The head coach says he likes what he saw as the Tigers had their most physically demanding of the preseason practices so far this season. The head coach notes that he likes the pace of the workouts and the overall effort he is seeing from his fourth Auburn football team.
"Mentally, we are lot tougher," he says when comparing where the Tigers are in August of 2002 compared to August of 2001.
He also liked the toughness both of his field goal kickers showed as he put them in a competition to close the two-hour and 15-minute session at the intramural fields. Both senior Damon Duval and sophomore Philip Yost were dead, solid perfect on field goals from 27, 32, 40 and 47 yards. "We didn't miss one field goal (eight of eight) so it is going to be a battle between Damon and Yost," Tuberville declares. "We will see what happens. Both are kicking the ball real good. We are going to go with the best one."
In the heart of the practice, there was an intense inside drill with the defensive line and linebackers squaring off vs. the offensive front and the backs. For one of the few times this year, even going back to spring drills, the offense got the better of the defense, but that was an aberration. Tailbacks Carnell Williams and Tre Smith both showed impressive footwork running the ball, but the back who stole the show was big fullback Brandon Johnson. He knocked defensive end Reggie Torbor five yards downfield with a crushing block to open a gaping hole. That drew gasps from the players waiting their turns to join the action.
"I got Brandon yesterday in the inside drill and he told me last night he was going to get me back," Torbor says. "He came in hard and I never saw him. The next thing I knew I was looking up at the sky. Brandon is an A-1 type of player. You can't outwork him and he is a great guy on and off the field."
Torbor showed no ill effects of the bone-jarring encounter with the junior fullback and helped the defense dominate the 11 on 11 work near the end of practice. He sacked both of the quarterbacks battling for the No. 1 spot--Daniel Cobb and Jason Campbell, something he also did with regularity in spring drills.
"We have a lot of speed and a lot of experience on our defense," Torbor notes. "Guys know what they are doing and they don't have to question themselves. We just have to bring the younger guys along. You can tell a big difference between the ones and threes, who are still running around a bit trying to get lined up right. Once we get everybody together, we will be a great defense."
Torbor and his teammates got a break with cooler and less humid weather than normal for a second straight day. Also, the 5 p.m. start for the second practice and a breeze kept the evening session relatively pleasant. Still, Auburn coaches and medical personal are keeping a close eye on their players' weights to make sure they don't fluctuate too much.
Offensive guard Monreko Crittenden was held out of practice because he lost more than 10 pounds. Tuberville says the junior wanted to practice, but the doctors wouldn't let him go and the head coach says it is smart to make players sit out in that situation. "If they get back out there too quick, we may lose them for 10 to 15 days."
Ryan Hockett (76) is shown in action on Friday at the intramural fields. The walk-on from Jacksonville, Fla., played high school football with Auburn center Ben Nowland. Fullback Victor Horn is in the background.
Crittenden's absence opened the door for senior walk-on Ryan Hockett, a former defensive lineman, to move to first team guard for the Friday practice. Danny Lindsey worked No. 1 at the other guard while Mark Pera and Ryan Broome were the No. 1 tackles, although Broome shared his playing time with redshirt freshman Taylor Bourgeois, who is bouncing back from shoulder surgery that caused him to miss spring drills. Steady senior Ben Nowland handled the center duties.
Tuberville was not impressed with the line or much else on offense. "We are still dropping too many balls," he says. "The execution is way off. We have got a lot of work to do in the offensive line.
"Defensively, we are way ahead," adds Tuberville, who says the extra depth will help. "That is a great sign when your defense is way ahead--you've got a good chance. You can just tell the difference in the speed compared to what we had last year. Guys are fresher and they know more of what to do than they did in the spring. It was good.
"I have been real impressed with all of our linebackers. We have just made tremendous progress since last spring and the guys are in great shape. If we can keep them healthy at linebacker we are good to be pretty good in that position."
The ever-changing practice schedule has changed again. The Tigers will have a full squad workout at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday at the intramural fields and a 5:15 p.m. practice at the same place. Sandwiched between those sessions, the players will be at Fan Day from 1-3 p.m. at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum.
Tiger Ticket Extra: An interested spectator at the Friday evening workout was 2002 Auburn football signee Timmy Duckworth, who did not qualify academically to play this fall. Duckworth is looking to improve his ACT score and enroll at Auburn in January...Reggie Torbor is fighting to keep from losing too much weight in two-a-days. He is down nine pounds after four practices and weighs around 240 instead of the 250 that he entered two-a-days with. "Hopefully, I will get that back after two-a-days," the hard-working junior says...Reserve offensive lineman Rich Trucks, who worked at guard on Friday, got into a fight with reserve linebacker Mayo Sowell, who was playing outside linebacker. Trucks, the walk-on, might have gotten the better of Sowell in their scuffle, but Sowell is having a better overall preseason practice and is pushing to move up on the depth chart to second string at the talent-laded linebacker spot.