The former Auburn All-SEC offensive lineman and current starter for the NFL's Pittsburgh Steelers was a very interested spectator at Wednesday's two-hour Auburn practice, which featured full pads and a lot of contact.
Simmons said he was impressed with what he saw in his early viewing of the 2003 Tigers. "They look really good to me," Simmons told Inside the Auburn Tigers. "I think the offensive line has a chance to be really good when Danny Lindsey gets back out there at center and when Monreko (guard Monreko Crittenden) gets his cast off.
"That big number five (juco transfer tailback Brandon Jacobs) is something to watch. I was also impressed with Ronnie Brown. He is looking good. I am proud of these guys. You can tell they have been working hard."
Wednesday's workout was the sixth of 15 spring practices. The Tigers will take Thursday off and spend approximately two hours working out in shorts on Friday in preparation for a 150-play scrimmage at 10 a.m. on Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium. That scrimmage will match the one offense vs. the one defense, the two offense vs. the two defense and the three offense vs. the three defense. Coach Tommy Tuberville said unlike the first scrimmage last Saturday, the offense will be allowed to have extended drives if it makes first downs. Last week's affair featured plays scripted for down and distance.
Tailback Tre Smith makes good yardage. Offensive tackle Mark Pera helps clear a path as Reggie Torbor (82) tries to make a tackle.
On Wednesday, Tuberville said he thought the offense had a slight edge in the contact work, but he saw some good work from the defense, too.
"I think the guys are keeping their intensity up and practicing hard," Tuberville said. "We still have a lot of work to do on technique. I think we are getting better. We have got to get a little better at pass protection when we are in 11 on 11, but that will all come. I am looking at what they are doing mentally right now instead of physically."
Jacobs had several nice runs and big hits that impressed Simmons, but he also fumbled three times in the drills, including one at the end of the session in the goal line offense. Brown and Tre Smith continued their impressive springs as runners, too. In the contact work, the defenders were not allowed to tackle offensive players to the ground, although it is not uncommon for a runner or a receiver to hit the ground after a big hit in the "thud" sessions.
"I thought the offense might have won," said Tuberville when asked which side of the ball impressed him most during the contact work on Wednesday. However, in defense of the defense, he added, "Sometimes the defense doesn't go quite full speed because they know they have to pull up at the point of attack. It looks like we are blocking the right people. Technique-wise, we have a long way to go in pass protection and run blocking by our offensive line and tight ends."
Defensive tackle Spencer Johnson (53) works against offensive tackle Ryan Broome in a drill at Wednesday's practice.
Tuberville said he is seeing signs the Tigers will be a better pass rushing team in 2003. "We have more speed coming off the corner and it looked like we got more push up the middle. Today was the first day we ran more than the base defense. We caused them (the offense) to have more bad plays. That is why there weren't a lot of offensive mistakes (in the first scrimmage). We are going to try to create mistakes this Saturday--frustrate them and stop drives. That is why we are going to move the ball and move the chains and if we stop them they will go back. We will know who is winning or losing.
"We want to see some long drives on Saturday by the offense and see if we can put together some 12 or 13 play drives. On the other side, we want to see if the defense can get off the field quickly. We will go at least eight plays with a group and whenever they stop or score that group goes off the field."
Tiger Ticket Extra: Auburn quarterback signee Kelcy Luke from Central High in Phenix City drove to campus to watch the entire Wednesday workout. "I learned a few things watching it," he said. Luke is currently training for track season at CHS. "I am running the 100 and the 4x100," the quarterback noted...Tuberville said that he is seeing signs of improvement from senior slot receiver Jeris McIntyre, who he said looks quicker this spring. "We are looking for him to be the leader of that group."...QB coach Steve Ensminger will call the offensive plays from the press box on Saturday in a first rehearsal of the procedure the Tigers will use in games this fall...Center Danny Lindsey has his boot cast off now, but will not be allowed to have contact this spring.
(Look for more practice notes in Tiger Football Tidbits on the Tiger Ticket message board.)