Auburn, Ala.--The Auburn Tigers continued two-a-day practices on a steamy Thursday morning with a two-hour practice in full pads that Coach Tommy Tuberville says was better than the disappointing workout on Wednesday but still not anywhere close to what he's looking for. Tuberville says in particular that he's looking for more out of the quarterbacks as the Tigers continue towards the season opener against Kansas State.
"I have been disappointed with our quarterbacks," Tuberville says. "I'm going to have a little talk with them. We've got to have some leadership out of them. We're out here just going through the motions and they need to be the leaders. You'll see a change in attitudes with the quarterbacks today.
"I'm going to cut it down to three pretty quick," he adds. "We're practicing too many guys. I'm going to take the best three and we're going to go with them. We've got to have a sense of urgency there. The quarterback, everybody kind of runs off their tempo. That's going to change."
Tuberville says both he and Al Borges will now begin to sit down and work out a pecking order for the quarterbacks as soon as possible. Until that happens they will continue to practice all five and starter Brandon Cox says the entire group has to pick up its play and leadership in the coming days.
"The backup quarterback, there are four of them that are fighting right now for the job, and yesterday we had a really bad practice throwing the ball," Cox says. "That was on us. We ran the ball real well. We just didn't practice as well as we should have. We need to step it up and hopefully we can tonight."
One of the players that continues to turn heads is true freshman quarterback Kodi Burns. Showing the ability to pick up the offense quicker than expected, Burns is making a strong push to be in that top group of three that Tuberville says will be named soon. He's not the only freshman making good though as several more continue to move up the depth chart.
In Thursday morning's practice Lee Ziemba continued to work as the first team right tackle and showed exactly why during a goal line drill late in practice. Working against Josh Thompson, Ziemba made a good block and the two tied up until the whistle blew. Things spilled over after that with Ziemba going after the senior until the two were separated. Tuberville says that showed him something about Ziemba and he's seen the same fight and determination out of several in this freshman class.
"They are doing good," Tuberville says. "They have pushed through it. It's a NCAA rule, finally they have come to their senses, they let us bring them in during the summer. They are struggling mentally but I'm really pleased with the mental attitude they've got and how they compete. Today you see Ziemba and Josh Thompson tie up out here. Lee is going to be a good football player. You don't like to see fighting but you like to see guys taking up for themselves. There wasn't much to that but it's part of football especially during two-a-days. Even Josh said ‘you might have you somebody over there coach'.
"Adam Herring is doing good," he adds. "He's mentally into it. You've got several other young guys that are really trying. Ryan Pugh is probably hurt more than some of the guys that are sitting out but he's going. That goes to show you his mentality and how much he wants to play and how important it is. It has been good to watch these young guys. Some will make it this year and have a chance to play. Some have pretty much eliminated themselves because they have pretty much sat back knowing they've got another year to do this."
Running back Benjamin Tate finds some running room against the second defense.
The Tigers continue to be banged up as wide receiver Robert Dunn missed the morning practice with a hyper-extended knee and Tuberville says he should return in a couple of days. Fellow receiver Montez Billings suffered a hamstring injury that Tuberville says will keep him out of couple of days. He says he's hoping to get Mike Blanc (ankle) back on Friday with fellow defensive tackle Zach Clayton (neck) expected back soon as well. Bryant Miller injured an ankle during the practice but Tuberville says he'll be back on the field for the night practice. Offensive tackle Andrew McCain missed the morning practice with dizziness Tuberville says. Linebacker Bo Harris dinged up his shoulder during the inside running drill but got it wrapped and returned to practice.
"It was a good long practice," Tuberville says. "It was a little better than yesterday. Mental toughness is a big factor in two-a-days and we're still looking for a lot out of some guys. We're letting nitpicky things keep us out of practice. We're not going to practice them if they're hurt physically but you've got to work through pain. That's one thing we're stressing with these younger guys. We've got some guys pushing through it and some are letting their buddies take their reps for them. That's football. You find out a lot about young men when they come out here and they grow up."
Auburn continues to put a great deal of emphasis on the kicking game with punters Wes Byrum and Patrick Tatum getting all the reps and doing a solid job with redshirt freshman Ryan Shoemaker sidelined at least another week with a hamstring strain. On a day when they wanted both to focus on technique and consistency, the duo averaged 42 yards per punt and showed good hang time.
Byrum works on his punting.
Byrum also did good work on field goals as he and Zach Kutch were both a perfect 5-5 on the day, included both hitting a 42-yard field goal to keep the team from running sprints after practice.
With so many players banged up Tuberville says the details of the first scrimmage are still undecided at the moment. He says it could be on Friday if enough players return to practice Thursday night for the 7 p.m. workout or Saturday or Sunday.