"It was a good day," Tuberville said. "The offense really looked good. We're starting to get our draw and screen package in and the execution was excellent. The defense had something to do with that as we went out and kind of stood around today. It was a poor practice by the defense playing and coaching. We just didn't look very good. It looked like we were waiting on somebody else to make a play.
"We didn't get very much better defensively. A lot of that had to do with the offense executing. I think the defense kind of got off guard a little bit knowing that now they're not going to see just four or five passing plays and four or five running plays. They've got to understand that there's going to be screens and draws run and reverses."
Taking advantage of the strengths of the running backs now on campus, offensive coordinator Al Borges has installed more screens and draws to take advantage of the good hands and quickness of backs like Tre Smith and Kenny Irons. The plays worked to perfection much of the day as several went for big gainers, including two to Smith that would have been touchdowns in a game situation. Tuberville said that the offense came to play on Thursday and gave the defense something to think about heading into Saturday's second scrimmage of the spring.
"Anytime you have a good screen and draw package, which we do, I think the type of backs we had last year and this year really makes it go," Tuberville said. "It slows your rush down. Our ends are good at getting a lot of rush so this is really going to help our offense with the scheme they run. We didn't have any of that in last scrimmage. I think this scrimmage coming up will be a little bit different. It's going to make them slow down and read their keys instead of just turning loose every play."
Anthony Campbell returns a punt during Thursday's practice. Campbell is in line to be Auburn's punt returner next fall as well as a second-team cornerback.
In addition to the short game, the quarterbacks also threw the ball well down the field. Both Brandon Cox and Blake Field were singled out by Tuberville as having good days. Cox was on target to Courtney Taylor and Devin Aromashodu for big gainers while Field ran the offense smoothly and threw the ball well. Throw in the distraction of working with a new center and Tuberville said the day was a good one for his quarterbacks.
"I thought Brandon really threw the ball well," Tuberville said. "I thought Blake Field did (throw the ball well). Blake threw the ball well. We're making progress on offense. It was a good day. Jonathan Palmer, we moved him to center, he really looked good. Joe Cope turned his ankle at the end of practice and hopefully he can come back tomorrow because we're running a little low on centers."
Cope wasn't the only injury up front as guard Tim Duckworth was one of the several players that missed Thursday's practice. While a virus has made the rounds on the team Duckworth had a muscle spasm in his neck during a class on Thursday and was held out of practice. Tuberville said that he hopes Duckworth will return to the practice field on Friday.
Offensively it was just another in a long stretch of days where they added new material to the package. Continuously throwing in plays and formations designed to strengthen the total package, the offense is growing every day and Tuberville said it's already farther along than any offense he can remember seeing this early in the spring.
"I have never been around a football team that put this much in, in the spring, on offense," Tuberville said. "Our young guys are handling it pretty well. We're making some mistakes, but I think it will be good in the long run. We're just trying to see how much these young quarterbacks can handle." Auburn will practice Friday afternoon and scrimmage Saturday morning at 10. They will do so in front of around 70 SEC officials that will be in town for two days as part of their training for the 2005 season. Tuberville said he's looking forward to having the officials in town and hopefully it can be beneficial for both the officials and his team.
"It's their workshop," Tuberville said. "They go to a different school every spring and this is our spring to have them. We look forward to them coming in and communicating with the coaches and players. I'm sure they'll get something out of it and I hope we can get something out of it just by having officials out there."