Auburn, Ala.--The Auburn Tigers began implementing scout team work into practices on Thursday as they worked for just over two hours in full pads in preparation for the season opener against Washington State on Sept. 2. Coach Tommy Tuberville says he was pleased with how well the team handled the first day of working on the Cougars.
"It was a nice hot and humid practice this morning," Tuberville says. "We had their attention. Obviously when you have a change in your practice schedule, this is the first time we've changed it since 23 practices. We went almost all Washington State stuff. It's a transition. We kept their attention for a little bit longer than I thought we would today. It was hot for about two hours and 15 minutes. We practiced hard. It's just one day of several that we will have to work on Washington State.
"It looks like we've got some continuity on offense," he adds. "We're still not hitting on all cylinders. Again, we've got a few more practices to go."
There was some good news for the Tigers on Thursday as wide receiver Alex Rose from Jacksonville, Fla. was finally cleared to join the team. Tuberville says Rose is on his way to Auburn Thursday and will begin classes on Friday. While it's still unknown whether Rose will be a full qualifier or not Tuberville says it's nice to have him with the team.
"Alex Rose is on his way," Tuberville says. "He's an Auburn Tiger. All I was told is that he's on his way and will be in school tomorrow. We'll see what his status is. There's some conjecture on that. I'm glad he's in school because he'll redshirt anyway. It won't make any difference."
Wide receiver Mario Fannin is one of the newest Tigers not working on the scout team. He continues to work with the offense to learn as much about his new position as possible after moving from running back.
Thursday's scout team work for the Tigers was a time to begin whittling down the two-deep roster with many of the true freshmen designated to help the team this season. The true freshmen or newcomers still working and getting reps were Greg Smith, Jermarcus Ricks, Mike Blanc, Craig Stevens and Zac Etheridge on defense while quarterbacks Steven Ensminger and Neil Caudle, running back Benjamin Tate, wide receiver Tim Hawthorne and offensive lineman Mike Berry were still on the offense. Tuberville says there will still be some tweaking to that if injuries occur but that's the way things will start this season.
"We've got about a two and a half deep right now," Tuberville says. "We're keeping some guys right now that we think might have an opportunity to move into the lineup. That will change depending on their progress the next two or three weeks. Some of the guys will be on our special teams. Right now we're not full scout team strength. We will be by the LSU game depending on injury."
Defensively the depth up front has given the Tigers the opportunity to plan on redshirting many of the signees that joined the team this year. While players such as Zach Clayton, Bryant Miller, Bart Eddins and Byron Isom have performed well this fall they're likely headed for a redshirt season. Coordinator Will Muschamp says that's always a tough thing to handle when you're a freshman but in the end it's the best thing for them. Still, injuries can end a redshirt season in a hurry and that's something they have to prepare for.
"It's a little bit of a shock to some of those kids," Muschamp says. "They all anticipate starting their first game at Auburn and all of the sudden they are on the scout team. It's a process for them and it's a process for our kids to understand the tempo of the game can't change when they go against the look team. We'll get better at it.
"We've got some guys on the bubble a little bit," he adds. "You don't really know until you get into the season. You always have to prepare for the injury. You're always going to have an injury inside and possibly in the backfield. At linebacker we've been hit already. You have to be preparing young guys to play. That's our approach. We're always trying to develop a third at every position."
With no change on the injury front from Wednesday's practice the Tigers had the entire starting lineup on the field for the opener on consecutive days for the first time this preseason. Only linebackers Kevin Sears and Steve Gandy as well as offensive tackle Oscar Gonzalez missed the practice. Sears had class scheduling conflicts and missed the day while both Gandy and Gonzalez remain on the injured list. Blanc missed a portion of the workout because of a bad tooth.
Two players that continue to be bothered by nagging injuries are defensive backs Jerraud Powers and Lorenzo Ferguson. With shoulder problems affecting both they are still dressed in orange non-contact jerseys. Even though they are taking part in practice Muschamp says that it's a concern that neither are back 100 percent yet. Because of that Etheridge could get more time on the field as well as Zach Gilbert.
The Tigers will practice Friday afternoon before taking Saturday off to have one final rest day before the season begins. Practice will resume Sunday with scout team work continuing for Washington State.