Passing Game Focus of Second Scrimmage

Auburn, Ala.—In the final workout before spring break and Easter, the Auburn football team scrimmaged for approximately 100 plays at the stadium on Thursday morning working mostly on the passing game.

The defense had the upper hand for most of the scrimmage, but the offense put together a run late in the scrimmage with several solid drives.

"The defense started out strong, got a little tired and then I thought the offense picked it up," said head coach Tommy Tuberville. "We're still not very consistent on either side of the ball. We've got a lot of guys out. Hopefully after this seven or eight day break we can get some injured guys back and get a little more continuity.

"It was a good scrimmage, about 100 plays," the head coach added. "They said we came close to 100. It was more of a throwing scrimmage today, obviously. We held all of our running backs out other than a few walk-ons. We wanted to put the quarterbacks under fire."

After missing the first scrimmage because of a problems with his throwing shoulder, Chris Todd had a good day at quarterback. DeRon Furr did not play because of a sprained shoulder, so Todd, Kodi Burns and Neil Caudle rotated with the ones and the twos, giving each equal opportunities with the starters.

"I thought he looked okay," offensive coordinator Tony Franklin said of Todd. "The arm strength is still not what it will be, but he's got great presence in the pocket. He moves well. He's a playmaker, he makes plays. It was good to see that. I was glad to see him get back and glad to see that presence that he had and the reason I recruited him was I knew he could play. I knew he had great presence in the pocket and good leadership skills and a great arm. He's got everything now except the great arm. The arm hopefully will keep getting better."

Another offensive standout was junior tight end Tommy Trott, who had a pair of touchdowns. The first came on an underthrown ball down field from Caudle. Trott made the adjustment against Walter McFadden, then dragged the DB into the end zone for a 40-yard score. Trott followed it several possessions later with a 10-yard scoring grab from Todd on a skinny post.

"You don't like to feel like you're efficient if the offense isn't being efficient," Trott explained, "but I feel like we picked it up toward the end of practice and started to look better. I didn't have a great day, but I felt like I had a good day though."

Trott had several big gainers in the scrimmage.

Of the quarterback play, Tuberville said, "It was good to have Chris Todd back. He showed some signs of what we expected of him. He's still got a lot of work to do. The protection wasn't really good today and that kind of knocked us off on our timing. That will get better. It was good to see him back. I don't think Kodi had near the day that he had in his first scrimmage. He looked a little lackadaisical. I thought Neil Caudle looked pretty good. He's making some strides."

Led by Burns, the offense scored a touchdown on its first possession by Terrell Zachery. Todd hit six of seven passes on the sixth possession of the scrimmage capped off by a 10-yard TD for Chris Slaughter. However, the defense made a stand for the next nine possessions before the offense got it going again late in the scrimmage with six more TDs. The feeling following the scrimmage was similar for Franklin and defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads.

"It was a whole lot of ugly and a lot of good, like always," Franklin said. "Without having a running back it makes it awful tough on our O-line because we can block guys and just get two yards. The walk-on running backs did a good job, but it's hard not having guys that are dynamic. Overall I thought there were a lot of efficient things and a lot of inefficient things. We've just got to get better."

Asked if it was a successful scrimmage on the defensive side of the ball, Rhoads responded, "I think so, because we got exposed in good and bad ways. We saw where we're still deficient and poor, and we saw where we're improving and playing pretty good. We're learning a little more about our tackling ability."

Jerraud Powers had another outstanding day in coverage and picked off a deep corner pass from Burns intended for Rod Smith. However, the most outstanding player defensively was probably Sen'Derrick Marks. Making the move back inside to tackle this spring, Marks had several two-hand touch sacks on the orange-jerseyed quarterbacks.

"I was just coming off and trying to work on some new pass-rush moves and some things that I haven't mastered and haven't known too much about," Marks said of his performance. "I just worked on that and evidently it worked.

"It's great," he added of playing tackle. "You're closer to the quarterback instead of coming off the edge where you have to do certain things to get around your man. You can work a bull rush. I enjoy playing, I enjoy playing D-line and I just enjoy playing football."

Marks had about five sacks unofficially in the scrimmage.

Injuries stole the headlines of the first scrimmage nearly two weeks ago, but on Thursday the Tigers came out of the 100-or-so play scrimmage in good shape. There weren't any evident injuries, but several players were held out of action–most noticeably the running backs.

"DeRon Furr will be back the next time we come out, so will Ben Tate, so will Brad Lester," Tuberville stated. "Robert Dunn didn't practice today because he had class at 8 a.m. Hopefully we'll get a little more work out of him.

"We just held (Lester) out today," he continued. "We didn't want to run him. We didn't have another running back to go with him. We knew we were going to put the pressure on the quarterbacks throwing the ball. This wasn't a running scrimmage and we know what he can do in pass protection."

Antonio Coleman was dressed out in full pads and did some of the position drills with coach Terry Price, but did not participate in the scrimmage. Mario Fannin, who separated a shoulder in the first scrimmage, will have surgery and is expected to be ready by preseason practice in August.

"He's going to have surgery Tuesday of next week," Tuberville said of Fannin. "Dr. (James) Andrews is going to operate on him Tuesday of next week."

Offensive guard Chaz Ramsey was also absent on Thursday with a lingering back issue.

"Chaz Ramsey went to the hospital yesterday and got it checked out," Tuberville said. "He had an epidural to take the inflammation out. They're going to treat it like that for a while. Having back problems myself, I know how painful that is. Those help. It's kind of like Marcus McNeill syndrome. He could be playing right now if it wasn't spring. We're trying to get him 100 percent and he wants to get back out here, but he won't get any (action) this spring."

The Tigers have used 10 of the allotted 15 spring practices so far and aren't expected to practice again until March 25 after the university's spring break.

"It was a good 10 days of spring," Tuberville noted. "We've got some older guys that are doing good. The main thing about the next five days (practices) is that our young players have to make a big step. We've got to make a lot more improvement in execution. We just lost our fundamentals a lot in the offensive line today with the first and second group. That just goes back to new types of fundamentals and technique in this offense. We've just got to continue to get better knowing it will get better if we stick with it. Even guys like Ryan Pugh and Lee Ziemba are still making fundamental mistakes. It's the reason you practice. I thought our kicking game was a little better today than it was the last scrimmage.

"Now it's time to let them relax a little bit," he continued. "We've got two more days of classes then we'll go home and meet back here Easter night, Sunday night, and just make sure they're all back for classes the next day. There won't be any practice. The next practice will be on Tuesday morning of the week we come back."

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