Feisty Tigers Strap On Pads Sunday

The Auburn football Tigers closed the final day of shorts and helmets only practices with a very intense workout featuring several fights and big hits.

Auburn, Ala.--The Auburn football Tigers begin full pad practices on Sunday and anyone in attendance at Saturday evening's practice can attest to the fact that they are probably needed.

Intense and aggressive doesn't even begin to describe the workout that lasted just over two hours. Several scuffles and a few big hits ignited the team in one of the best half-shell (shorts and shoulder pads) practices in recent years and the head coach says his offense continued to show improvement in the afternoon practice.

"Tomorrow we come in out full pads," Tommy Tuberville notes. "We'll have some full contact work. Today almost got a little out of hand. We had a few fights, but I think they're just fired up about getting ready to start full pads. The offense looked a little better. What we were trying to do is run a lot of blitz drill with this young offensive line and they're getting better. We have to keep on doing it."

Tuberville had to tell his players to be careful not to hurt any teammates there were so many big hits as the Tigers practiced in shoulder pads, helmets and shorts.

Perhaps the biggest offensive improvement in the second Saturday practice came in the passing game. Quarterbacks Daniel Cobb and Jason Campbell both threw the ball well in team situations with receivers Jeris McIntyre and Ben Obomanu coming up with several nice catches.

"The passing game is starting to come along a little bit," offensive coordinator Bobby Petrino notes. "First of all I thought our protection improved this afternoon. The quarterbacks had more room and really that's what you need. You need room so you can firm up in the front, the tackle sets the width and once they get that room they usually throw the ball pretty well.

"The receivers are starting to come along. A couple of them got dinged up towards the end, but I'm impressed with some of the young players and also Silas (Daniels) has done a good job and Marcel (Willis) looks like he's healthy from what they tell me. That's the first time I've seen him where he has been healthy."

Senior cornerback Roderick Hood and freshman wide receiver Ben Obomanu battle for position at the line of scrimmage on Saturday.

With all the focus of the passing game on the young receivers and getting them ready for the season opener, a player that has been lost in the shuffle is redshirt freshman Todd Bradford. A walk-on from Selma last fall, he impressed receivers coach Greg Knox with his work ethic and willingness to catch the ball anywhere. Now a year older and stronger, Bradford is making some waves of his own at the receiver position. In Saturday's practice Bradford had five catches in the team session of practice for nearly 80 yards.

"I was able to get in and get a lot more reps than I had been getting," Bradford says. "I just took advantage of it. We had a great summer and I really progressed during the summer. We came out every day and worked hard and it's showing out there that we've come a long way. Everybody is learning the offense a lot better."

In addition to the job of finding the starting quarterback in the battle between Cobb and Campbell, Petrino also is now faced with finding a number three quarterback during two-a-days. Dealing with personal problems, heralded left-hander Brandon Cox from Trussville has decided to leave the team and his return date is unknown. His departure means the Tigers will have to change their thinking the quarterback rotation.

"It means that we have to get somebody else ready for that number three quarterback," Petrino says. "We're working hard at that right now. Between Josh (Sullivan) and Wesley (Hill), one of them is going to have to be prepared to go. We'll try to have them a small package, but they are one injury from being number two."

While there are still question marks on offense, defensively the Tigers seem to be in full throttle as they add new blitzes and stunts every day. While the team is flying to the football and making plays, the coaches add there is still a long way to go with this group before the season begins.

"We look a lot quicker than we've ever looked," Tuberville says. "We just have to make sure that we keep learning the things that we need to learn. We're making way too many mistakes in alignment."

Saturday's defensive standout was Dante Booker up front. The senior wreaked havoc on the offensive line and made several nice plays in the offensive backfield, including running down Campbell from behind for a sack. In the secondary both Dee Durham and Roshard Gilyard came up with interceptions. Gilyard's was returned for a touchdown.

It was in the linebacking corps where the biggest noise was made on Saturday. Punishing blockers and ball carriers at every turn, the small but powerful Antarrious Williams was all over the field. Playing outside linebacker after redshirting last year as a safety, the 210-pound Williams may not look the part but he lets his actions speak for themselves.

"I'm kind of getting used to playing linebacker," Williams says. "The plays are coming more natural since I played it in the spring. It's a little easier now since I'm getting used to it." As a former defensive end in high school, Williams says his love of contact also suits him well as a linebacker. "It helps out," he says with a smile."

The Tigers strap on the full pads for the first time Sunday with a single afternoon practice scheduled for 4:45 on the intramural fields. Monday the team returns to two-a-days mode with the morning practice tentatively set for around 8:30 with the afternoon also tentative at 4:30. All two-a-day practices are open to the public.


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