Auburn, Ala.--With several key players already banged up and missing practice time the Auburn Tigers got a couple of serious scares on Friday morning, the biggest of which was when senior wide receiver Courtney Taylor went down holding his right knee on the first play of 11-on-11 action during the two-hour practice. Despite the look of things Coach Tommy Tuberville said that the trainers think he'll be fine.
"We had a couple of scares today," Tuberville said. "Courtney Taylor, they are x-raying it but they think it's just a bruise. Antwoin Daniels got some kind of sprained knee. They'll also find out about that. We're getting short on offensive linemen. It looks like he'll be fine."
The offensive line was even thinner on Friday with Timmy Duckworth already out because of bumps and bruises. Tuberville said the senior could have practiced but they wanted to give him a day to get healthy before scrimmaging again. That adds to an already depleted line with center Joe Cope and reserve tackle Oscar Gonzalez already out. Tuberville said Cope could return any day as his knee is getting better and that will have to happen before the Tigers can get back on the field in scrimmage.
"It was a good practice today," Tuberville said. "We got a few people banged up as usual but that's what two-a-days are all about. We've got a lot of things in tomorrow. We are canceling the scrimmage because we don't have enough folks to scrimmage. We'll cancel that to a later date which is unknown. Right now we're going to have to talk to the trainers and see how close we can get to having a two-deep offensive line. It's pretty tough to scrimmage without an offensive line. The enthusiasm is good and the guys are practicing hard."
There was some good news on the injury front as linebacker Steve Gandy had the last of his surgeries for a fluid build-up under the quad muscle in his leg. Tuberville said that he could be out of the hospital in a few days which is sooner than first anticipated.
"Good news with Steve Gandy," Tuberville said. "They had their last minor surgery today where they closed the wound back up. Everything went great. He should be out of the hospital sometime early next week and they look forward to a quick recovery. The doctors are very encouraged by the last few days."
A short rain shower gave the players a break from the heat during Friday's practice.
Linebacker Tray Blackmon returned to the practice field on Friday morning after missing Thursday with a sore knee. He looked to be in good condition and made several big hits including one on running back Tre Smith. Safety Tristan Davis also returned to action at safety after missing Thursday because of a headache. Tuberville said despite the numbers of players missing work the injuries aren't anything out of the ordinary.
"Actually we haven't had as many this year as we've had," Tuberville said. "It just seems like the last couple of days they've mounted up and we can't get a scrimmage in. We'll get it in. It will be pretty soon. I want to have two more but I don't want to go too much past the first of the week. If you can't do it you can't do it so we'll just have to see how many we get back."
Even with Davis back on the field the Tigers made another position move to shore up the spot as true freshman Zaccheus Etheridge moved to the free safety spot after starting two-a-days at cornerback. A big and physical defensive back, Etheridge gives the Tigers another dimension at safety of a player that can cover and also be physical.
Zac Etheridge is a player that could help the Tigers this season at safety.
Etheridge isn't the only true freshman to get a serious look at playing time this season on the defensive side of the ball. Defensive linemen Mike Blanc and Jermarcus Ricks have been impressive when given an opportunity. Ricks missed Friday's practice along with brother Courtney Harden because of a death in the family. Also showing up well is defensive end Zach Clayton, who had another strong day rushing the passer.
Perhaps the biggest mover of the freshmen has been linebacker Craig Stevens. With several players missing action because of minor injuries it has opened the door for the Tallahassee, Fla. native to get in the mix on the weak side. He said that so far things are going good as he tries to learn the defense.
"I think it has helped me a lot to be thrown in the mix," Stevens said. "It really forces you to get better. I have to try to pick up my game faster and pick up the plays. I think it makes me work harder.
"I have just tried to study the plays every night," he added. "Basically it's about trying to get comfortable. I just try to feel like I belong and I try to be calm on every play. I think that helps me play better."
The Tigers will return to the practice field Saturday morning for a workout scheduled for 9 a.m. on the intramural fields. The scrimmage set for Saturday has been postponed until Sunday or possibly Monday.