His position coach, James Willis, says he is expecting a big year from the junior and Willis notes he has high expectations for the entire linebacker group. "He expects us to be the heart of the defense," Blackmon says. "When we are not having a good day he expects us to do something to pull everybody up.
Blackmon predicts the defensive front is going to be strong again in 2008. For Saturday's scrimmage, sophomores Mike Blanc and Zach Clayton opened at the two interior positions on the first team defense. Preseason All-SEC pick Sen'Derrick Marks has a sore knee and was held out of the scrimmage. Backup defensive lineman Darrell Roseman, who has been sidelined with sore legs this week, saw action in the scrimmage. The redshirt sophomore had metal rods inserted in his legs after missing the past two seasons.
After having off-the-field issues earlier in his collegiate career, Tray Blackmon is developing into a leader of the defense, according to his teammates and coaches.
"I try to be a leader in every walk on my life, just not on the football field," Blackmon says. "Definitely, the mike (middle linebacker) position puts me in a situation where I make the calls and most of the checks. All of the guys depend on me to get them set. From whatever I say, they go off of me. It has put me in a leadership position, but I have to go out and show up."
Blackmon adds, "Every day I have to make sure if I don't have my A game, I have to find a way to find it. I just go out and just work hard."
Blackmon had one of the big hits of the scrimmage as he smacked wide receiver James Swinton on a short pass route.
In other news and notes from Auburn's second preseason scrimmage:
*Returning cornerback starter Jerraud Powers says that he has a high level of confidence in fellow junior Walt McFadden, the heavy favorite to win a starting position with Aairon Savage out for the entire season recovering from a knee injury that required ACL surgery.
"Walt has been playing well and he is ready to step into the starting role," Powers says. "In the spring, Walt was the number one guy at cornerback."
McFadden was held out of the scrimmage on Saturday to let the young corners play and Powers played just briefly. Neiko Thorpe, a true freshman who has had a good all-around week, started at McFadden's spot..
*On the subject of cornerbacks, Savage says he has seen a great deal of improvement from the trio of freshmen trying to impress the coaches enough to avoid a redshirt this season. That trio includes one of the faster signees in recent years, Harry Adams from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., plus D'Antoine Hood from Central High in Phenix City along with Thorpe.
*Freshman Drew Cole, who made the move from cornerback to safety this week, showed good speed by catching Terrell Zachery on a long pass play just before the receiver crossed the goal line. However, Cole got a penalty on the play for a horse collar tackle, which is illegal this year in college football.
*Freshman tailback Eric Smith won applause on several plays from scholarship donors at the event when he showed his toughness running the football. Based on his play the first two weeks in practice, Smith looks like he will not be redshirted. Smith got plenty of action with the coaches holding out projected starting tailback Bad Lester and backup Tristan Davis, a pair of seniors.
*Penalties were not a major issue in the scrimmage that lasted approximately 100 plays and there was just one turnover on a pass that Barrett Trotter threw into traffic and had picked up fellow freshman Adams.
*On the opening kickoff, Wes Byrum kicked off to the goal line and Philip Pierre-Louis returned the ball to the 19. The other kickoff was to open the second half. Harry Adams returned the football from about a yard deep on a Morgan Hull kickoff and made a nice return that could have possibly broken for a big play, but was whistled dead before Adams had a chance to finish the return.