Thursday Practice Notes And Quotes

Taking a look at the wide receivers and defensive line for the Tigers.

With a large group of receivers in the mix for playing time at the X and Z outside wide receiver positions, coach Greg Knox said at the moment seniors Rod Smith and James Swinton are holding off a charge for the starting roles. While that is a big accomplishment, Knox said in this offense it won't mean a great deal over the long haul because of the substitution patterns they'll employ in the fast paced system.

"We want to keep them fresh and rotate them through," Knox said. "The guys I have basically all of them will play. At some point or some time all of them are going to play. It's why a depth chart or a starting crew is not big like it would have been in the past when guys played eight straight snaps or 10 straight snaps. That won't happen anymore. It's two or three snaps and they're out of the game and in comes the next one. We're rotating at a fast pace like we're trying to play at a fast pace."

One of the players that could be a big part of the offense in 2008 is converted running back Mario Fannin. Despite what Tommy Tuberville calls the best hands on the team, Fannin hasn't worked his way to the top of the depth chart according to Knox. Showing signs of being a playmaker, Knox said Fannin will have a part in the offense this season but to what extent he's not certain.

"He's a situational player," Knox said. "We try to mix him in for different situations. We try to get him in there on things we know he can accomplish and get done correctly as far as assignments and everything. He's in the mix. He's in the rotation. He's going to play. How much, I don't know, but he's going to play."

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On the other side of the ball the battle for playing time is still ongoing in the interior defensive line as Sen'Derrick Marks is the only sure bet for a starting job while Mike Blanc, Jake Ricks, Tez Doolittle and Zach Clayton have all made strides in the preseason. Coach Don Dunn said at the moment he's pleased with how his group is practicing.

"We've basically got the same good battles going on," Dunn said. "Zach (sprained neck) got a little nicked up but he'll be back. The other four are doing a real good job and doing everything we asked."

Perhaps the biggest surprise in the preseason has been the development of senior Tez Doolittle. Tearing his Achilles tendon last preseason, the Opelika native has bounced back very quickly and Dunn said he's in line for playing time in the opener.

"I'm real excited with his progress," Dunn said. "It's a compliment to him and all the trainers and Coach Yox (Kevin Yoxall) and his staff. That injury, from what I understand, is anywhere from 12-14 months. For a defensive lineman pushing off and having to use all your weight on that part of the body, I'm kind of amazed at the young man. He's done well. He still gets sore. He's not ready for a full game but he'll give us some needed reps."


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