Reinforcements Arrive As Tigers Return To Practice

Comments from Auburn players and photos are featured as the Tigers returned to the football practice field on Saturday to begin bowl prepartions.

Auburn, Ala.--Following a three-week break since putting a whipping on arch-rival Alabama, the Auburn football Tigers returned to the practice field on Saturday with reinforcements on the roster and more on the way.

The two-hour workout in full pads marked the collegiate practice debut of former Russellville High star Kevin Sears, who said he enjoyed his first outing as a Tiger. Sears got a passing score on the ACT this fall after attending AU this past semester as a part-time student. He will be a true freshman in 2003 with five seasons to play four.

Kevin Sears practiced at outside linebacker on Saturday.

Sears says that he is in good shape because he has been working out with the redshirts all fall and doing a lot of running that has caused him to drop some weight. He says he currently weighs 217 pounds on his six-foot-four-inch frame.

Sears says that it was tough not being able to play or practice this fall, something that he has not experienced since beginning football as a nine-year-old. "It is pretty much a jump-start on the players coming in," Sears says of getting the opportunity to participate in bowl practice. "I will have some experience with the other players and have some time in practice to get used to it." Sears, who played safety in high school, worked out as an outside linebacker on Saturday.

Like Sears, another member of the 2002 signee class, quarterback Brandon Cox from Hewitt-Trussville High, joined the team on Saturday as a true freshman. Cox left the squad in preseason before classes started, but says he was welcomed back with open arms on Saturday. Because he did not enroll in class he will be considered a true freshman in 2003 with five seasons to play four.

"It has been a few months and I am just glad to be back, getting back in action real quick," Cox says. "I was a little rusty out there today, but you expect that after being off after three months."

Brandon Cox is shown at practice on Saturday.

The state's Mr. Football his senior season, Cox worked out at home in Trussville this fall and also worked at his father's carpet business. "I have missed it," he says of football. "I am glad to be back." Cox, who is wearing No. 7 and practicing with the scout team to help prepare the defense for Penn State's lefty quarterback Zack Mills, says that he is physically ready to play after suffering a concussion last August that caused a relapse with with a rare muscle disease called Myasthenia Gravis that he had originally been treated for as a high school sophomore.

Two other newcomers are expected to be at Sunday's 3 p.m. practice. Tailback Brandon Jacobs from Coffeyville, Kan., Community College and his teammate, defensive end Tony McClain, watched practice. Because they arrived on campus late on Friday there was not time to get their complete physicals done and all of the final paperwork finished.

Brandon Jacobs (right) watches practice with former Tiger star running back James Bostic.

"Brandon is a guy who is a phenom," Coach Tommy Tuberville says. "He is 6-4 1/2 and weighs about 250. He set all kinds of rushing records in high school and I had an opportunity to go watch him play in his bowl game and he rushed 22 times for 254 yards. He has got a lot to learn and he has to start with all of the fundamental stuff so that is what we will do in bowl practice."

Neither Jacobs, who will be a junior next year, or McClain, who will be a redshirt sophomore, will play vs. Penn State in the bowl.

Tony McClain is scheduled to start practice on Sunday for the Tigers. He will be a sophomore defensive end.

Also watching practice was juco standout Eric Holcombe, a defensive tackle from Northeast Mississippi Community College who is originally from Davidson High in Mobile. He is in Auburn for an official recruiting visit this weekend along with two Florida high school standouts--defensive end Stanley McClover from Dillard High in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and cornerback/wide receiver Antonio Cromartie from Lincoln High in Tallahassee, Fla. The high school players did not attend the practice which was completed before their arrival.

The Tigers will work out for six straight days with the next practice set for 3 p.m. on Sunday.

Tiger Ticket Extra: Tailback Carnell Williams is not going to play in the bowl game. He has had a screw inserted in his ankle and although his recovery is coming along nicely from his broken leg in the Florida game, he won't be ready to play in the bowl game...Senior cornerback Roderick Hood says the Tigers are excited about making the bowl trip to Orlando because the team had so much fun there two years ago except for losing 31-28 to Michigan. He says the game vs. Penn State on New Year's Day will offer a major challenge because Penn State is ranked 10th nationally with a star running back leading the way. "Larry Johnson is a great runner," he says. "I think there are just nine backs who have ever rushed for 2,000 yards (in one season in Division I) and just think how many backs have played Division I ball."

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