Players to Miss Early Practices

Auburn, Ala.--Although preseason football practice gets started on Wednesday, not everybody will be immediately ready for action.

That was the word from head coach Tommy Tuberville at Auburn's preseason football press conference. Tuberville says that two projected starters, senior kicker John Vaughn and junior offensive tackle King Dunlap, are out of town following deaths in their families.

A pair of incoming freshmen linemen, defensive tackle Jermarcus Ricks and defensive end Darrell Roseman, are expected to miss practice until all of their paperwork is approved by both AU interim president Dr. Ed Richardson and SEC Commissioner Mike Slive.

"We have a new rule in the SEC that anybody, basically, who is late getting in has to clear through your president's office and go through the SEC Office. Commissioner Slive has to sign off on it. I think that was passed in May by our presidents so he won't practice today nor will Darrell Roseman, under the same situation, who is also cleared the clearinghouse. He just needs to be cleared by our president and by Commissioner Slive. Other than that, everybody is present and accounted for.

"We have got a lot of bright-eyed players, especially the younger guys," Tuberville adds. "They are anxious to get out there and put a helmet on and start understanding what Auburn football is all about and the SEC."

With summer session final exams taking place this week, Tuberville says around a dozen Tigers will miss Wednesday's workout and more will be out on Thursday.

One of the players who is getting ready to go through his fifth preseason, offensive tackle Jonathan Palmer, says he is eager to put the pads on as a redshirt senior. A player who has seen action at both guards spots, both tackle positions and center, he is projected to start at right tackle this fall. He is also expected to take some snaps at center to be available to play that position if needed.

Jonathan Palmer is shown during a summer workout.

"I am definitely excited about the opportunity," Palmer says. "Every day this summer I have been excited. I can't wait to get out there on the field and get started."

Palmer says his final Auburn team has promise on offense. "We have a lot of experience on the line and in other key positions so I think we are going to be strong again this year."

Tuberville says the early emphasis at practice will be to spend extra time with the newcomers and teach the basics. The Tigers will practice in shorts until Sunday when the full pads go on and the first scrimmage work will be next Thursday or Friday, Tuberville says.

In other news:

*The Tigers head into the preseason in good shape on the injury front. Offensive tackle King Dunlap is recovering from a hamstring problem, but is expected to practice when he returns home from attending a family funeral.

*Tuberville says that senior running back Tre Smith looks quicker and should be able to be a larger factor in the offense this season.

*The coach says that true freshman tailback Ben Tate will get some work with the first and second teams in preseason. He practiced with the Tigers in the spring after graduating early from high school. "Ben could be a factor for us," Tuberville says.

*The Tigers traditionally play a four-man defensive front, but are expected to mix in a three-man front style this year with new coordinator Will Muschamp running the defense. With the Tigers having to replace starters Tommy Jackson at noseguard and tackle Wayne Dickens, Tuberville says, "Probably the defensive line situation is the area that will determine how much four-man front we play and how much three-man front."

*Suspended linebackers Kevin Sears and Tray Blackmon will practice, Tuberville says. Blackmon works at weakside and Sears moved to the middle in spring drills.

*Tuberville has these comments on finding starters at the two safety positions. Will Herring, a three-year starter at free safety, is the projected started at strongside linebacker. Steve Gandy, who shared the starting duties with Eric Brock last season, is moving to weakside linebacker.

"There is a real good sense of urgency in the safety position," Tuberville says. "Knowing that Washington State is going to throw the ball a lot, we have got to find some guys we are confident with. With some linebackers not playing in the first game, Steve Gandy is going to move up and play full-time linebacker so that takes a guy away that has played a little bit of safety in the past. Eric Brock obviously is a guy that has been there and knows a little more about it than the younger players.

"Aairon Savage moved back (from cornerback), and he is very close to being a starter. Tristan Davis had a very good spring after moving from running back. We have a lot of scenarios we are going to look at during the three days without pads, because the non-pad days are more mental days than they are physical. So we want to see how much they have retained since spring practice, and how much they can add on to what we are going to do going into the season, but that's a major question mark for us. I wish it was answered. It's kind of like starting a new quarterback, you just have to wait and see who pans out in two-a-days and who earns the spots."

2006 Inside the Auburn Tigers Auburn Football Guide

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