One For The Ages, And Fetsko, Too

Two former walk-ons got some good news as the football Tigers went about their business with a long practice on a steamy Wednesday on the Plains.

Auburn, Ala.--A tough three-hour practice Wednesday evening wasn't enough to take the smile off cornerback Lamel Ages' face as the former walk-on became just that when classes began for fall semester on the Auburn campus.

Along with wide receiver Justin Fetsko, Ages was put on scholarship as he continues down the path of his friend and hometown counterpart Roderick Hood. Hood went from walk-on to scholarship player to starter in a matter of two years and that's what Ages is hoping for as he heads into his sophomore season.

"It's a blessing," Ages told Inside The Auburn Tigers following Wednesday's tough practice. "It's truly a load off my family and I thank the coaching staff, coach (Tommy) Tuberville and everyone involved. I'm just thankful to have it.

Lamel Ages

"The only thing I did was go out and play football and do the best job that I can do. The decision for the scholarship was left up to the coaches and I guess they saw something in me. Basically, the only thing I did was go out and do everything I can do. Earning this scholarship is just part of the puzzle. Right now I'm focusing on the season. That was one hurdle. The next hurdle is going into ball games and having a good season."

After walking on from Carver High in Columbus, Ga., Hood's former school, Ages showed enough promise in the fall of 2000 to earn a redshirt year from the coaches for his performance on the scout team. Last season as a freshman he saw action in six games on special teams, but it was enough to earn his first varsity letter. Now back and much improved, Ages has already climbed the depth chart to second-team cornerback behind sophomore Carlos Rogers heading into the season opener.

Fetsko has become the epitome of what a walk-on is to Auburn University in his fourth season on the Plains. A second-team All-Northwest Florida performer coming out of Escambia High School in Pensacola, Fla., Fetsko came to Auburn when no one thought he had a chance to survive, much less make team. But showing fight and determination, Fetsko has not only hung around but has become a key performer for the Tigers as the holder for Damon Duval on field goals and extra points as well as a receiver on offense. Before going down with a knee injury this fall, Fetsko was in line to receive playing time at the slot receiver position after catching three passes for 56 yards last season. He should return to the practice field in the next week and will likely be the holder against USC, but probably won't be back at receiver until the second or third game.

Justin Fetsko

Calling Wednesday's practice a struggle, Tuberville said the team didn't execute as well as he would have liked on either side of the ball. In what will be the last full day of strictly team work before the units begin rehearsing the game plan for USC, he said that the little things hurt on Wednesday and hopefully that will come to an end on Thursday.

"We made a lot of silly mistakes on offense," Tuberville noted. "We're struggling over there to execute consistenly. That's the a little unfair to the offense because our defense knows our offense real well. They know a lot of things going on and they have a big advantage, but we have to execute. The one thing we have to eliminate is turnovers. That got us beat last year several games and it will get us beat this year if we continue to do it.

"It was a good long practice, almost three hours. We're still working against each other the entire practice so it's a tough day when you do that because you never really get to slow down.

"Overall it was a good day. We worked on a lot of different things. We had a chance to get better. We just weren't mentally into the first part of the practice."

Punter Damon Duval booms one downfield during a special teams session while Karlos Dansby (left) protects his kicking lane.

Continuing what has been a trend, the Tigers spent almost the first 30 minutes of the practice on special teams. Vowing that the 2002 team will be strong in that area, Tuberville and staff had the players working on all aspects of the punting game today. With Ben Obomanu, Hood, Joe Walkins and Tre Smith all returning punts from Duval, Philip Yost and Michael Gibson, the front line players worked on both their blocking lanes on offense and their pursuit angles on defense.

Tuberville praised several areas on the defense after Wednesday's practice as having an excellent day of work. However, just as has been the case this fall, one area remains a concern for the coaching staff as it begins working towards the USC Trojans on Thursday.

"I thought our linebackers were getting better and better," Tuberville said. "Our defensive backs are getting a lot more confidence. On the offensive line we're still looking for the right combination of people. We have to get Mark Pera back. We just have to get some consistency there. We're having too many breakdowns."

The team returns to practice Thursday at 4:30 p.m. and will have another practice Friday afternoon at 4:30. Tuberville said that if he, along with the rest of the coaching staff, is satisfied with the two days leading up to Saturday they will have the day off. From the looks of the coaches' faces Wednesday, the Tigers may have a full weekend ahead of them.

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