Tuberville Talks 08 Tigers

Coach Tommy Tuberville talks about his 2008 football team and what he's hoping to see out of his club.

Hoover, Ala.--Friday was Auburn day at SEC Media Days and coach Tommy Tuberville got the day started by learning his team was picked to win the Western Division title with LSU second and Alabama third. That was news to Tuberville who said it came as a little bit of a surprise to him.

"It's kind of different to think you're going to be picked to win the West when your quarterback is unproven," Tuberville said. "I don't think that happens very often. This year we'll play two quarterbacks. We will have one starting quarterback, a guy that everybody knows is our starter. It may change during the year and it may not. Obviously it's going to be a scenario of two like it was during the bowl game."

At the position returning sophomore Kodi Burns and junior college transfer Chris Todd came out of spring practice locked in a battle for the starting job with Todd coming on after missing time with a sore shoulder. Tuberville said Todd's shoulder has gotten better and should allow him to challenge heavily during two-a-days. Tuberville added they'll likely need three quarterbacks and he's pleased with the development of Neil Caudle.

An old-school coach, Tuberville said a football team's success depends on both sides of the line of scrimmage. Questions abound on both sides though as offensively Chaz Ramsey is still bothered by back problems after having surgery to help alleviate the pain. Tuberville said they'll have to see how well Ramsey handles things this fall before a decision on a redshirt is made.

Defensively the return of Tez Doolittle for a sixth season after he missed 2007 with an Achilles injury should bolster the front four which loses starters Josh Thompson, Pat Sims, and Quentin Groves. Tuberville said despite the losses and question marks with injuries, he feels like this team has a chance to be special on the line of scrimmage.

"I look at our football team this year in terms of the offensive and defensive line, and every year I tell you that," Tuberville said. "It has to start there. This could be one of our better groups on both sides. On the offensive line, three freshmen we started are all coming back. Chaz Ramsey had surgery, has worked out quite a bit this summer and isn't 100 percent. The question is where he's going to be when we start two-a-days and his availability."

One definite loss is that of sophomore linebacker Bo Harris. A player that struggled to get qualified out of high school, Harris had shoulder surgery at the end of last season and is moving down in division to try his hand at the game. Senior Courtney Harden will go into the 2008 season as the top back up to Craig Stevens.

In the defensive secondary Tuberville said that sophomore Ryan Williams has worked hard this summer and has a chance to be with the Tigers this fall. Going home for a month to take care of academic problems, Williams still must finish out this current semester strong according to Tuberville in order to be eligible in 2008.

With Williams' playing a question mark, there is no doubt the Tigers will need some help at the cornerback position. With Jerraud Powers, Walter McFadden and Aairon Savage the only three proven players at the position, Tuberville said several young guys will get an immediate look this fall.

"There will be several (freshmen) that will play this year, especially at corner," Tuberville said. "We'll play probably two guys. Harry Adams is at corner and D'Antoine Hood. He's worked hard. A lot of the receivers I have talked to say both those guys look good. To play the nickel and dime defenses that we've played in the past we're going to have to play a couple of those guys. We just don't have the numbers after losing some guys to graduation last year."

A freshman that is not likely to be able to help at least early in the season is defensive lineman Andre Wadley from Hernando, Miss. Tuberville said the freshman arrived in great shape, but had complications from the heat during a recent practice but is doing better. A complete check still hasn't completely solved the questions concerning his incident and Tuberville said they'll continue to check up on him until they find out what the problem was. He added he's doing better, but probably won't take part in practices when the season opens.

One player that the Tigers are counting on to do big things this season is Mario Fannin. Also having shoulder surgery just a few months back, Fannin was signed as a running back by Auburn but moved to receiver when Tony Franklin was hired as the offensive coordinator. Tuberville said he's looking forward to seeing what a healthy Fannin can do.

"Mario Fannin is back and ready to go," Tuberville said. "He's 100 percent. He's a guy that is going to have to play well for us in a lot of places. He's ready to go."

Auburn will open fall practice on Aug. 2 and have four weeks to get ready for the season opener against Louisiana-Monroe. Tuberville said right now he's got one big point on both sides of the ball he wants his team to address heading into the 2008 season, one that he hopes can take his team to the next level.

"One thing I want to do this year is I want to have a few more big plays in the season," Tuberville said. "We've got to be able to score from a distance and not everything be like pulling teeth to get the ball across the goal line. That's what I'm looking for on offense. We're going to run the football.

"Defensively we can't give up the big play," he added. "In every game last year we gave up some big plays. That's not Auburn football. We've gone back to more fundamentals and techniques to play more consistently. I know we played great at times on defense, but at times we didn't play great. We've got to be a more well-rounded team and play better, especially big plays, on both sides."

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