Injuries Put Damper On Opening Scrimmage

A variety of players were productive in Auburn's scrimmage at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Comments from coaches and players are featured.

Auburn, Ala.--There were reasons for the defense to be happy in the early part of Auburn's first major football scrimmage of the spring. There were also reasons for the offense to be happy because as the session developed the offense warmed up and took the upper hand.

However, everybody left Jordan-Hare Stadium in a somber mood on Saturday after the scrimmage came to an abrupt and scary finish when star defensive end Antonio Coleman was put on a stretcher and into an ambulance after suffering a neck injury when rushing the quarterback on a passing play.

After the wait for the ambulance and a team prayer for Coleman, head coach Tommy Tuberville decided to end the scrimmage earlier than planned.

"Obviously it ended on a tough note," Tuberville said.

AU officials provided an update on the junior defensive end with good news on Saturday afternoon. His injury is s a cervical sprain and the prognosis is a "complete recovery." He was treated at East Alabama Medical Center and released on Saturday afternoon.

Commenting on the Coleman injury suffered as the defensive end tried to get past offensive tackle Lee Ziemba, Tuberville said, "It's tough. It's tough to see kids lay there. This is a physical sport. A.C. goes full speed the whole time. You hate to see somebody go off the field like that. He's a tough kid. He's one of the leaders of this group."

"He was talking," Tuberville noted. "It's kind of like getting a stinger. Everything froze up there for a while, but everything was coming back to him."

Another key Auburn player, running back and slot receiver Mario Fannin, left the scrimmage early after being flipped in the air and landing on his shoulder. "Mario knocked his shoulder down a little bit, but he should be fine," Tuberville said. "(Tim) Hawthorne broke his arm yesterday and he'll be out the rest of the spring."

Another wide receiver, Chris Slaughter, only caught punts on Saturday after having a good day catching passes on Friday. The sophomore was limping noticeably. He is not expected to be out for long.

"We didn't let the defense do a whole lot today," Tuberville said of the scrimmage. "The offense should have scored some points. We looked a little rough for the first scrimmage. It's the first time we've scrimmaged with this offense. It's pretty tough on both teams. You've got to be in pretty good shape.

"We got in close to 130 plays," Tuberville pointed out. "We would have liked to have gone a few more, but for obvious reasons we didn't. The effort was good. I thought Kodi looked pretty good considering this is relatively new to him. Everybody else kind of struggled. I saw some good things on both sides. We'll look at the film and practice tomorrow and see where we're at."

Tuberville said that wide receiver Robert Dunn caught his eye on Saturday. "He should have a lot of catches. This offense is geared to a guy like him. He's going to be one of our big play guys. We're just looking for a couple more guys to make plays like him. We dropped seven passes in the first 60 or 70 plays. That wasn't very good, but we'll do better.

"Kodi was the only quarterback that really threw the ball consistently," Tuberville added. "The rest were reaching and trying to make plays. They did a good job though."

"Neil (Caudle) threw the ball good at times," Tuberville said. "His mechanics are not good. Kodi's mechanics are much better. That is what has enabled him to do a lot better. We've got a lot of work to do with all of them. I thought for the first scrimmage Kodi looked good. Neil is probably going to grade out not very high just on fundamentals."

Commenting on the defense, Tuberville said, "We let them run a couple of fronts, one blitz, and a couple of coverages. We didn't play much man coverage. We should have completed a lot of passes today throwing into a zone. You can't play zone on this offense as much as we did.

"We broke on the ball well and ran to the ball. We got tired. It's obvious the offense is a little bit ahead in terms of being able to run all their stuff and not letting the defense run a lot. Next week it should even up a little bit in the scrimmage because we'll turn them loose."

Burns opened the scrimmage running the first team at quarterback and says he felt good about he played. Offensive coordinator and QB coach, Tony Franklin, agreed.

"I thought all of the quarterbacks did some good stuff and they all did some bad stuff," Franklin said. "I thought Kodi, overall, was very productive because he didn't throw a pick although he had a couple that should have been picked. He is going to get better at that."

Burns completed 22-37 passes for 162 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions.

Neil Caudle hit 22-33 passes for three touchdowns, but was intercepted twice.

QB DeRon Furr fumbles on a keeper after a hit by Aairon Savage.

DeRon Furr was the leading rusher in the scrimmage with 64 yards on 10 carries. The early high school graduate hit 3-5 passes for 26 yards and more than held his own in a scuffle with linebacker Merrill Johnson after the two collided on a QB keeper on the sideline.

Brad Lester carried the ball 12 times for 44 yards and a score. Walk-on running back Anthony Jemison, whose brother Marcus Jemison is an AU signee, ran the ball six times for 35 yards and a touchdown.

Terrell Zachery was impressive in the scrimmage. The wide receiver caught nine passes for 84 yards and a TD. Dunn made eight catches for 63 yards and a score.

Montez Billings caught six passes for 57 yards, Tommy Trott had five catches for 33 yards and walk-on Charles Olatunji and made four catches for 34 yards. Quindarius Carr beat Ryan Williams deep for a 46-yard TD catch and had two receptions for 59 yards. Lester scored on a 20-yard reception and had two catches for 31 yards.

Chris Todd, the fourth player in the QB battle this spring, watched the action while trying to recover from a shoulder injury. He did more than be a spectator as he helped true freshman Furr with the play calls.

"I know I can do better, but I think I played pretty good today and led my team down the field for some touchdowns," Burns said. "It was pretty tough going against the first team defense a lot, but I felt like I was pretty consistent.

"It seemed like as the day went on we started moving the ball better, even though we had dropped balls and some bad passes on my part so I know we can do better," Burns added. "Those are things we are going to get fixed."

Brad Lester runs as defensive lineman Jermarcus Ricks gives chase.

Defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads said, "We are a long way from being in football shape, which is to be expected. In four practices--really three physical practices because the walk-through wasn't anything physical--we had only gone a maximum of four snaps in a row. When you come out and sometimes quadruple that you are not going to be in very good shape. Once we got tired, we executed poorly."

Josh Bynes and Zac Etheridge led the defense with five solo tackles and three assists. Safety Mike Slade had three solos and five assists and was followed by linebackers Courtney Harden (5-2) and Merrill Johnson (2-5).

Coleman was in on five tackles, including two for lost yardage with one sack. Sen'Derrick Marks and Mike Blanc each had a sack.

Walk-on safety Jonathan Vickers picked Caudle and returned the interception 35 yards for a score. Another walk-on, linebacker Wade Christopher, intercepted a pass.

The Tigers will start their second week of spring drills with a 4 p.m. workout on Sunday.

Offensive Statistics

Rushing--DeRon Furr 10-57; Brad Lester 12-44, 1 TD; Anthony Jemison 6-35; Mario Fannin 2-12; Jason King 2-9; Kodi Burns 5-9; Ryan Hastie 4-7; Neil Caudle 4-(-2).

Passing--Neil Caudle 22-33-2, 243 yards, 3 TDs; Kodi Burns 22-37-0, 162 yards, 1 TD; DeRon Furr 3-5-0, 26 yards, 0 TD.

Receiving----Terrell Zachery 9-84, 1 TD; Robert Dunn 8-63, 1 TD; Quindarius Carr 2-59, 1 TD; Montez Billings 6-57; Charles Olatunji 4-34; Tommy Trott 5-33; Brad Lester 2-31, 1 TD; John Douglas 2-21; James Swinton 1-20; Zack Shaw 1-12; Brent Slusher 2-7; Gabe McKenzie 1-5; Rod Smith 1-4; Anthony Jemison 2-4; Jeffrey Tarver 1-(-3); Ryan Hastie 1-(-2).

Defensive Statistics

Zac Etheridge and Josh Bynes 5-3; Mike Slade 3-5; Craig Stevens 1-7; Courtney Harden 5-2; Tray Blackmon and Merrill Johnson 2-5; Aairon Savage 3-2; Antonio Coleman 2-3; Jermarcus Ricks and Wade Christopher 1-4; Walter McFadden 3-1; Sen'Derrick Marks 1-3; Mike Blanc 2-2; A.J. Greene 2-1; Zach Clayton, Jerraud Powers, Ryan Williams, Antoine Carter and Michael Goggans 1-2; Mike McNeil 0-3; Jacob Shirey and Brian Anyadike 1-1; Jeremy Flowers 0-2; Jonathan Vickers and Da'Shaun Barnes 0-1.

Tackles for Losses-- Coleman 2-10; Marks 1-9; McFadden 1-8; Carter, Blanc and Greene 1-3; Ricks and Christopher 1-2; Clayton 1-1.

Sacks-- Marks 1-9; Coleman 1-6; Blanc 1-2.

Interceptions--Vickers 1-35, 1 TD; Christopher 1-6.

Pass Deflections--Powers 3; McFadden 2; Ricks and Blanc 1. Field Goals--Wes Byrum 1-3 (37 good, 42 miss, 47 miss); Morgan Hull 2-3 (37 good, 42 miss, 47 good)

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