New Faces Featured As Spring Football Starts

The Tigers were greeted with sunny, spring-like weather as they being spring football practice.

Auburn, Ala.--With several new faces on the field, including new defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads, it was a busy opening day of spring football practice for the Auburn Tigers on Sunday.

"It felt good being back out there on the field with my family," said linebacker Tray Blackmon, who notes that he doesn't expect a whole lot of changes on the defensive side of the football despite a change at the top with Rhoads replacing Will Muschamp as the coordinator.

Defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads says the linebackers caught his eye with some good work in the opening practice.

On the other side of the football, the look is radically different from last spring when Al Borges was installing his version of the West Coast Offense.

Tony Franklin, who took over for Borges prior to AU's bowl victory over Clemson, had already given the Tigers nine practices worth of workouts in bowl drills under the new system.

Redshirt sophomore Neil Caudle, one of four players in the competition to replace Brandon Cox as the starting quarterback, notes there is a real difference in the two coordinators. "I would say the biggest difference is speed," Caudle says. "With Coach Borges we had a real methodical offense. We were real precise with a lot of technical details. Out here we are real fast. Tempo is the biggest thing Coach Franklin teaches and I think that is the biggest difference."

Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville, who split his time between watching practice and talking to prospects who were invited to campus on Sunday for Junior Day, gave the opening day of spring drills a good review.

"It was a good first day," says Tuberville, whose team drilled in helmets and shorts with no pads. "There was good intensity. With this offense, you have no choice but to do that. It was great weather. I thought our guys came out in the right frame of my mind. You have to do two days in shorts so we will do this very same thing on Tuesday morning at 7 o'clock."

With Cox graduating, a major order of business this spring is to find his replacement and Caudle was joined by Kodi Burns and newcomers DeRon Furr and Chris Todd at the workout that lasted close to three hours. Each of the quarterback probably threw around 200 passes apiece.

"I watched the quarterbacks today and they were pretty impressive how they are picking all of this stuff up," Tuberville says.

"Defensively, there is not a lot you can do without pads on," the coach adds. "We have got good leaders this year. I think this group will be the best leadership we have had in the last few years and we have had good leadership to this point so that will make us even better.

"We have a chance to have a good football team," the coach adds. "I think this group has gelled to do something special, but we will have to wait and see how we go through spring. You never want to make any predictions until you see really what this group is about. I like the attitude and that is where you start."

Tuberville says the fast-paced Tony Franklin spread formation is something that has changed how the Tigers practice. "This offense still amazes me how many reps you get in practice," he says. "It really keeps everybody--coaches, players, managers, everybody--on their toes. When you go against your defense, it really keeps everybody concentrating. I think sometimes you that in practice because you get a little bit lackadaisical, but with this tempo nobody can drop their guard. You have got to be ready to go, concentrating."

Tailback Tristan Davis looked quick at Sunday's practice. He is recovering from foot surgery that caused him to miss most of his junior season.

Practice Notes: Walk-on offensive lineman Rudy Odom left practice early after injuring his knee in a drill...The Tigers will have their first full pads practice on Thursday. They will practice on Friday and will scrimmage at the stadium on Saturday morning at 9:30 a.m. with a session that is expected to last at least 170 plays. Each of the QBs is expected to get 30 to 40 plays at in the scrimmage at the stadium. "Saturday will be judgement day for the quarterbacks," Tuberville says...Tuberville was honored on Friday and Saturday in Little Rock where he was inducted into the Arkansas Hall of Fame at several ceremonies. In attendance were friends and family along with his college coach at Southern Arkansas, Rip Powell...Commenting on the prospects visiting on Sunday, Tuberville says, "Junior Day went real good. We invited 52 juniors and all 52 of them showed up with a lot of parents." The coach says he hopes the Tigers will get some early commitments. The Tigers got their first one on Sunday from Terrance Coleman, a talented defensive lineman from Williamson High in Mobile.

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