Tigers Have Productive Morning Practice

Auburn seniors Brad Lester and Merrill Johnson talk about Monday morning's practice.

Auburn, Ala.--The second of four two-a-days got started early on Monday as the Auburn Tigers worked out for just over two hours in full pads on a perfect morning. Continuing to do a lot of team work with the best against the best, the defense had another good day while the offense continues to perform well. Senior running back Brad Lester said he's pleased with what he saw on offense.

"The practice went real well," Lester said. "Yesterday we came out and didn't have that good of a practice. I think we came out today and recovered and got a lot better. The base thing today was to work on the fundamentals and finish up the team drills stronger than we did yesterday."

One of the problems on offense Sunday was that senior guard Tyronne Green was working as the first team center with both Jason Bosley and Ryan Pugh out of practice. Monday Pugh was back in there after being scratched in the eye on Saturday. Bosley was also at practice but remained with the trainers working with his back. Lester said it made a big difference to have Pugh back in there.

"We had Tyronne out there yesterday and he's a good offensive lineman but he's not a center," Lester said. "We were having a little trouble yesterday so it was good to have Ryan back today. I think made a huge difference today with the snaps and the momentum of the offense to keep everything moving faster."

Freshman running back Eric Smith runs during Monday's practice.

Another thing the offense has seen this week is the blitz. The first week the defense played straight up and worked on the fundamentals. Beginning on Sunday coach Paul Rhoads has dialed up some blitz packages that have caused the offense problems at times. Lester said that's something they want to see because they know it's coming this season.

"That's what we need," Lester said. "In this offense coach (Tony) Franklin and coach (Eddie) Gran have both told us we're going to get a lot of blitzes. That's what we have two periods set up just for blitzes. That's mainly on the running backs. We're getting better at that each day."

Defensively the Tigers were solid with the aforementioned blitz period the highlight of the day with several players getting pressure on both quarterbacks. Among them was defensive tackle Jermarcus Ricks, who has stepped up his game with a strong challenge from Mike Blanc. Defensive back Neiko Thorpe had a highlight reel play with a one-handed interception during 7-on-7 drills. A true freshman, Thorpe's play has him in line for playing time this season if he keeps it up.

I turned just in time to catch Thorpe's spectacular interception (although it's not quite in focus you still get an idea of the outstanding play he made).

One of Auburn's veteran defenders, linebacker Merrill Johnson is on his fifth training camp with the Tigers. He said so far he likes what he sees out of the defense and he added he thought Monday was a particularly good day.

"We came out this morning and we practiced pretty fast," Johnson said. "I think we're understanding the tempo of everything. A lot of the younger guys we're starting to bring them along. They are learning how to practice. I think we continue to get better. We need to keep it up."

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The quarterback battle for the starting job continues to be a major theme for the Auburn Tigers as Kodi Burns and Chris Todd have both performed well and are both likely to play this fall in some capacity. As someone that depends on the quarterback in Auburn's offense, Lester said as far as he's concerned things couldn't have worked out more perfectly with two instead of one.

"With the rotation they go six and six so you really can't tell (who is in the game)," Lester said. "They are both doing real well. They are both going to play. That's good because it means if one goes down we've got another one. We've got two good ones so that's real good."

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