Newcomers Have Nervous First Practice

The Auburn Tigers began work for the 2002 season with the first of two Monday practices.

Auburn, Ala.--Football season officially began on the Auburn campus Monday morning as 35 newcomers got their first taste of college football with a practice that lasted just over an hour and a half. Working on fundamentals and getting an introduction into the offense and defense, the group looked to be as athletic as billed coming out of the recruiting process but that didn't stop them from having the normal freshman jitters.

"It was a good first day," Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville said following the practice. "There were a lot of nervous guys out here. I could tell the difference in the players that had been here and the ones that hadn't been here. Obviously the ones that hadn't been here weren't in quite as good a shape and weren't able to make it through this practice. It was only 14 periods, about half a normal practice, so some of them have a good ways to go. Most of the guys that had been here worked hard. They are a lot farther along than any group that we've had as true freshmen coming in. We'll just keep working them hard and see what happens."

Working on getting the little things down on both sides of the ball, the group divided into their respective positions to work on individual assignments on different plays. For the offensive line that meant working on who to block and which direction to take them. The quarterbacks, wide receivers and running backs got the basics down on route running and play calling under the watchful eye of Tuberville, who walked the practice fields getting a first look at his new class of recruits.

Defensive back Brandon Williams had a good first practice at cornerback on Monday. Here he returns a pass during a drill while veteran safety Junior Rosegreen watches practice from the background.

Defensively, the foursome of Tommy Jackson, Antwarn Franklin, Ben Grubbs and Kyle Derozan got the bulk of the work up front as Doug Morris struggled with the heat late in the practice. They worked on footwork and alignment while the linebackers and secondary focused most of their attention on being in the right place when the ball is snapped. For a first day the group got a lot done, but Tuberville said they have a long way to go in the next 48 hours.

"We're going to put in about 30 or 40 percent of the offense and defense in the next two days and see how much they can grasp," Tuberville noted. "After that they are on their own. We'll pick up there Thursday and we'll start feeding it to them a little bit, but it will have to be new stuff everyday. Some of the guys got a good indication of where they are at physically and that is the main thing."

After just one practice Tuberville said he definitely noticed the nerves in the group, particularly with the wide receivers and quarterbacks. But, he did note that a couple of defensive players caught his eye with their speed and athleticism. With Tyrone Martin sitting out the morning practice while waiting to take the last part of his physical, there were only two linebackers to get the bulk of the work and they looked good doing it.

"I was real impressed with Mike Sherill," Tuberville said. "He's not in the best shape in the world but he and Kevis Burnham look like they have a chance to be good football players."

Another player that looked good in his first outing was Franklin. Forced to sit out a full year while trying to get qualified, the 6-4, 328 defensive tackle said that he was happy to finally get on the practice fields after so long to wait. Displaying good feet and explosion, the Birmingham native showed a glimpse of the talent that made him one of the top linemen in Alabama two seasons ago out of Woodlawn High School.

"After about three plays I got back adjusted," Franklin said. "I just had to get my timing back. That's all it was. I couldn't wait to get my pads back on. Sitting out a whole year, you don't understand how that feels. That's like not having that mike in your hand for a year. It doesn't feel good at all."

Marcus McNeill gets a word of advice from offensive line coach Hugh Nall during Monday morning's practice.

While Franklin looked the part on defense, there is no question that Marcus McNeill, Troy Reddick and Jonathan Palmer all fit the bill on offense. Showing power and good feet, all three looked to be further along than the normal freshman offensive linemen but still have a long way to go to earn some playing time in the toughest spot for a first-year player.

The freshmen will continue their education Monday afternoon with a practice scheduled for 4:30. They will practice twice again on Tuesday before taking Wednesday off for team meetings with the upperclassmen, who report that day. The full team will have their first practice Thursday and it's scheduled for 7 a.m. All practices are open to the public and are being held on the intramural fields.

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