Freshmen Impress in Sluggish Practice

Lee Ziemba and Wes Byrum shined in Wednesday's afternoon practice, but head coach Tommy Tuberville wasn't pleased with the lack of focus from the team.

Auburn, Ala.--One of the more highly-touted recruits of the 2007 signing class, 6-8, 300-pound Lee Ziemba, made the move to first team at right tackle during Wednesday's practice. Andrew McCain and Oscar Gonzalez haven't taken advantage of their chances to at the spot, so Ziemba got action as the Tigers spent a good portion of the session working 11-on-11 team drills.

"We moved him up to first team and he practiced good," said head coach Tommy Tuberville. "He doesn't know a lot about what he's doing but he's getting better and working at it. Coach (Hugh Nall) likes his attitude. That'll be a battle there and we've got two other guys trying to get there. The first several days we've liked what we've seen. The best guys are going to play whether they're a freshman or a senior."

In one-on-one pass-rushing drills, Ziemba went head to head with end Quentin Groves and stood his ground on a couple of the battles, but as expected, Groves was able to get around the big tackle on a couple of others. Meanwhile, Gonzalez had one of his worse days and had trouble getting a hand on freshman Antoine Carter.

Ziemba has some work to do to be an starter in the SEC, but he is showing that he has the potential to get it done.

Another true freshman shined at Wednesday's practice as Wes Byrum showed off his leg in special teams work. His kickoffs went five deep in the end zone, to the goal line and seven deep in the end zone.

However, as the heat sweltered to triple digits at the beginning of the practice and as the injuries mounted, Tuberville said that the two-hour session wasn't a good one.

"It was not a very good practice today," he explained. "We didn't get a lot out of it. I think the heat got us early and talked us out of it. It cooled off, but it got so bad that we kind of just went down hill. We've got to get a lot better than we were today. We took a step backwards. Tomorrow, as I just promised them, we'll take a step forward.

"We've got some work to do and we've got some guys going down with small injuries," the head coach continued, "but we've got to go with what we've got out there. We had kind of a game situation with the team and it didn't go real good. There wasn't a lot of focus and we've got to get better than that."

Even though Byrum showed the ability to put the ball deep, the Tigers still took a blow to the special teams as Ryan Shoemaker missed practice on Wednesday. "Ryan Shoemaker pulled a groin and he'll be out a week," Tuberville noted. "That'll really cost him. Wes Byrum and Patrick Tatum will be punting. We'll see how those guys work."

The defensive line got a player back from injury, but lost two and Jermarcus Ricks will still out of action. "Zach Clayton twisted his neck (Tuesday) night and he'll probably go (Thursday) morning," Tuberville said. "(Mike) Blanc turned his ankle and bruised his hand (Tuesday) night in a one-on-one drill. Ricks is probably out for a couple of days and hopefully we'll get him back for Saturday. Antonio Coleman was back today and it was good to see him back."

Tuberville added that fullback Carl Stewart will probably be out another week with his hamstring injury. He was at the practice field working out on an exercise bike while his teammates practiced on Wednesday.

A bright spot in the secondary continues to be the play of sophomore cornerback Jerraud Powers. He had a good day in coverage, as did Jonathan Wilhite. Backup guards Byron Isom, who is putting together a solid and consistent camp, and Chaz Ramsey played well. Isom got work with the first unit on Wednesday.

Ramsey buried Kyle Coulahan into the turf twice in a row, but Coulahan, in his second day on defense, came back and finished strong in team work. Defensive tackle Pat Sims continues to be a terror in one-on-ones.

Not pleased with the effort from his players, Nall made the offensive linemen stay after practice and push around the sled, which is something not unusual for this time of year for either line.

Offensive line coach Hugh Nall kept his players after practice for a lengthy blocking sled session.

Tuberville and staff are still trying to set a time and date for a scrimmage that will be closed. It'll happen either Friday, Saturday or Sunday.

"We're just looking at the weather and seeing how much progress we've made and how many we get back," he explained. "We can't go Saturday afternoon because of fan day. We'd have to go in the morning and I'd rather go at night. The next couple of days will tell the tale."

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