The injuries on defense are startling to say the least. Starters Antonio Coleman (ankle), Michael Goggans (ankle), Sen'Derrick Marks (both ankles), Tez Doolittle (groin) are all missing practice time this week and have missed time during the season. Throw in backup Antoine Carter (ankle), Zach Clayton (neck), Jomarcus Savage (shoulder) and Raven Gray (knee) and you have eight players alone off the front four that have been bothered by injuries this season. Tuberville said on Sunday that you can now add another name to the list.
"Mike Blanc probably played the best defensive line of anybody," Tuberville said. "Tez wasn't going to play but we wound up having to play him 28 plays because Sen'Derrick went down with another ankle injury. Mike played well, but he might have a broken hand. They are x-raying him as we speak. You can just add another one to the list."
Fortunately for the Tigers Blanc's hand wasn't broken and he was practicing on Sunday. The defensive injuries don't stop there though. At linebacker Tray Blackmon (hand) is out for the rest of the year. Starter Josh Bynes will miss time this week because of a deep thigh bruise. On the weak side Merrill Johnson (hamstring) and Chris Evans (toe) are both less than 100 percent. Tuberville said Craig Stevens is probably the healthiest of the group and has battled through a turf toe injury all season.
None of those positions compares to the cornerback spot though where starter Jerraud Powers and top backup Neiko Thorpe (ankle) missed the Ole Miss game and will likely be out against UT-Martin. Fellow starter Walter McFadden got hit from behind and injured his ankle and knee but practiced on Sunday in a non-contact role. Throw in projected starter Aarion Savage (knee) being out for the season and Ryan Williams' long visit to Tuberville's dog house and you have Auburn's fifth and sixth cornerbacks as possible starters against the Skyhawks on Saturday in D‘Antoine Hood and Harry Adams.
In all 20 defensive players have missed practice or game time this season because of injuries. When you move to the offense things aren't quite as bad, but there are still problems. Chris Todd's shoulder injury caused him to sit out several weeks and play at less than 100 percent. At running back four players have missed time. Brad Lester (hamstring), Ben Tate (hamstring), Mario Fannin (knee, shoulder) and Tristan Davis (concussion) all have had problems.
At the wide receiver position Robert Dunn (knee), Rod Smith (hip, out this week), Philip Pierre-Louis (knee), James Swinton (knee), and Darvin Adams (broken nose), have missed game time. Up front Lee Ziemba (knee) and Jason Bosley (shoulder) have played all season banged up. Byron Isom (concussion) has missed the last two games. Throw in projected starter Chaz Ramsey (back) and you have 34 players that have missed practice or games because of injuries.
Because of that the Tigers have looked to some young players to fill the void. In additon to Hood and Adams several more freshmen and inexperienced players will get a look on defense. Up front true freshman Derrick Lykes was moved from the scout team three weeks ago and could see action this weekend in a pinch. Tuberville said they're also like to move offensive lineman Kyle Coulahan to defense, a position he's played before at Auburn.
At linebacker the Tigers will look at redshirt freshman Adam Herring to fill the void in the middle left by Blackmon's injury. In a season of disappointment Auburn could potentially make some positives happen. With so many young players playing this season it can only help their development for down the road. The downside is it could make for an even longer end to the 2008 season.