While the defense will be busy preparing for the the varied formations and style of nationally-respected Trojan offensive coordinator Norm Chow, it's on the offensive side of the ball where the most noticeable changes take place. During two-a-days, the offense works on the entire system to become familiar with all plays when they are called upon during the season. However, specific game plans require the offensive coaches to whittle down the system to about 50 or 60 percent of capacity so the plays can be done over and over again in the practices leading up to game day. That is what quarterbacks Daniel Cobb and Jason Campbell will be concentrating on when they take the field this week. For an offense that struggled to find its rhythm during two-a-days, it will probably help to concentrate on fewer plays.
Another factor in the offensive struggles in preseason has been the defensive intensity the coaches sought. Not holding back the defense to allow the offense to get untracked, Coach Tommy Tuberville says that he hopes when the lights come on for the Monday night football matchup in California that the offense will have seen everything they could possibly see from their teammates in practice.
"We've really put them in a bad disadvantage this two-a-days because they've had to earn everything they get," Tuberville notes. "We didn't play base defense. We showed them every look, every coverage they'll see. Probably things will get easier when they get into the season because we do a lot of stuff on defense."
The one break the offense did get came when the coaching staff decided to give starters like DeMarco McNeil, Spencer Johnson, Reggie Torbor, Mark Brown, Dontarrious Thomas, Roderick Hood and others a rest during the scrimmages. This allowed the coaches to see which backups would step to the forefront and show they are ready to provide the necessary depth heading into a season.
While players like Tommy "T.J." Jackson and Antarrious Williams used the time to cement themselves into the playing rotation, perhaps no player did a better job of showing the coaches what he can do than cornerback Lamel Ages. A walk-on from Columbus, Ga., Ages followed the path of Hood as a former high school quarterback turned defensive back and the results have been very good for the small but quick sophomore.
A solid third at corner behind Hood and Carlos Rogers, Ages' play left defensive coordinator Gene Chizik searching for a couple of other guys to step the forefront to give him what he's looking for at the position.
"I think right now we have three guys that when the bullets start flying for sure I think they can play in a game and really do a nice job," Chizik notes. "We're trying to find spots four and five. I feel like with the kickoffs and punts and all the things the corners do you really have to play four corners minimum in a game, sometimes potentially five. So I feel good about the first three. We just have to develop four and five."
Seniors Rashaud Walker and Horace Willis along with redshirt freshman Dee Durham are currently involved in a three-way battle for the two remaining spots in the playing rotation with true freshman Brandon Williams likely headed for a redshirt year. With his experience it's probable that Walker will be in the rotation during the season, but the fifth cornerback spot is anyone's guess. Both Willis and Durham are finally healthy after battling injuries most of last sea*son and have the talent to do the job, making this maybe the deepest Auburn has been at corner since the mid to late 1980s.
After getting it relatively easy for much of two-a-days, the Tigers didn't escape the suffocating August weather that has become the norm for Alabama in recent years. Beginning on Thursday the coaching staff decided to test the team's resolve and conditioning by pushing them to close to the limit in full pad practices on the intramural fields. Perhaps the toughest of these was a Friday morning practice where the offense and defense both ran sprints to and from the sideline after every play to simulate what they would feel like in the fourth quarter of a game. Despite the obvious dislike for what they were doing, the players said they definitely understood the motive behind the madness.
"I think it helps you persevere," linebacker Mayo Sowell says. "It puts you in bad situations like our legs are gone. Therefore we have to fight harder to make the plays we make. If we make them then with our legs gone then on Saturdays when we are rested up we'll make them for sure."
Tailback Carnell Williams agrees wholeheartedly with Sowell. After getting in some action during Saturday's scrimmage, the sophomore notes that this team would be better because of what they had gone through to close two-a-days. "It's really going to help us," Williams says. "I guess they are trying to find out who is going to be there at the end. They're putting us through some heated and tough practices. The ones that stick it out are showing great character."