Mixed Reviews for Tigers as Week 2 Begins

Auburn returned to practice on Tuesday. A detailed report on the football Tigers is featured.

Auburn, Ala.--The Tigers put on the pads again Tuesday after a two-day break to begin the second of three weeks of spring football workouts and Coach Tommy Tuberville says there were some reasons for encouragement from what he saw in week one.

"Saturday's scrimmage was a good measuring point of what we are doing, what we are not doing and how we are doing it," Tuberville says. "We have a lot of room for improvement, but we saw some good bright points out of some guys."

Tuberville says he was encouraged by what he saw with the offensive line as a group, although he noted many of the players need work on their technique. "That is normal when you have younger players. I thought the tight ends were excellent in their blocking."

The backup QBs struggled in the scrimmage and again in Tuesday's practice. The highlight at that position is the play of senior Brandon Cox. "I thought Brandon looked a lot fresher and moved around a lot better and threw the ball pretty good," the coach says.

"The receivers had one bad dropped pass (Prechae Rodriguez) for about 30 yards. Other than that we didn't ask the receivers to do a whole lot. Their blocking wasn't as strong as it should have been."

Commenting on the running backs in the first major scrimmage, Tuberville says, "It was kind of hit and miss. Mario Fannin pulled a ham (hamstring). Hopefully, we will get him back Thursday or Friday. Brad (Lester) ran well. I thought Ben Tate ran well at time. Of course, Tristan (Davis) didn't make a lot of yards, but he was in there with some of the younger offensive linemen and he didn't have much of a chance. Overall, offensively we were about a "C" average of how we looked. That is expected the first week of spring practice with so many young faces."

The defense held the upper hand in Saturday's scrimmage. It allowed just two touchdowns and scored one against the offense on an interception return by Walter McFadden. "Defensively, we moved around good," Tuberville says. "We have got a chance. We have a lot athletic ability. We have more depth."

The leading tacklers in the scrimmage were the linebackers and Tuberville says he was impressed with the LBs as a group. "Chris Evans really stepped up and made some plays. I thought our defensive front was active. Our tackles inside, Sen'Derrick Marks, played well. We are really looking at a lot of the younger guys like Greg Smith and Michael Goggans, who is lost but is going to be a heck of a player.

"With our corners and safeties, (Aairon) Savage played well. Eric Brock needs to step it up being a senior. I think he can play better than what he did. Then the corners on the outside, Patrick Lee now being a starter, I thought he had a great Cotton Bowl, but he has got to pick up from that point and continue to get better. He is a big guy who can make plays."

The rebuilding kicking game did not impress the head coach in the scrimmage, who notes it was "kind of average." Tuberville adds, "We have got to work a lot on our kickoffs and kickoff coverage because of the new rule (kickoffs from the 30 instead of the 35) and our punting was inconsistent. We were kicking the ball too low.

"Field goals are just going to be a battle. We don't have any definite guy there right now. (Zach) Kutch, we had him number one, but he is not number one now after Saturday. He really didn't do very well. We really don't have a number one."

Commenting on Tuesday's workout, that included one on one full contact drills, 11 on 11 work and a good bit of work on the passing game, Tuberville says, "Today's practice was good. We had good weather. We are still missing a lot of guys with classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays so it is difficult to get a lot of consistency, but the effort is good. We need to get some guys back who are beat up a little bit." In other news:

*Wide receivers Tim Hawthorne and Robert Dunn did not practice. Hawthorne is recovering from severe bruises after being in a traffic accident early Sunday morning in a sport utility vehicle that flipped multiple times on the way back to Auburn from Atlanta. Tuberville says the freshman is fortunate to be alive from the accident that included one fatality when the driver fell asleep and ran off the road. Dunn is recovering from a hamstring injury that caused him to miss Saturday's scrimmage.

*With those receivers out, Montez Billings had another productive day on the practice field as the redshirt sophomore looks to be one of the more improved players this spring on offense.

*Merrill Johnson (calf injury) did not practice and Chris Evans, a standout in the scrimmage, ran with the first team at middle linebacker. Johnson is still number one on the depth chart, defensive coordinator Will Muschamp noted on Tuesday.

*Defensive tackle Jermarcus Ricks had his knee scoped on Tuesday and is not expected back for the rest of spring.

*Defensive end Bryant Miller (hamstring), who was injured on the first day of practice, is not expected back on the field until next week at the earliest.

Guard Tyronne Green (71) and center Jason Bosley (68) protect quarterback Brandon Cox in Tuesday's practice.

*Offensive guard Tyronne Green graded the highest of any of the offensive linemen in the scrimmage, says Hugh Nall, who moved Andrew McCain to number one at right tackle, demoting Antwoin Daniels, who ran number one the first week. Daniels missed Tuesday's workout with a class conflict.

*Tuberville notes that he likes what he is seeing from early high school graduate Brent Slusher, who the coach says probably has the best hands of any of the tight ends. Slusher, who has classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays during practice, "is going to be a good player" the head coach says. Tuberville adds that Slusher could play defensive end if needed at that position and there is a chance he could get a look at that spot.

*Ross Gornall, the walk-on field goal kicker who had the best first week of practice, missed Tuesday's practice due to a class conflict. The other two kickers, Kutch and Tyler DiPace, struggled in the two-hour session on Tuesday. DiPace had a field goal blocked by Patrick Lee again, something that happened in the scrimmage on Saturday. Kutch missed his attempts from beyond 40 yards in Tuesday's practice.

Practice Notes


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