Auburn, Ala.--It's normal for the offense to be ahead of the defense in the first full scrimmage of the preseason and Saturday morning it was no different for the Auburn Tigers as the defense controlled the action for the most part with a few big plays mixed in from Coach Al Borges' unit. Starting quarterback Brandon Cox says while there were some good things on the day there is still plenty to work on.
"Offensively it wasn't very good," Cox says. "It was a scrimmage where we went out there and really ran a lot of base stuff and just tried to be physical against the defense. We really weren't trying to outsmart them, just line up and run it. Offensively we got beat pretty good today but we were giving good effort. It was just one of those scrimmages that didn't go our way."
While Cox has no competition for the starting job, the race is on for the two and three positions, something Coach Tommy Tuberville says he hopes to have decided before school starts on Thursday. Taking part in only about 20 plays on the day, Cox says all of the remaining quarterbacks had their moments in the scrimmage until Neil Caudle went down with Tuberville says is a sprained shoulder but it was tough to give anyone the nod after the scrimmage.
"Neil was having a real good day until he got hurt," Cox says. "Blake (Blake Field) went out and had a good day. Ensminger (Steven Ensminger) and Kodi (Kodi Burns) both threw an interception but other than that they threw the ball well and managed the game a lot better than they had been doing in practice."
All preseason the coaches have harped on finding someone to step up at the wide receiver position and Saturday morning they got a glimpse of that as several players made plays in the 125-play scrimmage. Cox singled out both Prechae Rodriguez and Tim Hawthorne as having good days and says some of the younger players also came up big.
"For the most part they had a good day," Cox says. "Prechae had a drop early but he came back and recovered and had some nice catches. Tim Hawthorne had some nice catches. When the younger guys got in there they threw a lot and those guys did well."
Prechae Rodriguez used Saturday's scrimmage to show he's ready to take the next step as a receiver.
With Montez Billings not participating because of a strained hamstring, the first-team position went to Rodriguez. One of the most talented receivers on the roster, the Tampa, Fla. native had been inconsistent in his first two years at Auburn and that has continued this preseason. He says he's working on that and hopes Saturday morning is an indication that times are changing for him.
"I hope he gets back because we need him," Rodriguez says of Billings. "But I'm trying to take advantage of the opportunity and make the best of it. I'm trying to work on my consistency. My coaches talk to me about that every day, about keeping it up and catching the ball. That's really the big thing for me and if I can get that down it's all over with."
Another young receiver that is making some noise is newcomer Chris Slaughter. Behind his fellow freshmen because of a problem with the NCAA Clearinghouse that saw him just get cleared last week, Slaughter has had a crash course in learning Auburn's offense but Rodgeriqus Smith says he's been impressed by what he's seen out of Slaughter and that was only more evident in Saturday's scrimmage.
"I tell you what, I'm really excited about Slaughter," Smith says. "He's a little behind right now because he came in late and he has to get in the playbook but he has a lot of talent. I see that already. He's a playmaker. I'm really excited about him. He was in the scrimmage a lot. I think he went a few reps with the two's and the three's. He did pretty good today."
One of the veterans of the offense, Smith says because he only got roughly 25 snaps in the scrimmage it gave him a chance to watch the quarterbacks in action. He admits it didn't take him long to see the talents of Burns on display.
"Kodi Burns is very exciting," Smith says. "He can get out of that pocket and make plays. Blake Field did well also. I think the quarterbacks did a pretty good job but I'm excited about Kodi Burns. He broke a few (long runs). That kid can run."
While the skills players were up and down with the running backs also doing some good things, the consensus among the players and Tuberville is that the offensive line struggled in the first scrimmage. Worn down from 10 straight practice days and temperatures in the 100 degree range, the group didn't perform up to par and true freshman Lee Ziemba says it's something they've just got to improve on in the coming weeks.
"The scrimmage was tough," Ziemba says. "I got a little tired out there. We just need to keep working and working to get better and work through being tired. I need to come back next week and be better than I was this week.
"As a whole offensive line I think we withered and we got tired," he adds. "Next week we need to work on being more mentally tough and pushing through the hard times. If we can do that we can be real good."
Taking most of the first-team snaps at right tackle with King Dunlap, Tyronne Green, Jason Bosley, Leon Hart and Mike Berry getting plenty of work as well with the ones, Ziemba says he's coming along and hopes to continue improving as the Tigers get ready for the second scrimmage next weekend.
"I'm learning a lot," Ziemba says. "That's the first thing I've noticed, how much I've learned and how much I've improved in just a week. I just hope I can continue to improve."