Tigers Name Backup QB Following Wednesday Practice

Starter Brandon Cox

Coach Tommy Tuberville said that the coaching staff had decided who will back-up starting quarterback Brandon Cox in the opener against Georgia Tech.

Auburn, Ala.–-Wednesday was D-Day for backup quarterbacks Blake Field and Calvin Booker as the coaches made their final decision just before the players went out for the afternoon practice. Coach Tommy Tuberville said that after watching and evaluating the entire preseason it came down to a matter of consistency between the two.

"Today we named Blake Field our backup quarterback for the first game," Tuberville said. "There was a lot of competition and both players got a lot better as two-a-days went on. It was fun to watch. It could change during the season, but right now Blake's got a pretty good handle.

"Calvin did a good job, but again we have to take somebody and make them the second team quarterback and give them all the reps with the second team. That's the way we'll go into this first game.

"He (Blake) was just more consistent," Tuberville added. "With both of them there's not a lot of difference in ability, he just seemed to grasp more of the offense and be a little bit more consistent. We're going to go with Blake and see what happens. It could change as the season goes."

Blake Field has improved dramatically since the spring when he struggled to pick up the offense.

While the backup news dominated Wednesday's practice, there was also some good news on the offensive line as center Steven Ross was back full speed and Tuberville said he looked good. Ross and Jonathan Palmer split the number two reps at center while Palmer also got some work at right guard. Joe Cope remains the number one center, but is being pushed heavily by both players.

Wednesday was the last day the first team offense will work extensively against the first team defense prior to the season opener. Beginning Thursday, on both sides of the ball the first and second teams will work against scout teams in preparation for the season opener against Georgia Tech on Sept. 3. With a spirited team session that included a strong goal line period, Tuberville said the practice closed out a solid preparation stretch for his team.

"It was a real good day," Tuberville said. "It was basically the last day we're going to go against each other for kind of the two-a-day scheme. Tomorrow we start on Georgia Tech almost full time. We'll do a little bit of cross-over with the offense against the defense, but this kind of wraps it up.

"We made a lot of progress, but we've got a long ways to go. Now we have to put in our game plan and start perfecting it. We'll start tomorrow and see where we end up. We've got a lot of guys beat up, but we're in pretty good shape considering we've gone about 22 practices."

The practice featured something that Tuberville likes to do at the end of a long day and that was the pressure field goal. At the closing of the two-hour practice the team was called up and kicker John Vaughn was called on to kick a 48-yard field goal as time expired. With the team counting out the clock and rooting on the junior, he nailed the first attempt, only to have to repeat it. Without missing a beat he followed his first with another successful boot that easily would have been good from 55 yards.

Defensively, the Tigers had a solid day and continue to be aided with the return of defensive ends Stanley McClover and Marquies Gunn. Coordinator David Gibbs said that overall he's pleased with where his group is, but he knows they need to improve before they face Georgia Tech.

"Going up against our offense every day is a challenge," Gibbs said. "They're good and they're talented. We have to step up every day at practice so that's going to be good for us in the long run. You're never ready, but you have to keep fighting and keep practicing. Now it's time to focus on Georgia Tech and that's what we've got to do. We're making progress every day and we've got to keep making progress because we're not a finished product by any means."

The Tigers will practice Thursday and Friday before taking Saturday off. They will return to practice Sunday and normal game week in preparation for the season opener on Sept. 3 against Georgia Tech.

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