Auburn, Ala.--Brandon Cox and the first team offense were the stars of Auburn’s second preseason scrimmage and that isn’t sitting well with the defensive coaching staff.
Don Dunn and Terry Price, who direct the defensive tackles and ends, were so upset that their guys lost too many battles on the line of scrimmage that they kept them a half hour after the scrimmage for extra conditioning drills.
Defensive coordinator David Gibbs was not happy, either. He had almost nothing good to say about the guys on his side of the ball even though the defense had more success in the second half of the scrimmage than it did in the first half.
“We couldn't get off the field and I think that is a credit to our offense,” Gibbs said. “I think our kids played hard. Right now we are just swimming and we are not executing. We will get on the same page. We have got a couple of weeks to go and we will get on the same page, but right now we have got some work to do.”
One of the few highlights on defense was the play of Sen’Derrick Marks, the true freshman lineman who capped a strong second week of practice with an impressive day stopping the run and pressuring quarterbacks. Gibbs said he was impressed.
“Number 94 keeps showing up out there and if he keeps showing up he will be on the field,” said Gibbs. “Some guys get out there and get tired and they never show up, but he seems to show up no matter if it is practice or a scrimmage.”
Dunn said that Wayne Dickens, who opened the scrimmage as the number one defensive tackle, will have to work his way back up the depth chart after a disappointing performance on a hot and muggy day. The defensive tackles coach said that Marks will probably be running with the first team for Sunday’s 4:30 p.m. practice.
Gibbs said that the offense made too many big plays in the “closed” scrimmage at which scholarship donors were invited to attend. “Anytime your one defense gives up that many plays it is disappointing,” the defensive coordinator and secondary coach said. “I thought that the younger guys are getting better and the backups are getting better. We have just got to get our ones on the same page.
Freshman tight end Tommy Trott makes a catch and is hit by CB Zach Gilbert and safety Steve Gandy.
Cox, who hit 7-9 passes in the first half of the scrimmage, finished with 13-19 for 188 yards with three touchdowns and one interception that wasn’t his fault on a pass that Will Herring caught after it rebounded off a would-be receiver Prechae Rodriguez.
Calvin Booker was 5-8 for 55 yards and one touchdown. Blake Field was 2-4 for 15 yards and no scores or picks.
Head coach Tommy Tuberville said, “It was an excellent day for practice. We needed this hot weather. It was one of the few hot practices we have had and I thought our guys pushed through hard.
“There were a lot of good things. Obviously, one was watching the quarterback and offense move. We are starting to get some rhythm and starting to make some plays. They are not going against the second team defense. They are going against the first team defense and earning what they get.”
“We are still making some mistakes mentally on defense that are giving us some problems,” Tuberville added. “We have got to get some guys back healthy on defense. It was good to see some consistency out of the offense, especially considering last spring we didn’t do a whole lot.”
Three Tigers were injured in the scrimmage. Redshirt freshman Merrill Johnson suffered a dislocated elbow early in the session at the intramural fields. He is expected to be out of action for three to four weeks.
Two Tigers were taken by ambulance to East Alabama Center after going down in a collision. The initial report on senior receiver Anthony Mix, who took a blow to the stomach, is that he is fine. He crashed into cornerback David Irons, who suffered bruised ribs.
Cornerback David Irons (4) makes a tackle on tight end Cooper Wallace.
Mix made one of the best plays of the scrimmage prior to going down with his injury, breaking tackles and fighting for extra yards on a pass reception.
Tuberville was pleased with the work of field goal kicker John Vaughn, who nailed a 51-yarder during the scrimmage and made all of his tries in the kicking practice portion of the scrimmage.
“We still have a lot of work to do, but hopefully this was a scrimmage we will got a lot from because the film is really going to tell the tale,” the head coach said.
Tuberville also had praised for Cox. “Brandon is a good quarterback. We all know that. He is going to be able to do well and move the football team and score some points. The big thing about the quarterbacks, the new guys, is consistency. I thought he was a little bit better today than he was earlier in the week in the first scrimmage. He was a lot more consistent today. He is getting a little bit more handle of the offense. His checks were good.”
Cox, who was smiling broadly after the scrimmage, said that he feels good about what happened. “I thought we did a good job moving the football,” he said. “I think we have improved since preseason practice started and I think this was probably our best day.”
The redshirt sophomore said he felt good about reading the defense and the way he threw the ball.
Blake Field got the second chance at quarterback on Saturday, working with the number two offense. Field said he is disappointed. “I know I didn’t play as well as I should have,” he said. “I have been doing well in practice this week, but it didn’t happen for me out there today.”
AU’s other backup QB, Calvin Booker, was more upbeat after having an off week throwing the ball. “I think I made a lot of progress today,” he said. “I know I missed some things out there today and I am disappointed to get down in the red zone and not score (fourth down pass in the end zone was overthrown), but we moved the ball pretty well out there today.
“I am going to study what happened in the scrimmage and see where I need to make improvements and keep working at getting better,” said Booker, who also got to work with the second offense.
Offensive coordinator Al Borges said he saw some encouraging signs, especially with the first team quarterback. “For the most part, Brandon is on schedule. He understands what we want.” Asked about the backups, Borges said they haven’t separated yet. “I don’t have an answer,” he said. “It is still up in the air, but we have got make a decision in about a week.”
Devin Aromashodu is shown scoring the first touchdown on Saturday. The senior is having a strong preseason, Al Borges says.
There were five TDs in the scrimmage. The first was an 18-yard TD catch by Devin Aromashodu from Cox to cap a six-play, 70-yard drive to start the scrummage. A 30-yard pass to tight end Cooper Wallace set up the TD.
Vaughn nailed a 51-yard field goal for the second score after a drive covered just six yards in three plays.
The next TD was a six-yard run at left tackle by tailback Kenny Irons, who capped a six-play, 40-yard drive.
Fullback Jake Slaughter caught a six-yard TD pass in the end zone from Cox for score. That drive covered 15 yards in three plays.
Split end Prechae Rodriguez dropped a pair of passes in the scrimmage, but held on for a 15-yard TD pass from Cox on a one-play possession as the Tigers worked on their red zone offense and defense.
Booker and the backups scored in two plays from 15 yards out as he hit freshman tight end Gabe McKenzie on a 15-yard pass play.
Aromashodu led all receivers with three catches for 46 yards while Mix had two for 44 and Wallace two for 41.
Tristan Davis, working with the second and third offense, had 36 net yards on 16 carries to lead the rushers. He was moved from safety to tailback after Tre Smith had surgery that has kept the junior out of contact drills. Smith, the expected starter, is expected back to full speed soon. Irons had 11 yards on nine carries and Carl Stewart 10 yards on seven carries.
Tray Blackmon, playing with the reserves, was the leading tackler with five stops. Quentin Groves, David Irons, Steve Gandy, Kevin Hobbs, Tommy Jackson and Josh Thmopson had four apiece.
Rushing: Kenny Irons, 9-11, 1 TD; Tristan Davis, 16-36; Carl Stewart, 7-10; Andrew Turman, 1-1; Brandon Cox, 1-2; Calvin Booker, 1-7; Blake Field, 3-(-17).
Passing: Brandon Cox, 13-19-0, 188, 3 TD; Calvin Booker, 5-8-0, 55, 1 TD; Field, 2-4-0, 15.
Receiving: Devin Aromashodu 3-46, 1 TD; Anthony Mix, 2-44; Cooper Wallace, 2-41; Tommy Trott, 2-25; Prechae Rodriguez, 2-19; Robert Dunn, 2-17; Gabe McKenzie, 1-15; Cole Bennett, 1-12; Ben Obomanu, 1-8; Jake Slaughter, 1-6, 1 TD.
Tackles: Tray Blackmon 1-4; Quinton Groves 3-1; David Irons 2-2; Steve Gandy 2-2; Kevin Hobbs 1-3; Tommy Jackson 2-2; Sen’Derrick Marks 2-2; Josh Thompson 2-2; Eric Brock 2-1; Kyle Derozan 2-1; Travis Williams 1-2; Will Herring 1-2; Tony Bell 1-2; Montae Pitts 2-0; Tez Doolittle 2-0; Kevis Burnam 1-1; Courtney Harden 1-1; Zach Gilbert 0-2; Octavius Balkcom 0-2; Patrick Lee 1-0; Karibi Dede 1-0; Chris Evans 1-0; Chris Browder 1-0; Wayne Dickens 1-0; Aairon Savage 0-1; Lorenzo Ferguson 0-1; Kevin Sears 0-1; Antonio Coleman 0-1.
Tackles for Loss: Josh Thompson 3.5-13; Octavius Balcom 2-12; Kyle Derozan 2.5-7; Sen’Derrick Marks 2-6; Chris Browder 1-8; Savage .5-1.