Auburn, Ala.--Fall practice officially got underway Thursday morning in Auburn as a mixture of freshmen and several veteran players worked out for two hours in shorts and helmets on the intramural fields. Coach Tommy Tuberville says it's always fun and exciting on the first day and he was pleased with the effort out of the guys on a very warm morning.
"It was a good first day with the young guys," Tuberville says. "We basically divided practice up with 45 players, some redshirt freshmen and some upperclassmen in some positions just so we could fill an offense and a defense in the morning. This afternoon they will lift weights and the other group will come out for two hours. We'll do that for three or four days. Then after that we'll combine everybody.
"This is just to get a lot of reps with the young guys and find out what they're doing and how they can do it and not go too fast with them so they don't get confused. It was good. It was a good first practice."
Among the older guys taking part in the first practice were running back Brad Lester, tight end Tommy Trott and linebackers Merrill Johnson, Chris Evans and Steve Gandy. Much of the redshirt freshman class was also on the field as quarterback Steven Ensminger split time with Kodi Burns. Tuberville says it's something they needed in order to split some of the reps and will change every day.
"We just needed a tailback," Tuberville says of Lester's appearance at the first practice. "Brad will probably go with the other group tomorrow. We'll rotate them. We'll rotate the quarterbacks because the morning quarterbacks will get more reps than the afternoon guys. We'll move them. Brandon (Brandon Cox) will be the only guy that doesn't rotate. At receiver they decided they wanted Quindarius Carr to go in the afternoon because of the position. We want to make sure everybody has enough position guys so we don't wear everybody down. There is no rhyme or reason other than looking at some of the younger guys with the older guys helping out."
Josh Bynes and Steve Gandy wait for the defensive call.
It's always tough to distinguish a guy that stands out on the first day of practice but one player was very evident on Thursday and that was Burns. Struggling just a bit early with the speed of the game, he quickly settled in and threw the ball extremely well. It is already obvious that Burns has a stronger arm than any of his fellow quarterbacks had entering Auburn and with his athleticism Tuberville says it makes him a fun guy to watch.
"We've got a lot of athletes, a lot of guys that can run around," Tuberville says. "Kodi Burns, obviously you can always tell about a quarterback. He's what he thought. He can throw it and he can pull it down and run it. He's exactly what we were looking for. He's got a lot to learn but he looked good for the first day."
While Burns took a great deal of reps being one of only two quarterbacks on the field, his fellow incoming freshmen also got a taste of Auburn football and they were put through the paces in a very smooth first practice. Both Ryan Pugh and Lee Ziemba worked with the first offensive line unit during the practice along with Byron Isom, Bart Eddins, Lee Tilley and Jared Cooper. Tight end Bailey Woods joined Trott as the only tight ends of the day. Fullback John Douglas showed good hands and wasn't scared to be physical on his first day of practice.
Big Lee Ziemba works on his run blocking.
Defensively Antoine Carter worked with the first and second units, splitting time with Bryant Miller. A.J. Greene also worked with both the first and second alongside Darrell Rosemen. In the middle things were handled by Jermarcus Ricks and Zach Clayton for the most part. At linebacker Josh Bynes got a lot of reps working in the middle and is expected to get reps on the weak side as well. In the secondary Michael McNeil and Ryan Williams both worked with the first team while Michael Slade saw action with the second unit. Tuberville says they all did well but it wasn't anything he hasn't seen before.
"They've been here but they haven't had to be out here and put a helmet on and be in front of all the coaches," Tuberville says. "It was the first audition in front of their new coaches. They all want to make a great impression. Sometimes they put more pressure on themselves than they should. I just told them to relax. It's a long two-a-days and it's going to be a long four or five years for them and it will all come together. It might not come together the first day but it will be a time consuming process."
The Tigers will get back to work Thursday afternoon with the rest of the team going through another two-hour practice. Tuberville says they'll get a first chance to work on the kicking game, something he says is his first priority in fall camp.