Tuberville: Tigers Showing Improvement

Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville and starting quarterback Brandon Cox talk about the Auburn's March 10th scrimmage.

Auburn, Ala.--"Improvement" was the word of the day after Auburn's second scrimmage of the spring. The Tigers went 140 plays at Jordan-Hare Stadium on Saturday and head coach Tommy Tuberville said that both the offense and defense are getting better.

"There was a little improvement but we need to keep working on it," Tuberville noted. "Overall it was a good day. We've got some work to do next week."

Like last Saturday's scrimmage, the first and second team defenses were stout led by Josh Thompson, Patrick Lee, Mike Blanc and again Patrick Trahan and Chris Evans.

Evans, who got the start at middle linebacker, led the Tigers with 11 tackles.

"Defensively we're so much farther ahead than the offense it's not even funny," Tuberville said. "Our defensive guys look a lot more physically and mentally tougher. That's the reason we're playing so well defensively."

Brandon Cox had a better day than his statistics would suggest. He completed 10-22 for 107 yards, but several of the incompletions were drops or throwaways and he didn't have any glaringly bad throws or mistakes.

"I think we improved," Cox said. "We're probably in the B- minus range, but there are still a lot of young guys that are still improving. A-Day isn't going to be much, but this last week of practice we need to have a good week and continue to get better."

The senior quarterback, who is not supposed to have any contact, had the hit of the day on defensive end Quentin Groves. Montez Billings ran a reverse off left end and didn't find much real estate so he cut back to greener pastures. That meant pursuit of the defense back toward the middle of the field where Cox was standing.

Groves was giving chase and heading in Cox's direction so the QB ducked, undercut Groves and flipped him onto the turf. To make it more embarrassing for the defensive end, Cox laid on top of him well after the whistle.

"I was just going over there to get involved in the play and I see him so I was just getting in his way," Cox explained. "He wasn't slowing down so I ducked to protect myself.

"He was laughing on the ground," Cox added. "After the play I told him I was protecting myself and he was going to run over me. He said he wasn't going to. I've got a little bragging rights I guess."

It was a ho-hum day for the kickers on Saturday as Zach Kutch and Tyler DiPace combined to make one of eight field goals. However, Ross Gornall, a redshirt freshman from Jupiter, Fla., made good on all of his attempts--45 yards, 37, 31 and 44.

"Our kicking game is improving," Tuberville said. "Ross Gornall is obviously leading in field goals. He had a great day today and he's looking pretty good."

Backup quarterbacks Steven Ensminger and Neil Caudle struggled early against the scholarship defenders, but both played better as the scrimmage went on and as the younger guys got more playing time. Caudle threw a 64-yard touchdown on a fade to Luster Lewis, a redshirt freshman, and a 22-yarder on a post-corner to John Cubelic, the younger brother of former center Cole Cubelic.

"Both of the backup quarterbacks were better today than the scrimmage last week," Tuberville noted. "It's kind of tough when your offensive linemen turn guys loose and you lose your concentration, but we're pleased with their progress the last seven days."

Tristan Davis ran tough and looked better out of his cuts than he did in the first scrimmage, and he held onto the ball. He was the leading rusher with 19 carries for 75 yards.

"I think that was a pretty good move," Tuberville joked. "I've been telling ya'll all along that he needed to be back there at running backing. He is getting a lot better for us."

Brad Lester continued to look as sharp as ever between the tackles and cutting inside on toss plays. He had 18 carries for 66 yards, but had the only fumble of the day for the offense. Ben Tate had a good day, but had a few plays where he lost a lot of yardage because of missed blocks in the offensive line. The sophomore finished with 49 yards on 17 carries. Tate had a tough eight-yard run near the end of the scrimmage for a score.

Carl Stewart carried seven times for 48 yards and a touchdown.

Rod Smith continued his impressive spring with another solid scrimmage. The best grab was on the first drive as he showed his leaping ability by going high into the air to snag what appeared to be an overthrown pass by Cox for 22 yards.

Smith is shown on the way down from his impressive catch. He had four receptions for 57 yards.

Tight ends Tommy Trott and Gabe McKenzie shined as blockers and receivers. Trott had three catches for 49 yards, including a 42-yarder on a bootleg over the middle from Caudle. McKenzie caught three passes for 28 yards.

The Tigers appear to have gotten out of the scrimmage without suffering any major injuries. Jonathan Wilhite, Mario Fannin, Robert Dunn, Merrill Johnson, Zach Clayton and Blake Field sat out.

A-Day is set for Saturday, March 17 but next week's practice schedule may change because of several banged up players.

"It looks like we're going to maybe take one day off next week and go one day after the spring game and practice," Tuberville explained. "If we don't get some guys back we're going to have to do that because we don't have enough to get through another physical week like we had last week."

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