Auburn, Ala.--On one of the most anticipated days of Auburn’s bowl practice, the veterans watched the show as the redshirts and seldom-used players took center stage for a scrimmage on Tuesday afternoon at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
What they saw was domination by the defense, much to the liking of defensive coordinator David Gibbs and Terry Price, who was given the temporary assignment of defensive coordinator for the scrimmage.
“I saw a lot of young guys flying around out there, hitting people and having a lot of fun with a lot of hustle,” Gibbs said. “It looked like a lot of guys were making plays on defense. It’s a long season for the guys who haven’t been playing and it was good to see them get a chance to show what they can do. A lot of these guys will be counted on next year.”
The offense got two possessions starting at its own 25 and managed just one first down even though the offense got four downs to move the chains. The other three possessions were from offense’s10-yard line and there was just one first down on those three possessions.
Wide receivers coach Greg Knox and defensive ends coach Terry Price were very animated during up-tempo scrimmage that was physical.
“The kids had a really good time and they flew around out there,” said a smiling Price, who obviously enjoyed the way the defense pushed around the offense.
“Sitting out the whole year redshirting is tough on those guys,” Price noted “I have been there and done that so I know how tough it is. This scrimmage gave them a chance to go out there, fly around and use some of that pent up energy and get into a game time situation so they loved it. We enjoyed watching them go at it.
“It would be hard to say who as an individual caught my eye, but as a unit they were flying around and having fun. The whole defense looked fast and looked like they were having fun. They played fast and played hard.
“I would call it not only a dominating victory for the defense, I would say their offensive coordinator (Knox) got embarrassed on the home turf,” Price said with a laugh. “Defense wins, Coach Knox loses, I win the matchup--again. We are going to have a rematch in Orlando and I will beat him twice as bad next time.”
All-American offensive tackle Marcus McNeill wore the jersey of tailback Tre Smith during Tuesday's practice. A variety of players swapped jerseys for the workout.
The older players set the tone after working out themselves for more than hour. Receiver Anthony Mix started leading cheers during the warmups prior to the scrimmaging, yelling to his teammates, ‘Let’s get up for a bodygetta.” Another Tiger yelled out, ‘This side of the stadium is blue, this side is orange.”
Cornerback Jerraud Powers, who made one of the best plays of the scrimmage deflecting a deep pass from Calvin Booker to Montez Billings, said, “We came in to Auburn together and we are close friends. I have got bragging rights on him now. There was already a lot of talk about the scrimmage afterwards in the locker room. The defense won this battle, but we will have another tough one with the offense next week. I am sure they will be ready and bounce back.”
Defensive players come off the sidelines to congratulate their teammates for a stop against the offense.
Booker admitted his guys were taken to the woodshed in the scrimmage. “It was probably the first time I knew more than everybody else on the field with me,” Booker said of the makeshift lineup that featured cornerback Anthony Campbell and walk-ons as the running backs.
“That D-line, Sen’Derrick Marks, Antonio Coleman, Alonzo Horton, they were coming man,” Booker said. “I had to tell them one time, ‘Man if you get back here don’t touch me.’ It was fun though. A lot of guys, we haven’t scrimmaged for real since the summer.
“We are going to have to get in the classroom and learn some more routes and some plays or something,” Booker added. “We kept it too basic. We are going to have to run a flea-flicker or something.
“The defense blitzed a couple of times, but I couldn’t audible because we really don’t know what we are doing. We had to keep everything basic and Coach Price was out there yelling like he was the play clock. As soon as we would leave on the huddle, he was on three going down.”
Head coach Tommy Tuberville and the other coaches said they would have to watch the video to single out the top performers, but linebacker Tray Blackmon was an obvious standout and had the big hit of the scrimmage. Powers, and the defensive linemen played well, including walk-on Nathan Farrow, who had a couple of nice hits and a fumble recovery, the only turnover of the scrimmage. Linebacker Patrick Trahan got a sack.
Offensively, tight end Gabe McKenzie caught a 10-yard pass from Booker on the first play. He also caught an 11-yard pass for another first down. About the only running yardage the offense managed were scrambles by Booker.
The Tigers return to practice on Wednesday and then will be off until a Dec. 27th practice in Orlando for the Capital One Bowl.
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