Recovering from a broken bone in his ankle suffered last season at Florida, Williams had seen little action in practices up to this point while trying to get back to full speed. Carrying the ball just eight times for 16 yards in the nearly 200-play scrimmage, Williams showed the rust of being off nearly eight months but he said following the practice that it was good to be back on the field and in the middle of the action.
Williams jokes with Coach Tuberville during Saturday's scrimmage.
"Overall it felt good," Williams said. "I've been out of football for so long, been watching for a lot. It just felt good to be back in pads and get hit again.
"Being the competitor that I am I see those guys doing good and it's just hard for me to watch from the sidelines. I feel like it was time for me to step things up and continue to compete with those guys."
While Williams' play was unexpected, it wasn't the highlight of the day as the Auburn running game took center stage with 516 yards rushing on 100 carries in the scrimmage. Leading the way was junior college transfer Brandon Jacobs. The big but elusive back carried the ball 30 times for 152 yards and had the most impressive run of the day late in the scrimmage. Bouncing outside against the second-team defense, Jacobs got to the sideline only to be met by middle linebacker Lemarcus Rowell. Lowering his shoulder, Jacobs ran through the sophomore from Opelika on the way to a 38-yard gain, his biggest of the day. Coach Tommy Tuberville said that it was important to continue to establish the run to set up the pass and also important to see Williams in action once again.
"We ran the ball probably three-fourths of the time today and we did that on purpose just to make sure we know what got us through the end of the year last year," Tuberville said. "It made us successful.
"We weren't planning on doing anything with him," he said of Williams. "He came to practice today and said he wanted to go. When he has that in his mind the doctors said he was fine and it was time to work it out. He looked pretty good. It was good to see him back. They all ran well. They ran hard and we're getting better every day. The offensive line is the key. If we keep getting better there they'll get better."
Quarterback Jason Campbell prepares to hand off to Ronnie Brown as the Tigers come off the goal line against the first team defense.
Perhaps the best news of the day came in the kicking game where Philip Yost was perfect in all phases. Six for six in both field goals and extra points, the junior from Auburn High had what Tuberville described as the best day he can remember for a kicker since he's been at Auburn. Drilling field goals from 34, 35, 36, 38, 50 and 54 yards, he said that the performance gives him a lot of confidence heading into the remainder of spring practice.
"My confidence has grown," Yost said. "Hopefully it has grown in my teammates as well. I have been a lot more consistent which had definitely helped out as far as getting more comfortable with everything."
Philip Yost walks off his steps before drilling a 54-yard field goal.
The one trouble spot on Saturday was turnovers as quarterback Jason Campbell threw two interceptions that were returned for touchdowns. The first came on a tipped pass when Junior Rosegreen stepped in front of the receiver and trotted 15 yards for a score on the second play of the day. Choosing not to cut defensive lineman because of the risk of injury, defensive end Reggie Torbor got his hands on the pass to cause the easy interception. The second interception was just a case of a mistake Campbell said. Coming to the line of scrimmage he heard Karlos Dansby yell out ‘screen' but kept the play on. The result was a three-yard score for the senior linebacker. Despite the turnovers Campbell said the day wasn't all bad for his unit. Finishing 19-28 with 195 yards and one touchdown, he said he's happy with how his unit played on a very long and tough day.
"The teams are going to try to come in and put as many people in the box as they can," Campbell said of future defenses they will see. "One thing we're trying to do is they are going to have to respect our passing game. We can air it out as well as we can run it. That's something that we showed today."
Defensively Rosegreen was the leader for the Tigers with eight tackles in addition to his interception. Roshard Gilyard had 10 tackles to lead in that category while redshirt freshman Ben Grubbs had three sacks along with six tackles. Another redshirt freshman, Kyle Derozan, had a big day with eight tackles and one sack. All in all, Rosegreen said the offense had the upper hand in Saturday's scrimmage but that will only make his unit stronger.
"When they get in the end zone they know they have to work for it," Rosegreen said of his offensive teammates. "All they are doing is just making us better. When we stop them we are making them better. It's just a competition and they got the best of us today. There are going to be more scrimmages for us to get back at them, but we're just trying to get each other better."
Working against the first-team defense, Campbell led the Tigers on eight scoring drives with three ending in Yost field goals. The first drive of the day covered 80 yards in five plays with the final 73 coming by the feet of Ben Obomanu. Taking a handoff from tailback Ronnie Brown, Obomanu broke outside and made his way all the way back across the field before the scoring run was finished.
The next scoring drive went 40 yards with Williams scoring from six yards out to wrap things up. A Tre Smith 65-yard touchdown run capped a seven play, 98 yard drive later in Campbell's time at quarterback as they drove the length of the field against the starting defense for the score. Campbell threw his only touchdown of the day following a 50-yard drive when he hit Jeris McIntyre for a three-yard score. Smith added his second touchdown of the day just moments later when he scored from three yards out during a goal line drill.
Quarterback Josh Sullivan continued his strong spring with a solid scrimmage Saturday morning. Finishing 14-28 with 114 yards but without a touchdown, the redshirt freshman made several nice throws down field to Devin Aromashodu (4 catches for 55 yards) and Courtney Taylor (6 for 52). Also showing good mobility, he ran the ball nine times for 22 yards. Sullivan led the second-team offense on two scoring drives that ended in Yost field goals. Both Wesley Hill and Brandon Cox had good days as well with Hill leading a 13 play, 80 yard drive for a touchdown while Cox directed a 79 yard drive on 11 plays. Hill didn't attempt a pass on the day while Cox was 2-4 for 14 yards.
The Tigers were fortunate on the injury front Saturday as only Jay Ratliff was banged up during the grueling scrimmage. Bruising a shoulder, he should be back to practice next week as the Tigers will practice Sunday afternoon before taking Monday and Tuesday off.