Tuberville: Tigers Need To Finish Strong

Auburn continued to work towards Saturday's second spring scrimmage with a physical practice on Thursday.

Auburn, Ala.--Back on the practice field after the threat inclement weather forced Tuesday's practice to be cancelled, the Auburn Tigers worked for just over two hours in full pads as the prepare for Saturday's second scrimmage of the spring. Coach Tommy Tuberville said while he liked the effort, overall he wasn't pleased with how his team practiced on the day.

"It was good to get back to practice," Tuberville said. "We've got a lot of work to do, a lot of little things that we're still making mistakes on. This offense is a precision-type offense and it takes a lot of mental work and a mental attitude.

"I don't think we've gotten much better the last couple of practices," he added. "Obviously Saturday will tell the tale on that. We're still missing a few guys, but they'll be back soon on offense. Defensively we're starting to work more on two-back. Our offense is putting some two-back in. The tempo of this practice sometimes doesn't give you the opportunity to get better. We lost our concentration today. You only get better if you come out here and work at it. The first 45 minutes was good. The last hour and a half wasn't very good."

On the injury front the Tigers are still banged up as quarterbacks Chris Todd and DeRon Furr continue to take reps in the running game, but aren't doing any throwing. Tuberville said Todd was checked out by Dr. James Andrews and there is no damage to his shoulder. He added he'll continue to rehab and hopefully should be ready to throw as soon as next week. Offensive coordinator Tony Franklin said that Furr's bruised shoulder will keep him out of Saturday's scrimmage, the same for Todd.

At the running back position Mario Fannin's injured shoulder may require surgery Tuberville said. He noted the doctors have recommended surgery for a problem similar to that of Bo Harris, but the final decision has yet to be made. Fellow running back Benjamin Tate also missed much of Thursday's practice as he continues to progress from a strained hamstring. The third injured running back, Tristan Davis, is much better according to Tuberville after getting his toe stepped on last week in practice. He said hopefully the senior will be back soon.

Defensively Antonio Coleman missed Thursday's practice, but Tuberville said they are hopeful that he'll return perhaps as early as next week. Without him on the field it has given several players a chance to get more reps. Antoine Carter has been the direct beneficiary as he's shown solid play on the weak side. On the strong side Michael Goggans again had perhaps the best day of any defensive lineman and was constantly complimented by coaches Terry Price and Don Dunn.

While Goggans and Carter both had good days, as a whole the defense didn't have one of it's better outings. Drawing the ire of coordinator Paul Rhoads after practice, the unit had trouble maintaining consistency during team drills. Rhoads said that's something this group has to improve on if it wants to become a top notch defense.

"When we first implemented these drills at the first of spring they were very good at the drills, and are very good at the drills, but it's one thing being a good drill player and applying it when you're out there playing the game of football 11-on-11," Rhoads said. "We're not applying it in the game of football right now primarily because we're not bending our knees and playing with enough intensity and urgency."

Kodi Burns and Neil Caudle work in a drill during Thursday's practice.

On offense all of the work in team and passing drills went to Kodi Burns and Neil Caudle. Both were up and down throughout the day, mixing in good plays with some not so good plays. Without three of its top runners to begin with, the offense had to make do without all four for the last half of practice when senior Brad Lester left practice early to attend class.

While there is still a large group of receivers in practice, being without Tim Hawthorne (broken arm) and Chris Slaughter (hamstring) has started to take its toll in practice. Add in a class for Robert Dunn causing him to miss much of the practice and the numbers suddenly become quite thin. Franklin said having so many guys out hurt the offense when it came down to execution.

"It was all right," Franklin said. "The tempo was pretty good, but when you're beat up the same guys have to take a lot of reps and they're tired. By the time you get into your team stuff they are pretty much worn out, especially the receivers that are having to run route after route and run play after play. The good thing is they are getting more reps. The bad thing is they are getting worn out. Their legs are dead. Hopefully we can save something with their legs for Saturday."

Auburn will return to the practice field Friday afternoon for a shorter practice to fine tune things for Saturday's scrimmage. The scrimmage is scheduled to begin around 10 a.m. at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

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There were several visitors at Thursday morning's scrimmage that know a thing or two about football. Former Coach Pat Dye took in much of the practice while walking around and visiting with the coaches people in attendance. Three of Dye's former players were also at Thursday's practice. Kevin Greene, Doug Smith and Shayne Wasden all took in at least a portion of the workout, Wasden in with the Troy coaching staff visiting the Auburn staff for the day.

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