Tuberville Not Satisfied After Long Scrimmage

Coach Tommy Tuberville said there was good and bad in Auburn's second scrimmage of the preseason Friday.

Auburn, Ala.--The Auburn Tigers had their second scrimmage of the preseason Friday afternoon with an 104-play marathon at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Coach Tommy Tuberville said while his team showed improvement it's still not what he is looking for out of his club as it prepares for Washington State.

"We had good effort but made a lot of mistakes," Tuberville said. "We had no significant injuries, just a couple of strained hams and hurt feelings. We'll have a lot of guys sore tomorrow. We had a lot of contact and guys ran around. We scored four or five touchdowns. There were a couple by the first team and a couple by the second.

"Our timing wasn't there offensively," he added. "We did everything in the world on defense. We gave them every look. I would hate to try to block all that stuff. It was a good practice. We learned a lot of things about some guys. The one thing I wanted to watch is would we compete better than we did the last few practices when we really got after it, and we did. We needed game situations. There were very few penalties, mostly things we can correct."

Going through all situations such as short and long yardage, goal line, two-minute and everything in between, the Tigers went first-team against first-team and seconds against seconds for the entire practice. Tuberville said while that may keep the stat totals down he believes that's the best way to prepare for the upcoming season.

"We had situations where we put the ball down and would go 8-12 plays," Tuberville said. "The defense started off fast but I thought the offense caught up at the end. We finished up with goal line on both sides. The defense won that. It was good contact and the guys really worked all the way through it. It was good to see that we got that many plays in.

"It was one's versus one's and two's versus two's," he added. "It wasn't a setup scrimmage to make anybody look good. It was competing and playing all the way from one to 104."

Wide receiver Rodgeriqus Smith continues to impress as he gets extra time on the field with senior Courtney Taylor out with a sprained knee.

Offensively Tuberville said the group did better as a whole in the passing game, something that was a concern after the first scrimmage despite the intention to run the football on that day. Wide receiver Rodgeriqus Smith continues to step up and make plays for the offense and Tuberville said he again did that on Friday.

"Brandon Cox hit about a 50 or 55 yard touchdown pass to 21 Rodgeriqus Smith," Tuberville said. "He made some good catches. We didn't have very many dropped passes at all. We did have some sacks but again they brought it all."

Defensively Tuberville singled out linebacker Merrill Johnson for his play with the first team and also cornerback Jonathan Wilhite and safety Zaccheus Etheridge. Tuberville said several players made plays but at the same time too many plays were given up for his liking.

Merrill Johnson has adjusted well to the middle linebacker position after playing the weak side his first two seasons at Auburn.

"Jonathan Wilhite made a big interception," he said. "We played good goal line defense. The offense wasn't ready for it. They didn't come off the ball good at all and didn't make any plays. We had a lot of pressure from the defensive line, mostly Quentin (Quentin Groves) obviously and Gunn (Marquies Gunn) had a couple of sacks.

"28 (Etheridge) did pretty good," he added. "He ran around and made some plays. I really noticed 55 (Johnson) a lot. He was around the ball a lot and having a lot of fun."

Tuberville said it's doubtful the Tigers will have another scrimmage before the opener against the Cougars on Sept. 2. If that's the case then Friday's scrimmage will be the measuring stick for several key players before their first college football game. Tuberville said because of that it was important to get them as much work as possible in Jordan-Hare Stadium.

"It was good," Tuberville said. "We played mostly base last time. We turned them loose this time and they were having fun and making plays but we gave up some plays. We missed some tackles. I don't let them leave their feet on tackles and maybe they could have made them.

"Everybody needed this," he added. "The offense needed it, the coaches needed it. All the young guys needed to see really what it's like going in the stadium for the first time. We got a lot accomplished."

On the injury front the Tigers were without Leon Hart (strained abdominal muscle), Tyronne Green (flu), Oscar Gonzalez (dislocated toe), Courtney Taylor (knee) and Mario Fannin (hip pointer) on offense while Kevin Sears (ankle), Mike Blanc (tooth) and David Irons (hamstring). There were also several players banged up during the scrimmage including Tre Smith who jammed his neck but walked off fine, but Tuberville said he was proud to see them stick it out and finish.

"Zach Clayton went down with a sore knee at the end but he was walking around," Tuberville said. "I think Wilhite sprained his hand but he kept on playing. It was good to see guys go back in. Some guys got nicked up and went out but came back in. There was nothing significant."

Tommy Tuberville talks to his team at Jordan-Hare Stadium on Friday.

The Tigers will return to the practice field at 10:15 Saturday morning for another physical workout before having a short walk-through later in the afternoon. They will practice again Sunday before taking Monday off. Tuberville said it will likely take the two practices this weekend to help the coaches make their final judgments on the depth chart for the first game.

"We'll go through the weekend," Tuberville said. "We're going to have a hard practice in the morning and then walk them through in the afternoon and then a hard practice on Sunday. Probably then we'll sit down and go through some things and divide guys up and see who's ready to play and who's not ready to play. We'll try to get as close to two-deep as we can."

Tuberville also had some things to say when notified his team was ranked fourth in the first Associated Press Poll released on Friday. With three first-place votes the Tigers are ranked behind only Ohio State, Notre Dame and Texas. He said that while it's nice to be ranked high it means very little at this point and time and it's something they won't dwell on in the next two weeks.

"It doesn't make a lot of difference," Tuberville said. "We appreciate the recognition but we've got a lot of work to do. I'm sure there are a lot of better teams than we are right now. We're not a good team. We've made some strides but we're not there yet. We've got to get some guys back healthy and get ready for a very tough opening game or it doesn't make a lot of difference. We've been through this before with a lot of expectations and started playing for second pretty quick during the season."

Noseguard Greg Smith, a juco transfer who just joined the team, does a conditioning workout in the stadium on Friday evening while strength and conditioning coach Kevin Yoxall looms in the background. Smith can put the full pads on for Sunday's practice.

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