Auburn, Ala.--The first day of full pads went well for the Auburn Tigers but one player was noticeably not on the field and in shorts for the Monday morning practice and things could remain that way for quite and while and possibly permanently. Suffering from his third concussion since suffering one in bowl practice in December, linebacker Steve Gandy is being held out of practice and he says it's something that could be permanent.
"I'm not really thinking about it too much," Gandy says. "I'm going to let God deal with it. I'm just kind of debating things right now. I have had some light headaches but it's not really hurting anymore. It's basically just headaches."
The injury occurred during practice on Saturday when Gandy hit fullback Danny Perry on an inside running drill. He says he didn't really feel it until after practice. Because of the frequency of the concussions, Gandy says he's in contact with the doctors and if he has to give up the game it will be tough on him.
"Words can't explain (how difficult it would be to give up football)," he says. "You put some much into it and do it for so long. It just means so much. I have been playing since I was five so it would be hard to go through a season without preparing or doing ball. But, if that's what I have to do for me, that's what I'll do.
"It will be my choice," he adds. "Whatever way I want to go with it, it will be my decision. I'm just praying and talking with my family trying to decide what is the best for Steve."
Without Gandy on the field the linebacker corps becomes even thinner, something the Auburn coaches say can be helped by some of the younger players stepping up and performing well. So far in camp Coach Will Muschamp says he's been impressed by several of the linebackers with a usual name leading the way.
"Tray has had a good camp thus far," Muschamp says of starting middle linebacker Tray Blackmon. "Merrill Johnson has played well thus far. Bo Harris has been a pleasant surprise. He's a guy that has come in and done a good job. Craig Stevens has done a good job. Besides that we've got to have more guys step up that are able to make plays in space."
Bo Harris is one of the players that will get a long look at linebacker.
Getting a look at the full squad in pads for the first time, the Tigers spent a large portion of the day in full team groups working on both the running and passing game. Having a chance to mix in some guys to get a taste of what they can do when called upon, Muschamp says things went well but it's not much different than what they have been doing the first five days of practice.
"Our tempo in full pads is much the same as it is in shells," Muschamp says. "It's thud tempo and we stay up. We try to keep everybody off the ground. We don't want to get anybody injured out here. Our tempo is really not a whole lot different, we've just got kneepads in there. We trick them and tell them it's shells and they think it's shells.
"I have been pleased so far," he adds. "We've been practicing for five days and we've still got 23 more practices before Kansas State. We've got to continue to improve and take steps forward every day."
Antoine Carter was impressive rushing the passer.
One of the areas that Muschamp is taking a long look is at safety where Aairon Savage has kept a steady hold on his spot with the first team ahead of Michael McNeil while senior Eric Brock and redshirt freshman Zac Etheridge continue to battle for the number one spot on the other side. Muschamp says that's a competition that looks like it will continue for a while.
"We've got four guys back there that are going to play for us that I know right now," Muschamp says. "We've got to continue those guys to press forward. Michael has gone through five practices and he's a mature kid. He works hard at football both on and off the field. He comes in the meeting rooms prepared. He understands that he's got to understand off the field before he can understand on the field. He's been what we felt like he was going to be but he's a freshman and let's let him be a freshman."
Elsewhere in the secondary, Jerraud Powers worked with the first team ahead of Patrick Lee on Monday while Jonathan Wilhite was the first team guy on the right side. Up front on the defense Zach Clayton was again a terror in pass rush drills and looks like he's stepped it up a notch. Out of the freshman, Antoine Carter had a strong day and soundly defeated Andrew McCain in one-on-one drills.
That signaled the return of Mike Berry to offensive tackle for a portion of the Monday practice. Unhappy with the play of both McCain and Oscar Gonzalez, offensive line Coach Hugh Nall moved Berry to right tackle where he worked in addition to seeing time at both guard and center. He was forced into action at center after freshman Ryan Pugh sprained an ankle. It didn't appear to be serious but he sat out the remainder of practice.
Tim Hawthorne hauls in a spectacular grab.
In team drills the offense had several nice plays with the quarterbacks having one of their better days. Brandon Cox hit tight end Tommy Trott down the middle of the field for a big gainer. Blake Field's deep ball to Tim Hawthorne led to a fantastic one-hand catch on the sidelines. Neil Caudle and Mario Fannin connected on a wheel route just over the outstretched arms of Stevens down the sidelines while Steven Ensminger finished the good day off with a perfect corner route to Hawthorne during the red zone drill for a touchdown. It finished off a strong day by Hawthorne.
The Tigers will take the afternoon off before the first real day of two-a-days begins on Tuesday. They are scheduled to practice at 8:30 a.m. and again at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday on the intramural fields.