Change Of Scenery For True Freshman

A position change highlighted an end to a solid week of practice for the Tigers.

Auburn, Ala.--Stuck behind several receivers on Auburn's depth chart, true freshman Montae Pitts from nearby Loachapoka High made the move to cornerback this week during the off week and has been impressive so far in his time under the tutelage of coach Phillip Lolley.

A standout safety in high school as well as dangerous offensive weapon at quarterback and receiver, Pitts will remain in the mix at receiver and could see time at both positions in the coming weeks if needed. Coach Tommy Tuberville said that they're hoping to use Pitts in a Deion Sanders type role in the future.

Pitts works on recovering a fumble during Wednesday's practice.

He joins a defensive backfield that has gotten better each and every week since playing poorly in the opener against USC in Los Angeles. Giving up an average of 199 yards passing per game but just two touchdowns while picking off 10 passes, Auburn's pass defense has been the classic example of a bend but don't break style in 2002.

"They're playing with a lot more confidence," Tuberville said of the defensive backs. "Carlos Rogers has really become a good technique player. As much man and zone as we play, mixing it up, you really have to be able to shift gears back and forth and he's really learning how to play. This is only his second year he's really played cornerback. He played receiver in prep school and mostly in high school. He's getting a lot more confidence and playing defensive back in college football, you have to really believe that you can get the job done and you have to do it first. I think that was the best game I've seen the safeties play in a long time. Travaris (Robinson) and Junior Rosegreen were making tackles all over the field and knocking down balls. They had a great game."

Deciding against a planned scrimmage with the younger players during Thursday's practice, Tuberville said the team instead focused on continuing to learn the game plan for Arkansas. Working on every phase of the game and technique work, Tuberville called the three days of practice the best off week practices since he's been on the Plains.

"We didn't do it," Tuberville said of the scrimmage. "We had several guys that we just felt like we didn't want them to put in situation where they would get hurt. We're going to do our scrimmage the Louisiana-Monroe week, but it was like a scrimmage. We pushed them pretty hard and they were pretty beat up. I don't think we would have gotten a lot out of them. We did a lot of teamwork and you might as well call it a scrimmage. We did it everyday. We went against each other and I don't think we could have gotten any more out of what we did the last three days. It went real good. It was the best open date we've had."

Because of having Saturday off, the coaching staff used the time to let several players rest and get healthy. Defensive tackle Spencer Johnson, linebackers Mark Brown and Dontarrious Thomas and wide receiver Anthony Mix were all held out of practice but should be ready for Sunday's practice. Kicker Damon Duval was also given a break to heal his groin pull and Tuberville said the doctors have cleared Duval to kick beginning Sunday. The biggest question is quarterback Daniel Cobb, who is still nursing a sprained ankle suffered Saturday night.

"We're in good shape physically considering how many games we've played and how tough we've practiced this week," Tuberville said. "Now we get a little bit of down time and get back to the grind on Sunday."

Because of the lack of time in between games early in the season, the coaching staff has used the off week to go back to the basics for the players and that means blocking, tackling and footwork. With so much of the time during the game weeks spent on game plans and scheming for your opponent, it means very little time for the true freshmen and walk-ons to get into the action.

"The guys that are redshirting are still on scout teams," Tuberville said. "We're looking at some of them, but we've pretty much ground down to two-and-a-half groups on each side. We've worked a little bit of the technique with the guys that are redshirting, but we really didn't have time to do that."

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