Auburn, Ala.--The first day of two-a-days for the Auburn Tigers got off to a solid start on Tuesday morning as the team practiced for two hours in full pads on a very muggy morning on the Plains. Working all phases of the game and spending extra time on the kicking game, Coach Tommy Tuberville says he's pleased with how things are going at the moment.
"It was a good start to two-a-days," Tuberville says. "It's finally here after a week. We've done pretty good the first few days cramp-wise and injury-wise. They'll start to mount up a little bit as we go. It was a good effort out of everybody. We're working the younger guys a lot more than they'll work this time next week, trying to find out where they're at and what they can do. Overall it was a good practice."
The kicking game took on an added edge for the first time in preseason camp on Tuesday morning as just walk-ons Ross Gornall and Graham Sutter kicked instead of working all four as the Tigers have done the first week of practice. With just two kickers things went smoothly as the duo remained perfect the first six kicks until a Gornall miss from 48 yards.
Tuberville then put the pressure on as he challenged the kickers from 52 yards out with windsprints on the line. The results weren't good as they went 0-5, forcing the team to run five 40-yard sprints at the close of practice. Tuberville says the first test of the kickers didn't produce the results he had hoped for.
"It wasn't a very good start," Tuberville says. "We'll kick the other two this afternoon. I probably put a little bit too much on them being 52 yards but I wanted to make sure we got a little running in. I was hoping we would make one or two of them but the kids were scared to death. That's part of being a kicker. You've got to step up. They had done well to that point but that's what it's going to be like in a game. Not quite as much pressure in a game as it is when you're out here kicking and you have to run."
The ending of Tuesday's practice couldn't dampen the spirits on both sides of the ball though as the Tigers had a good day with both sides making plays. Offensively quarterback Brandon Cox continues to show why he's head and shoulders above the competition at the position by running the team effectively both in the run game and throwing the football. Coach Al Borges says that the remaining four quarterbacks are playing better and the race for the backup job is still wide open.
Brandon Cox looks for a receiver while Pat Sims puts on the pressure.
Perhaps the hit of the day came from running back Mario Fannin as he lowered the boom of linebacker Tray Blackmon during an inside running drill, knocking him to the ground. Blackmon got his revenge later in the practice with a big hit on Fannin in return.
Borges also praised the wide receivers and they'll soon be getting some additional help as true freshman Chris Slaughter had his first practice with the Tigers on Tuesday morning. While it's clear he's got a long way to go physically, weighing in at just over 160 pounds, Tuberville says Slaughter is going to be fun to watch and see how quickly he adjusts to his new environment.
"It's good to see Chris," Tuberville says. "He's out here running around. He's thin, like we would all like to be. It's good to see him here. He's got a lot to learn. You won't see much of him for a while. He's got a lot of catching up to do. It's good to have him here and getting going."
Slaughter definitely needs some work on the training table before he's ready to contribute for the Tigers.
Defensively the Tigers were again good in both the inside run and team drills on Tuesday morning led by the play of defensive tackle Pat Sims. Having his best camp since arriving at Auburn, Sims has taken on the role of a leader on the defensive front and continues to make plays.
One of the best plays of the day defensively came from senior cornerback Jonathan Wilhite when he made a diving grab for an interception during a full-team session. The pick set off a celebration for the defense that included coordinator Will Muschamp sprinting to Wilhite and joining him in a mid-air chest bump. Aairon Savage also had an interception, making the play while stepping in front of Montez Billings.
Tuberville announced on Tuesday that popular linebacker Steve Gandy has decided to give up football after repeated concussions put his health in jeopardy. Incoming freshman Bo Harris also sat out Tuesday's practice with a mild concussion and is expected back soon. That has put a little dent in the depth chart with true freshman Adam Herring working at the number two weakside spot but Tuberville says a lack of depth isn't a concern to him on this team.
"We're fine," Tuberville says. "We've got more than we've ever had. Three or four years ago you could have asked me that and I would have said yes. We'll be fine. You never have enough of anybody. We're doing fine."
The Tigers will return to the practice field 30 minutes earlier than scheduled on Tuesday night with a 7 p.m. start on the intramural fields. The team will practice in shorts and shoulder pads in workout number two of the day.
Kevin Greene talks with Auburn defensive coordinator Will Muschamp.
Tiger Ticket Extra: Former Tiger and NFL standout Kevin Greene was in attendance for Tuesday's practice and spent a great deal of time watching the practice session and individual drills. A frequent guest for practices since Tommy Tuberville arrived on the Plains, Greene talked with defensive coaches Muschamp and James Willis during down times and seemed to be loving the chance to be in the middle of the action once again.