“I am very excited about my opportunity,” says Smith, who participated in Auburn’s lightest practice of the spring on Friday evening, a session that was a tune-up for a major scrimmage scheduled for Saturday.
“I definitely want to step up and take the job that Courtney Taylor had last year as the go-to guy,” Smith says. “I want to prove to prove Brandon Cox that I can make the play for him.”
Smith has been Cox’s favorite target so far this spring as the Tigers, who finished their ninth spring training session, head into their second major scrimmage of the spring that is scheduled for Saturday shortly after 10 a.m. at Jordan-Hare Stadium. The practice is open to fans who can enter the stadium through the east or west gates.
Smith caught a touchdown pass from Cox in last Saturday’s scrimmage and has probably been the most impressive receiver on the field this year.
“Every day I just want to go in and make plays,” Smith says. “I tried to do that last year. This year it is an opportunity for me to step up and be more of a leader.
“Last year Courtney Taylor was our leader,” Smith points out. “I talked with Coach (receivers coach Greg Knox) about that. I know what I can do out on the field. He wants me to help the younger guys step up and help the team more. We are going to need them this season.”
Smith, who is currently 6-2, 186 pounds, says he is stronger than he was last year after winter workouts. He points out that after spring training is completed he will concentrate on speed workouts.
“I think I run pretty good routes,” Smith says. “I can make plays on the ball. I think I have got pretty good hands. Talking with Coach Knox, my speed is the biggest area for me to improve.”
On the subject of improved play, so far this spring that has been the case with Cox. The quarterback has bounced back nicely from his injury-plagued junior season and has been throwing the football better than ever. “He is doing a great job out there,” Smith says. “He is scrambling out of the pocket and making plays. That is what we need out of him.”
Friday’s practice for Smith, Cox and the other Tigers was in helmets and shorts. The focus of the hour and 45-minute session was brushing up on assignments for Saturday’s scrimmage. A week ago the defense held the upper hand in scrimmage one and has generally outplayed the offense throughout the nine days of spring practice that are already in the books.
Brandon Cox and the Tigers had a light workout Friday evening.
A walk-on with a familiar name has rejoined the team as an offensive guard. Rude Odom, a 2005 Auburn signee from Fontainebleau High in Mandeville, La., had left the team for health reasons (high blood pressure) and to work on his grades while staying in school at AU. With his blood pressure regulated, he decided to make a comeback as a walk-on and spent three hours on Thursday learning the guard assignments before returning to practice.
“The doctors finally cleared him and his parents are here,” Tuberville says. “That is the first time I have seen them in a while. He has just got a lot of work to do. He had some healthy issues and decided to give it up last year and has decided to walk on.”
Odom says, “I missed it this whole year, but I finally got back out here and it feels good. I have always wanted to come back.”
Rudy Odom is shown at Friday evening's practice.
The lineman, who is backing up both guard spots, says he currently weighs 305 pounds and is six-foot-five.
Tuberville says he wishes that all of his players would be available for Saturday’s scrimmage, but that is not expected to be the case. “It is a very important scrimmage for a lot of these young guys tomorrow. It is important to get something done to find out where we are at. We probably have seven or eight guys who won’t practice, but there is not anything we can do about that.”
Wide receiver Robert Dunn (hamstring) saw some action at practice on Friday, but is doubtful for the scrimmage. The same is true of linebacker Merrill Johnson (calf muscle injury). Sen’Derrick Marks (high ankle sprain) is expected to join fellow defensive tackle Jermarcus Ricks (knee) on the list of players who are out for the rest of the spring. Tailback Mario Fannin, who was hurt in last week’s scrimmage, returned to practice on Friday and could see some action.
Commenting on plans for the scrimmage, Tuberville says, “We are going to work on the kicking game, we are going to work on situations and we are going to work on endurance, but the main thing we are going to work on is technique and fundamentals which we weren’t very good on last week. Our effort was good, but execution dropped. Our technique on the offensive line, heck, we didn’t average 60 percent across the line of scrimmage and you can’t beat too many people doing that. That’s youth. That’s the reason you practice.”
In other news:
*Tuberville says there could be as many 300 junior prospects and suspects visiting Saturday’s scrimmage, which is week two of Auburn’s three junior days for underclassmen. The third one will be for the March 17th A-Day Game.
*Saturday’s scrimmage is expected to be about 120 plays and Tuberville says the players have a curfew so they will be rested and ready to perform. The coach says the Tigers will have a half scrimmage prior to next week’s A-Day game.
*Ryan Shoemaker had a good day punting the ball and the Tigers also worked on kickoff returns and coverage.
*Coaches from Western Kentucky University were at practice on Friday watching the Tigers work out.
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