Physical Spring Leaves Tigers Hurting

Auburn has had a very physical first half of spring football practice by design and it is beginning to take a toll on the Tigers.

Auburn, Ala.--Day seven of spring practice is in the books and the Auburn Tigers are beginning to become the walking wounded as several players missed practice with minor injuries on Wednesday. Coach Tommy Tuberville says the team has been going hard this spring and that sometimes takes its toll on a team.

"We're starting to get some guys beat up," Tuberville says. "It has been small things like hamstrings, pulled muscles, shoulders, we've done a lot of contact. The coaches are coaching hard and the players are still pushing through it. We're going to cut back a little bit tomorrow on the contact and then we'll go shorts on Friday to try to get everybody as healthy as we can to try to have a good scrimmage on Saturday."

The injuries have had the most impact on the defensive line this spring as Jermarcus Ricks and Sen'Derrick Marks both missed Wednesday's practice and could be out the remainder of spring practice. That is a certainty for Ricks after having surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his knee that will keep him out of action for a month. After spraining an ankle on Tuesday, Tuberville says Marks could also miss the rest of the spring if he can't come back early next week.

Also on the sidelines for Wednesday were receiver Robert Dunn, running back Mario Fannin and defensive end Bryant Miller with strained hamstrings with cornerback Walter McFadden joining them late in the practice session. They could return late this week or next week and are expected back in some capacity. With Dunn out of the mix it has given freshman Terrell Zachery a chance to make some noise this spring and Tuberville says Zachery along with one of the veterans of the group has really caught his eye.

"The receivers are getting better," Tuberville says. "I'm really impressed by Terrell Zachery and Rod Smith and how they've stood out in the last few days catching the ball. Rod has really made a lot of progress. We just really need to step up in the passing game on Saturday and have a few more big plays. We can have the small plays but the big play is what we missed last year."

Quarterback Brandon Cox continues to be impressive in the spring as he looks to get back to his 2005 form that made him one of the SEC's best signal callers. Wednesday Cox made several nice throws in team drills and also had the days longest run when he took a quarterback draw up the middle against a blitz and ran open in the secondary. Tuberville says it's good to see Cox playing so well after his struggles last season.

"Brandon looked the best he's looked since he's been here," Tuberville says. "It's the first time I have seen him scramble around and make plays like he's making plays. You can tell he's worked hard on his agility."

Quarterback Brandon Cox runs for a big play with Eric Brock chasing.

Out of the backups it was Steven Ensminger that appeared to have the best day throwing the football. In 11-on-11 action he made several nice throws with the second offense with the biggest coming to Tommy Trott over the middle.

Defensively the front four had its way with the offensive line in pass rush drills as Pat Sims, Josh Thompson and Tez Doolittle all had good days rushing the quarterback. Tuberville says he likes the way the defense is getting to the football but one group in particular caught his eye on Wednesday.

"I watched the linebackers today and Patrick Trahan and Craig Stevens, I watched those two guys and they are really starting to come around," Tuberville says. "Especially Patrick, he's playing with a lot more power and more confidence. I thought he had one of his better practices. He's always into it but he's starting to mature as a player. It's going to be fun to watch him the next couple of years."

Patrick Trahan tries to get to the quarterback past offensive tackle Antwoin Daniels.

Auburn spent an extended amount of time at the start of Wednesday's practice working with the special teams and the work paid off with a much better day out of both the punting and kicking teams. Freshman Ryan Shoemaker is beginning to become more consistent with his punts while the trio of Ross Gornall, Zach Kutch and Tyler DiPace only missed three field goals out of 12 from distances ranging from 20-48 yards. Gornall was a perfect 4-4 and was kicking first from every distance. Tuberville says he was pleased with the improvement he saw on Wednesday.

"I thought our punters were getting a lot more height on the ball," Tuberville says. "We've just got to keep it consistent. Our field goal guys only missed one or two tonight. It was pretty good. We'll continue to work on our kickoff return. I think the extra attention we're paying to it is going to pay off. We're working a lot more kicking game than we ever have in spring practice."

The Tigers return to the practice field Thursday morning at 9 a.m. for day eight of spring football. A Friday afternoon practice in shorts precedes the second spring scrimmage, scheduled for 10 a.m. in Jordan-Hare Stadium Saturday morning.

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