thought Blake Field did a couple of nice things too, keeping some drives going and doing some good stuff," he added. "He's really improved his game and anybody who has been out here every day has probably noticed it. To say he's ready to go in there and win 10 games I don't know, but he has gotten better."

Unofficial Statistics

Rushing-Stewart 7-67; Irons 5-64; Lester 12-63; Smith 8-39; Tate 7-21; Fannin 4-17

Passing-Cox 1-6, 10, 1 interception; Field 2-4, 9 yards; Caudle 2-4, 25, 1 interception; Ensminger 1-5, 25, 2 interceptions

Receiving-Swinton 2-32; Hawthorne 1-15; Tate 2-14, Tre Smith 1-13

The Tigers will take the afternoon off before returning to the practice field at 8:45 Thursday morning for the first of two practices scheduled.

Saturday Scrimmage Notes

The defense held the offense scoreless for the first nine possessions with each starting from the 25-yard line going out. On the 10th drive the offense finally managed a touchdown with the first team offense lining up and running the ball right at a tired defensive front. Three runs by Stewart accounted for 50 yards and three more by Brad Lester clipped off 19 more before Tre Smith took it the rest of the way for the touchdown on the seventh play of the drive.

It would be four more drives before the offense would come up with points again but not without a gift from the coaching staff. Under the direction of both Ensminger and Caudle the number two offense drove from its own 25 down to the four-yard line before a fumbled snap by Caudle put an end to the drive. The big play came on a 25-yard pass from Ensminger to James Swinton. Keeping the ball at the 10-yard line following the fumble, the offense scored on the first play as Rodgeriqus Smith scored on a reverse to bring the scrimmage to a close.

The kickers had another solid day as the trio of John Vaugh, Zac Kutch and Matt Clark made seven of nine on the day. From 32 yards all out were perfect. The ball was moved back to 42 yards with Clark having the only miss. Then from 48 yards Vaughn's kick was just wide right.

The practice wasn't over when the play ended though as the defensive line remained behind and did extra running at the request of coaches Don Dunn and Terry Price. On an already grueling day this was too much for several players as Zach Clayton and Jermarcus Ricks couldn't make it through before being helped off.

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