Spring Practice: Apologetic Ambles

Sophomore receiver does conditioning drills as punishment Tuesday, but is back with team.

Apologetic Ambles
Markeith Ambles was back where he started, running Tuesday in a corner of Howard Jones Field.

That was where his ordeal started last Thursday, going back and forth with strength coach Aaron Ausmus while running and doing other exercises as punishment for missing a weightlifting session.

Ambles compounded that mistake by skipping Saturday's scrimmage at the Coliseum, giving coach Lane Kiffin no clue as to his whereabouts.

But Ambles was back at practice, contrite and ready to move forward.

"Saturday I just made a poor decision by not coming. I wish I would have came and just trying to get over it and get back to football," he said.

Ambles said he neglected to tell coaches about a wisdom tooth that was bothering him, leading to the missed lifting.

"I need to communicate better with my coaches and everything will be alright."

Kiffin accepted Ambles' apology, although not unconditionally.

"He made a mistake. He's a freshman. We hope that he continues to grow and learn from his mistakes," Kiffin said.

"Obviously we didn't let him come right back in. He spent 2 ½ hours today doing a lot of things that I'm sure weren't very fun for him."

For a coach that has implemented a hard-line approach, almost bordering on zero tolerance at times, Kiffin said not all strikes are the same.

"There's no exact rules for it," he said. "So many kids do make it. The guy who was the MVP today, (running back) Curtis (McNeal), was about as bad as we've ever had when we got here as far as respect, doing things right, accountability. That's why he ended up being ineligible. He's night and day right now.

"It's really neat when they change. It's hard sometimes to give up on them, especially when you know the kids for a while and you know what they're going back to."

Kiffin already suspended Ambles last season.

Ambles announced his intention to transfer last winter, but was convinced by Kiffin to remain with the team.

And while he only caught one pass for three years as a true freshman, new wide receiver coach Ted Gilmore said Ambles' issues don't include his on-field performance.

"Football is not Markeith's problem, but what Markeith has got to understand is the things we do to put ourselves in position to play football," Gilmore said. "We got to earn that right to be out here on this field. It goes back to doing things right all the time, not some of the time, on the field as well as off.

"My message to Markeith is do right all the time."

McNeal Plays Through Pain
Running backs Dillon Baxter (high ankle sprain) and Marc Tyler (concussion) were sidelined Tuesday. McNeal almost joined them on the sidelines after hurting his back during Saturday's scrimmage.

Fortunately for the redshirt junior, he was able to play through it, breaking off several long runs to continue his strong spring showing.

"He messed up his back pretty bad Saturday, came in Sunday and got treatment and really could have been held from practice, but came out here and practiced extremely hard," Kiffin said. "As I've mentioned before, it would be great to get him eligible so he could help us on offense and special teams as well."

Academically ineligible last year, McNeal's status for the 2011 season will not be decided until the end of this semester.

McNeal and D.J. Morgan were the only available scholarship running backs available.

Baxter said he would try to play Saturday, but was more likely to return next week.

Scroggins Surges
Kiffin said redshirt freshman Jesse Scroggins has taken the lead over Max Wittek and Cody Kessler to be the backup quarterback.

"His numbers have been good, and he's getting a better command of the offense. Jesse's probably been one of the most improved guys through camp," Kiffin said.

Hot Reads
-Tight end Xavier Grimble (chest/shoulder) did not practice. Kiffin said he hoped to have him back by the end of the week.

-Safety T.J. McDonald (tooth) did not practice.

-Safety Drew McAllister (hip) was injured during practice.

-Tight end Christian Thomas returned to practice. He was held out of Saturday's scrimmage for academic reasons.

-Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Keith Rivers attended practice.

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