Tigers Upbeat After Final Spring Scrimmage

A report on Auburn's final spring scrimmage features comments from Tommy Tuberville plus statistics and notes from Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Auburn, Ala.--Tray Blackmon was smiling after the final scrimmage of Auburn's spring training on Wednesday night and so was Kodi Burns.

Two of the standout performers for Auburn's 15th and last session of spring practice, each had different takes on which side of the football performed best.

"I thought the defense won the scrimmage," says Blackmon, a junior linebacker who led all tacklers with nine stops, including a couple of typical Blackmon big hits you could hear as well as see.

Answering the same question, sophomore quarterback Burns, who completed his first 10 passes in the scrimmage, said in his opinion it was a productive night for the offense. There was zero doubt that Burns himself was productive. He finished the scrimmage with 213 passing yards as he hit 12-15 tosses for two touchdowns and no interceptions. He also rushed seven times for 39 yards.

Head coach Tommy Tuberville noted that he saw positive signs on both sides of the football. "We had a good spring, a good 15 days," he said. "We got a lot out of it. We got a lot accomplished. I thought our consistency was a lot better today. The first team offense hit the wall a little bit a few times--that is going to happen--but we have to be more consistent.

"I am really proud of Kodi Burns," said Tuberville, who added, "He is very much improved. I liked the way he ran offense and that is what you look for in a spring game (scrimmage) like this one in terms of a scrimmage at the end to see what kind of control the quarterbacks have, especially in a new offense."

Burns came out smoking on Wednesday night. He didn't have an incomplete pass until his 11th throw and he ran the ball well, too, despite being declared down by a touch rather than a tackle which limited his amount of rushing yards.

Auburn's other candidate for the No. 1 QB spot, junior Chris Todd, was 11-18 passing for 144 yards with no TDs and no interceptions.

Tuberville said he liked what he saw out of Todd, a juco transfer who joined the team in January. "Both of them looked very comfortable," the head coach noted. "I thought Kodi got the ball down the field a lot better. He was moving in the pocket well, looking a lot more comfortable in what he is doing.

"Chris' arm is still not as strong as it will be," Tuberville said. "He has got a chance now to get it rested and healthy--he knows what he is doing. I am anxious to see him get 100 percent healthy.

"Our receivers caught the ball well," Tuberville said. "The one guy we need to play well for us is James Swinton and James is getting much better catching the ball and getting a lot more confidence. Rod Smith showed up a couple of times tonight."

Swinton, a senior wideout, caught four passes for 36 yards and a TD. He is one of the team's fastest players. Smith, also a senior, had three grabs for 91 yards.

James Swinton scores a touchdown on Wednesday night.

Tuberville noted that he liked the way the receivers made yardage after their catches and said the offensive line did a better job of protecting the QBs than it did earlier in the spring.

However, the defense, especially the starters on that side of the football, played well, Tuberville said. "I thought the first team defense basically won, most of the time, in terms of getting the ball for the other offense.

"We moved them around and we played a little bit more aggressively," he said. "Offensively, we ran the ball a little bit and it showed. It slowed the defense down some in terms of getting the quarterback a little more time throwing the football.

"I was impressed with everybody on offense," the coach stated. "We are not where we need to be. We have got to be a lot better to have a chance to get to Atlanta.

"Defensively, we run well, we have a lot of speed," said Tuberville, who pointed out that he liked the way that Blackmon performed at middle linebacker.

"He looks like the Tray Blackmon when we recruited him out of high school--running hard, running through people and very physical. I thought that was the best he has shown up in a long time. The first time he has been healthy for this amount of practice, which is good."

Fourth team QB DeRon Furr completed 2-3 passes for 59 yards and one touchdown and also lined up at wide receiver. The early high school graduate said after the scrimmage he might be interested in giving the receiver spot a try this fall rather than redshirt at quarterback.

Third team QB Neil Caudle was 8-13 for 117 yards with one interception and one touchdown plus one near interception.

The only interception of the scrimmage was returned by safety Zac Etheridge.

Like Tuberville, both Blackmon and Burns said they saw sign of improvements this spring. "I think the defense is definitely better," said Blackmon, who added that he feels like he is improving, too.

Burns said it is obvious that the offense has made progress and the same thing applies to his play. "I feel so much better than during last season," he said.

In other news and notes from the scrimmage:

*Tuberville said he liked the way Sen'Derrick Marks performed at defensive tackle and said the junior is a special player. He also said that Marks is a team leader.

*The coach said that sophomore end Michael Goggans is probably the most improved player on the defensive front. He was in on four tackles, including two for losses including a sack.

*Sophomore defensive end Antoine Carter had four tackles with two sacks and cornerback Walter McFadden had four tackles with a sack.

*Defensive tackle Mike Blanc, who has missed much of spring with an ankle problem, made three solo tackles and had one sack.

*Tuberville said he liked what he saw from the kickers and punters. Wes Byrum was perfect on field goals making 4-4 kicks of 53, 31, 40 and 47 yards. Morgan Hull missed from 34 and was good from 31, 40 and 47.

*Tailbacks Brad Lester and Ben Tate saw limited action. Lester had 8 carries for 19 yards and Tate carried six times for 22 yards and one score.

*Walk-on tailback Anthony Jemison rushed for 59 yards on 10 carries.

*After Blackmon's nine tackles (six solos, three assists), Mike Slade was next with 5-1. LBs Josh Bynes and Merrill Johnson had five solos and no assists while Chris Evans and Mike McNeil were next with 1 solo and four assists.

Scrimmage Scoring Drives

*Six plays, 56 yards, James Swinton 12-yard TD pass from Kodi Burns (Burns at QB)

*Two plays, 76 yards, Tristan Davis 69-yard TD run (Chris Todd at QB)

*10 plays, 79 yards, Quindarius Carr 35-yard pass from Burns ( Burns at QB)

*3 plays, 70 yards, Ben Tate 8-yard TD run (Todd at QB)

*8 plays, 34 yards, Wes Byrum 53-yard field goal (Todd at QB)

*10 plays, 70 yards, Brad Lester 2-yard TD run (Burns at QB)

*5 plays, 65 yards, Terrell Zachery 52-yard TD pass from Neil Caudle (Neil Caudle at QB)

*4 plays, 71 yards, Charles Olatunji 42-yard pass from Deron Furr ( Deron Furr at QB)

*7 plays, 55 yards, Byrum 32-yard field goal (Caudle at QB)


Rushing--Tristan Davis 2-75, 1 TD; Anthony Jemison 10-59; Kodi Burns 7-39; Ben Tate 6-22, 1 TD; Brad Lester 8-19, 1 TD; Mike Gibson 4-15; John Douglas 1-3; DeRon Furr 6-2; Chris Todd 3-(-9); Neil Caudle 2-(-17).

Passing--Kodi Burns 12-15-0, 213 yards, 2 TDs; Chris Todd 11-18-0, 144 yards, 0 TD; Neil Caudle 8-13-1, 117 yards, 1 TD; DeRon Furr, 2-3, 59 yards, 1 TD.

Receiving--Rod Smith 3-91, 1 TD; Terrell Zachery 3-91, 1 TD; Chris Slaughter 6-87, 1 TD; Quindarius Carr 2-44, 1 TD; Charles Olatunji 1-42, 1 TD; James Swinton 4-35, 1 TD; Bailey Woods, 2-32; John Cubelic 3-31; Tommy Trott, 2-28; Vincent Cook 1-17; Zack Shaw 1-6; Mike Gibson 1-6; Brad Lester 1-3.

Tackles (solos/assists)--Tray Blackmon 6-3; Mike Slade 5-1, Josh Bynes and Merrill Johnson 5-0; Chris Evans and Mike McNeil 1-4; Antoine Carter 4-0; Courtney Harden, Zac Etheridge and Walt McFadden 3-1; Michael Goggans 2-2; Mike Blanc and Craig Stevens 3-0; Sen'Derrick Marks, Jacob Shirey and Aairon Savage 2-1; Ryan Williams and Wade Christopher 1-2; Jonathan Vickers and Zach Clayton 2-0; Jerraud Powers 1-1; Ryan Burse (0-2); Kyle Coulahan (0-1).

Sacks--Antoine Carter 2-13; Mike Blanc 1-9; Walt McFadden 1-8.

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