Auburn, Ala.--Two-thirds of the way through spring football practice, the Auburn Tigers went back to work Tuesday morning with a two-hour practice in full pads. After what Coach Tommy Tuberville calls a successful scrimmage on Saturday, the theme was improvement for Tuesday and Tuberville says he thinks that's exactly what they got out of the players.
"I think the coaches stepped it up today to make sure they understood they've got to get better," Tuberville says. "We're running out of time this spring…it was a good day of practice. It was probably the best day of practice that we've had. I think the sense of urgency crept in with the coaches and the players knowing we were running out of time."
That was evident long before Tuesday's practice began as Coach Greg Knox had his wide receivers on the field a full 30 minutes before the day was scheduled to begin. The entire defense also got an early start on their mental work with Coach Will Muschamp. A fired up coaching staff did plenty of yelling in Tuesday's practice and it resulted in more fire on both sides of the ball. The practice featured several skirmishes including matchups between Josh Hebert and Montez Billings and also Tommy Trott and Patrick Trahan.
An animated Terry Price gets on one of the defensive players during a tackling drill early in the practice.
On the injury front the Tigers are pretty beat up with several players on both sides of the ball out of Tuesday's practice. Defensively, Sen'Derrick Marks (ankle), Jerraud Powers (shoulder), Jonathan Wilhite (shoulder) and Steve Gandy (burner) all wore white jerseys for the practice and were held out of contact. The offense was a little better as Brad Lester missed the day because of a concussion suffered in Saturday's scrimmage and offensive tackle Oscar Gonzalez sat out with a MCL sprain. The offense did get both Mario Fannin and Robert Dunn back from injury as well as backup quarterback Blake Field.
"We're on our last leg of spring practice," Tuberville says. "It has been good so far. This was number 11. We got a lot of work done today. We had more guys back that hadn't been practicing, Fannin, Dunn and Bryant Miller."
With Field back at work, redshirt freshmen quarterbacks Neil Caudle and Steven Ensminger got less reps than they did last week when Field was bothered by tendonitis in his throwing shoulder. Tuberville says the extra work really paid off handsomely for both in last Saturday's scrimmage.
"They got a lot more reps because of Blake being down," Tuberville says. "That really helped them. Mentally, quarterbacks in this offense, it takes a toll on them. It's hard to put your technique together along with mentally being the quarterback in this offense. It has to come natural. You could tell it's a little better for both of them. Both of them made plays and both are more confident. They did a better job of running the offense."
One of the most exciting players early in spring practice, Fannin was back and working full speed after straining a hamstring. Fielding punts along with Powers in special teams work, Fannin jumped right back into the action with the offense and took a large number of reps on a hot day. He says it was nice to get back on the field but it was a lot tougher after sitting out for over a week.
"I'm just a little sore," Fannin says. "It pulled a little bit but it was nothing I can't handle. Of course we were going to get more work because we rotate reps to make up for him (Lester). When he's here we still get about the same amount of reps though, so it was like a normal practice day. I was a little tired but other than that I felt fine."
Fannin meets up with Courtney Harden in the hole during 11-on-11 work Tuesday.
One of the concerns coming into spring practice was with the kicking game with seniors Kody Bliss, John Vaughn and Matt Clark all gone off last year's team. While things are still up for grabs with the kicking job, Tuberville says the punting job isn't in question because of the work of a redshirt freshman this spring.
"Ryan Shoemaker is really punting well," Tuberville says. "I am really pleased with his progress in 11 days. He has to be our guy and he will be. He's getting confidence. That's what is good about watching him. Learning behind Kody last year really helped him."
The Tigers will practice Wednesday before taking Thursday off to get some guys healthy for Saturday's A-Day game. Friday the team will have a short walk-through practice to get ready for Saturday. Kickoff for Saturday is scheduled for 1 p.m. Auburn will finish up spring practice with a final workout next week.
Tiger Ticket Extra:
The A-Day game is just one of many events taking place in Auburn this coming weekend. While the baseball team is away at Georgia, there will be plenty of other things to do while in town. Friday night the gymnastics team is in action with tickets $5 for adults and $2 for youth. Tickets for Saturday's A-Day Game are $5 and can be picked up at the ticket office, bookstores in town, as well as Jordan-Hare Stadium. Also on Saturday the softball team will play a doubleheader beginning at 4 p.m. and it's free. The same is true of Saturday morning's Equestrian event. On Sunday the softball team is again in action at 1 p.m. free to the public. At 2 p.m. the Auburn women's basketball team will host a second-round WNIT game at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum. The cost for that game is $10 for reserved seats and $5 for general admission.