Tuberville Praises Defense at AU Practice

The Tigers put on the full pads after a three-day break as they continued spring football drills.

Auburn, Ala.--The Tigers worked for two hours in full pads on Tuesday and head football coach Tommy Tuberville said he liked several things he saw at Auburn's ninth practice of spring training.

"The defense is getting a lot better," Tuberville noted. "We have made a lot of improvements in terms of knowing what we are doing on defense. A lot of the younger guys are stepping up.

"Michael McNeil has really shown up and is making some plays," Tuberville said about the true sophomore safety who saw significant playing time last fall. "He is going to be a factor for us this year."

A player that is definitely out for the remainder of spring practice is defensive tackle Jermarcus Ricks. He broke a bone in his hand during Tuesday's practice and Tuberville said he'll be out of action around six weeks.

Offensively, with returning starter Chaz Ramsey out of action with a back problem Byron Isom has been working with the first team at guard and Tuberville noted the sophomore is making progress. "Probably the guy who has improved most on the offense, in terms of what we are doing, is Isom," Tuberville said. "He and (receiver) Terrell Zachery are much improved."

Tuberville said he isn't certain when Ramsey will be back in action. The Tigers will return to the practice field on Thursday for a 7 a.m. session.

"It was good to have Chris Todd back," Tuberville said, noting the juco transfer quarterback was cleared to throw some passes in practice as he recovers from a sore shoulder that has prevented him from throwing as hard as he normally does.

"Kodi (Burns) and Neil (Caudle) needed a little relief," Tuberville said of the quarterback group. Another QB, DeRon Furr, is practicing, but not throwing passes while recovering from a bruised arm. He is expected to be back in action prior to the spring football game on March 29th.

Chris Todd (12) throws a pass to running back Ryan Hastie (42).

Commenting on Todd, new offensive coordinator and QB coach Tony Franklin said, "I don't think he will ever cut loose completely until probably July. Hopefully, by the time we start summer camp he will be ready to go. He is 30 to 40 percent of what you would see. Nobody has seen yet what he can do. He is not even close. Hopefully, talking with the trainers, by July he can get back to 100 percent and we can see what he can really do."

In other news:

*The Tigers worked on special teams early at their practice that started under the lights at 7 o'clock on a gray and chilly morning that threatened rain, but the raindrops held off until about five minutes after the Tigers wrapped up drills.

*To close practice, first team field goal kicker Wes Byrum was 3-4 on field goals with his only miss from 51 yards out. He nailed kicks from 35, 40 and 45 yards out.

*Walk-on kicker Morgan Hull missed from 35 yards out and 45 yards on his only two attempts.

Tommy Trott, who will be a junior this fall, catches a touchdown pass from Kodi Burns in the 11 on 11 work at Tuesday's practice as safety Jonathan Vickers gives chase.

*Zach Kutch, who will be a junior next fall, has not been kicking in practices this spring. He is taking classes and could be transferring to another college later this year where he will have a better chance to win a starting job.

*The Tigers, who postponed their second scrimmage of the spring that was scheduled last Saturday, will likely hold it after the spring game, Tuberville said.

*Tailbacks Tristan Davis (bruised foot) and Benjamin Tate (hamstring) are expected back in action after spring break. Mario Fannin (shoulder) is expected to have surgery next week and will be out of action the rest of the spring. Tuberville said he appreciates the group of walk-on running backs like Ryan Hastie, Anthony Jemison and Jeffrey Tarver who have helped the Tigers get through spring drills with the scholarship players out of action.

*Wide receiver Chris Slaughter, who has been out of action with a hamstring problem, returned to practice on Tuesday.


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