Auburn, Ala.--For much of spring practice, Auburn's offense had been basically shut down by coordinator Will Muschamp's defense as Al Borges' offense looked to gel with four new offensive linemen and several skill players moving into starting roles. It took a while, but Saturday's A-Day game showed glimpses of improvement on offense and that continued in a big way on Wednesday in Auburn's final practice of the spring.
Taking part in a half-scrimmage that opened up both sides of the ball to do whatever they wanted at the request of head coach Tommy Tuberville, it was the Auburn offense that dominated the play from the first snap until the final whistle. On 21 offensive possessions, the Tigers scored 11 touchdowns, added two field goals, were stopped five times, had one fumble and two interceptions. Totaling up close to 700 yards on just 68 snaps, Borges' offense was as close to offensive perfection as you'll see in a spring practice but the third-year coordinator says he's not going to put a lot of stock in one day.
"Today we did a pretty good job," Borges says. "It's just one more step. We haven't arrived but it's a good way to finish. Our first unit was pretty solid today but our two's still have a ways to go. We had some passing issues. It's a good way to finish the spring but I don't want to over state it, that's for sure."
With the defense somewhat shorthanded without Sen-Derrick Marks and Antonio Coleman up front and linebackers Merrill Johnson and Steve Gandy also out, Brandon Cox and the Auburn offense had a field day from the first play when the senior hit Rodgeriqus Smith on a long touchdown over the middle when the junior broke a tackle and scampered 75 yards for the score. Cox finished with 302 yards passing and three touchdowns on 14-19 attempts.
It was just the first of several big plays for the offense as redshirt freshman Mario Fannin had touchdown runs of 58, 60 and 11 yards and finished with 206 yards on 13 carries. Fellow running back Tristan Davis added scores 40 , 15 and four yards as well and had 100 yards on 15 carries. Borges says that Fannin's day was something they knew he had in him but were unable to show until Wednesday.
"Fannin was pretty impressive," Borges says. "He's the kind of kid that has that kind of skill. We had not really sprung him much in some of the other scrimmages but today he ran pretty hard."
Robert Dunn had a big day at receiver for the Tigers.
At the receiver spot it was Smith that again set the tone for the group with the early big play and finished with three catches for 118 yards but junior Robert Dunn was the surprise player of the day for coach Greg Knox with four catches for 103 yards. Making several nice grabs, Dunn finished off a solid spring with his best day to head into the summer on a high note.
"Rod Smith was good today," Borges says. "I hope he's all right (after leaving with an ankle injury). "Robert Dunn has been very consistent. He's had a very good spring."
The consistency problems continued for redshirt freshmen quarterbacks Neil Caudle and Steven Ensminger as they try to push junior Blake Field for the backup job. Caudle was just 3-8 for 58 yards and one interception while Ensminger was 3-7 for 20 yards and one pick. Borges says neither took over like he wanted but there is still time for that.
"Nothing has changed," Borges says. "You can look at the numbers and figure that one out. I would have liked to have seen one guy that would have taken charge of the deal but it is as it is. Thank goodness, like I have been saying, we don't have to make that decision now. There is a lot of time to make that decision. No one has stepped to the forefront.
"A couple of weeks ago, Neil Caudle had a real nice scrimmage. Then in A-Day, I thought Steven Ensminger had a pretty nice scrimmage. No one is consistent enough to say ‘hey, he should be the number one quarterback ahead of Blake Field'. In fairness to Blake Field, he will stay there until somebody does."
Finishing strong is always a plus in anything you do but that is especially true in spring football with the long days of summer ahead. Borges says that because of the time off between now and fall practice, Wednesday's scrimmage was just what the doctor ordered.
"It was a good way to finish," Borges says. "Our last two scrimmages have shown that we can execute a little bit. We're still a long way from a well-oiled machine, we still have a few kinks to work out, but it's nice to finish that way."