However, even though they watched some impressive play from their pupils, as well as the overall defense in Sunday's first preseason full pads practice, neither coach says he is close to satisfied just yet as the Tigers prepare for a Sept. 2nd opener vs. Southern Cal.
"We are making a little bit of progress," says Dunn, who has welcomed back his two previously wounded starting interior defensive players in juniors DeMarco McNeil and Spencer Johnson. Both were slowed last season by knee problems and McNeil missed all of spring practice.
T.J. Jackson (58) escapes a block attempt by Troy Reddick during a pass rushing drill. Both players are true freshmen.
"We didn't play very well early in the practice during the inside drill, but I thought they came back did well, especially in the goal line drill," Dunn says. "We should do well in the goal line situation though because we have an extra two defensive linemen on the field. Our guys are doing all right though. We still have a long way to go with the young guys. They are still learning how to practice. They are learning the tempo and learning what it takes. They have got to keep pushing everyday."
True freshmen T.J. Jackson from Opelika and Antwarn Franklin from Woodlawn High in Birmingham are making a push for significant playing time at the interior defensive line spots along with redshirt freshman Wayne Dickens. Senior Dante Booker and junior Dexter Murphy, who is also getting practice time at end, are showing improvement.
Price says he saw some impressive play in the goal line situation. "When we got down to that part of practice, our kids on defense took it to another level," the defensive ends coach notes. "They really played hard. They really competed down there. Like the rest of the defensive coaches, I was a little disappointed at how the practice started. We have got to maintain intensity throughout the entire practice, not just save it up for the end. I was happy to see our kids compete. If they can play like that for an entire practice, we will have a chance to have a really good defense this year."
Price is working on getting a pair of true freshmen ready for game action. Ben Grubbs from Elmore County and Kyle Derozan from Morganza, La., have made significant strides during their four freshmen workouts and seven more sessions with the full squad.
Junior Reggie Tobor had strong performances at the three weekend practices and looks ready for a big season. Jay Ratliff, the converted tight end, and fellow redshirt sophomore Bret Eddins are locked in a close battle for the starting spot opposite Torbor. Murphy, who can swing outside from tackle, adds experienced depth. Murphy, a junior from LaGrange, Ga., who was very limited last season by broken bones in both wrists, looks primed for his best season.
News and Notes: Monreko Crittenden dropped to second team on the offensive line depth chart after he missed a practice day when he lost too much weight during the early part of two-a-days. He is playing behind senior Ryan Hockett, but looks ready to challenge for his No. 1. Crittenden had one of his best days in one-on-one drills with the defensive line on Sunday and his position coach, Hugh Nall, used Crittenden's footwork as an example for the other offensive linemen to follow...Senior Damon Duval is eight-of-eight on field goals in two kicking challenges so far this preseason with redshirt sophomore Philip Yost, who is not doing too poorly himself by hitting seven of eight. Duval notes that the improvements to the intramural field with better grass and a more level playing service have made it a better place to kick field goals than it was in previous years when the Tigers conducted preseason two-a-days on the intramural fields where they have lined off six football fields to use for drills and scrimmages.
Head coach Tommy Tuberville says he likes what he is seeing from the defense and notes "they are bound and determined to make the offense better." Tuberville adds, "You do that by kicking their tails" and noted that was what happened on Sunday evening...Quarterback Daniel Cobb says the offense is still developing. "We are doing a lot of positive things, but we are still having a couple of missed assignments here or there." Cobb predicts the offense will make strides during the second week of preseason practice. QB Jason Campbell, who is competing with Cobb for the starting job, says, "I am just trying to do the best I can everyday and be a leader." Campbell also predicts the offense will improve and says the Tigers are putting a lot of effort into getting better.