With Savage sidelined, Coach Tommy Tuberville says that the Tigers will be counting on young players like true freshmen D'Antoine Hood, Harry Adams and Neiko Thorpe to step up at cornerback, which wasn't a position deep in experienced players prior to Savage's injury.
"That is the reason you have 120 players on the team," Tuberville says of Savage's injury. "Those things happen. The guys have to step up. That is just going to call on another younger guy to have to probably a few more plays, a little bit more contribution."
"They are good athletes," Tuberville says of the freshman cornerbacks who are making a push for playing time. "They can make up for mistakes. They don't know enough technique right now. There is a lot of technique in what they are doing. Hopefully, they can get it and mentally come around and stay healthy. The big thing is no ankle injuries, bruises."
Thorpe, who changed his name recently from Neiko Lipscomb, got to work with the ones late in practice after starter Jerraud Powers had to leave early for a final exam. Earlier in the practice he won praise from his coaches for making a variety of good plays.
"I got a chance to work with the first team today," Thorpe says. "It is a little bit faster. I could get used to that with the older guys helping me out and giving me some tips.
"I need to take more notes in the film sessions and I will be alright," he says. "I actually took it as a good opportunity to actually get a feel for it this early."
With Savage out, Walter McFadden moves into the first team spot at cornerback opposite Powers, a returning starter and a second team preseason All-SEC pick.
Walt McFadden makes an interception in the end zone on a pass from Kodi Burns.
"They have kind of gone back and forth in the spring," Tuberville says of the competition for first string status that was taking place between Savage and McFadden prior to the Monday injury.
"It is a situation where we have to find more than one," Tuberville says of the cornerback position. "We were looking for several to play nickel and dime defenses. It just puts another guy in the limelight. They have got to show up."
Savage started at safety two years ago, but was injured and saw less action in 2007 at safety. He moved to cornerback in the spring, his natural position, and was the favorite to win the starting spot prior to the injury in which he landed awkwardly on his knee trying to defend a deep sideline pass route.
"We still don't really know how bad his knee is," Tuberville says. "They are taking him out of town tomorrow and could possibly operate on him. We will have to wait and see." Savage will be treated by surgeons Larry Lemak and Jim Andrews.
Savage has already been redshirted.
Tuberville says the Tigers have had to overcome losses of key players prior to other seasons. "We have had some depth and guys have had to step up and play," he notes. "That is just part of it. You just hate it. You especially hate for a guy who has worked as hard as Aairon, but he will be fine. We will be there with him, no matter what happens."
Also on Tuesday, Tuberville announced that freshman safety DeRon Furr is leaving the team. The former Carver High quarterback from Columbus, Ga., moved to defense after struggling at QB in spring drills. Furr said he made the move in hopes of earning playing time this fall and avoiding a redshirt, but playing time this fall was unlikely to happen.
Furr was a no-show at the last three practices.
In other news:
*True freshman defensive end Andre Wadley, who was hospitalized twice this summer summer after overheating at workouts, is making progress, according to Tuberville. "We are keeping an eye on him," the coach says. "He just hasn't done a lot. He is getting close to being in real good shape, but he won't do anything for a while. He has had some problems. His body didn't function very well so doctors are keeping a close eye on him. He will be out here soon. It is just one of those things. They just told us he overheated."
*The Tigers practiced for two hours and 20 minutes on Tuesday and will have their first full pads practice at 4:15 p.m. on Wednesday. Plans to have two practices on Thursday have been changed to just one.
"Today was probably one of our better practices," Tuberville says. "The guys bounced around pretty good. The defensive line is doing a good job coming off the line of scrimmage. The young guys make a difference in terms of having a little bit of depth. Cameron Henderson and Jomarcus Savage are really going to be good players--two guys I watched a little bit today. We are trying to get them all ready for a scrimmage on Saturday." Savage and Henderson are true freshman ends.
*The head coach has praise for the passing game, noting the Tigers looked good in blitz drills on Tuesday. "We are getting the ball deep down the field," Tuberville says. "The receivers are catching the ball and the quarterbacks are throwing it well."
*First team offensive tackle Lee Ziemba missed practice with a knee sprain and will have an MRI. "He will be back," the coach says, indicating he doesn't believe the problem is serious.
*Commenting on whether the offense or defense is ahead after four days of practice, Tuberville says, "You can't tell who is ahead now. We won't be able to tell that until we scrimmage on Saturday. The offense has a lot more in right now than the defense." The scrimmage at Jordan-Hare Stadium will not be open, the coach adds.
*Senior walk-on wide receiver Charles Olatunji landed on his shoulder trying to make a catch on Monday evening and suffered a broken clavicle. Tuberville says that Olatunji "will be back soon."