Auburn's head football coach also had praise for the play of all four quarterbacks and said his Tigers are continuing to make progress after finishing five of 15 days of spring drills.
Karlos Dansby, a returning All-SEC outside linebacker, may get a look at the vacant middle spot manned by Mark Brown last fall as a senior. Currently, Dontarrious Thomas, who was the starting weakside linebacker last year as a junior, is running number one at the position ahead of sophomore Lemarcus Rowell, who was Brown's top backup last season.
Tuberville says the coaches may move Dansby from strongside linebacker to middle linebacker for the second half of spring drills to see how he handles that spot.
In the first scrimmage, Thomas ran with the first team at middle linebacker. "He did all right," Tuberville says. "His alignments were wrong some. He doesn't feel as comfortable, obviously, because he hasn't played as much in there, but he will. We will move Karlos in there a little, probably, when we come back from spring break and let him get a few snaps inside.
"Derrick Graves (weakside linebacker) is doing good and if he keeps improving that is really going to allow us to make a permanent move with one of those guys (Thomas or Dansby) inside. Lemarcus Rowell has gotten better so we have got ompetition.
"The depth we are going to have next year (2003 season) is going to enable us to not play Dontarrious and Karlos 70 snaps. We can play them about 50. Hopefully, it is a long, long season for us and, if it is, the depth is really going to help us the last part of the season. Dontarrious was only really in four games last season--the rest of the time he was about 70 percent after he got hurt at USC. It is a physical position inside, but I think he can handle it and do a good job. He has gotten a little bigger. He and Karlos have both gained 10 or 12 pounds so I think the weight both are gaining is going to help them hold up."
Thomas, who is up to 240 pounds, said he is concentrating on getting his assignments down at MLB. "The first scrimmage was OK," he said. "I did pretty good. It is an opportunity for me to get better and do some good things to help this team. As long as I am on the field I am happy."
Strong safety Junior Rosgereen is shown at Tuesday's practice. The junior is a returning starter.
Tuesday was a teaching day for the Tigers who worked on correcting mistakes from the first scrimmage during a two-hour workout at the football complex.
Drilling in shorts, helmets and shoulder pads, the Tigers added new passing plays on offense while the defensive coaches worked on different coverages and blitz packages that they will use in the second major scrimmage on Saturday. They will be able to test out the new stuff on Wednesday in what is expected to be a full pads workout with plenty of contact.
The Tigers will have another tuneup day on Friday before scrimmaging at Jordan-Hare Stadium on Saturday morning. "Tomorrow will be a pretty good head-knocker and we go about 40 minutes longer," Tuberville said. "We will take Thursday off and try to polish up (on Friday) what we are going to do in the scrimmage and get them ready for Saturday morning and see how much better we have got running the new things.
"We are making a lot of progress, but we still have got a long ways to go," Tuberville added. "As long as we can keep their attention like we have got it now we have a chance. Spring practice sometimes gets boring, but these guys are pretty hungry and they understand what is in front of them and what opportunities they have."
Tuberville said he continues to feel good about the quarterback situation with redshirt freshman Josh Sullivan performing well as the backup to returning starter Jason Campbell. He notes that Sullivan is doing a much better job of reading defenses. The coach said that backups Wesley Hill and Brandon Cox are making strides this spring, too.
Tuberville said that Cox, a true freshman, will likely be redshirted, but is making progress after sitting out of football last fall due to a medical problem that caused him to drop out of school. "Cox has got to gain weight and get stronger, but he has gotten better," Tuberville said. "He has really picked up the offense and he is throwing the ball better. When you miss five months of lifting weights he is just that much further behind all of these guys who have redshirted."
Hill, who is a redshirt freshman, has been running No. 3 in practice ahead of Cox and has definitely been throwing the ball better than he did last year when he arrived on campus as an early high school graduate. "Wesley has gotten much better from last spring--much better," Tuberville noted.
Jason Campbell throws a deep pass in Tuesday's practice.
The coaches and players reviewed video from Saturday's scrimmages before taking the field for Tuesday's workout. Tuberville said he was generally pleased with the session considering it was a first scrimmage. "We made a lot of mistakes, especially the younger players, but we are so much further ahead then we were last year at this time. It's good to see that we know what to do, we just need to learn how to do it. The technique aspects weren't as good as we hoped they would be. There is a lot of room for improvement.
"Defensively, we tackled well Saturday," Tuberville noted. "I thought the open field tackling was good except we didn't do as good of a job tackling Tre Smith. He's a little more elusive than our other players, but defensively we were sound on our technique and in our alignments. That is one of the things you look for in the first scrimmage is to make sure you get in the right places." ,p> Tuberville had visitors at the Tuesday practice. Former Auburn All-SEC wide receiver Ronney Daniels stopped by to check out the Tigers. Daniels, a pro baseball player before arriving at Auburn, is trying to make a living playing pro football. Daniels looks like he is excellent shape and he said, "I have been spending a lot of time working out." He is expected to get a shot with the Miami Dolphins or another NFL team. Albertville High quarterback Michael Darden, who will be a senior this fall, attended the workout.
Offensive guard Monreko Crittenden, a returning starter, was back at practice wearing a full cast on his hand. He suffered a fractured bone in his hand last week and missed the first scrimmage, but will be allowed to have full contact starting on Wednesday.