"I think this is going to be a football team that our fans will like," says Tuberville, whose Tigers will open the season on Sept. 2nd with a national television date in Los Angeles vs. the Southern Cal Trojans. The Auburn coach says he likes the team's attitude and the work ethic it has shown going back to winter workouts and spring training. The Tigers begin full squad two-a-days with workouts at 7 a.m. and 4:45 p.m. on Thursday, August 8th. The first practice of the preseason is a freshman only session at 8 a.m. on Monday, August 5th.
Dontarrious Thomas (54) is shown during a spring practice drill along with senior cornerback Roderick Hood (36).
Tuberville says that he is excited about the 2002 linebackers. Thomas, a 6-4, 234-pound junior from Perry, Ga., led the Tigers with 122 tackles last season as he earned second team All-SEC honors. He is expected to be joined in the starting lineup by senior Mark Brown and junior Karlos Dansby. Both players were impressive in spring drills as they finished first team on the depth chart ahead of a trio of freshmen--Antarrious Williams, Travis William and Lemarcus Rowell plus sophomores Mayo Sowell and Derrick Graves.
"This is a real good group," Tuberville says. "They have got potential to be a great group--not just the first group, but also the backups. We have got speed, we have got size and we have got height. I thought their tackling was excellent in spring practice. We were a lot more physical. We looked like we played with more reckless abandon."
Tuberville calls Thomas an excellent pass defender, a good pass rusher and a "great tackler." Known as "DT" to his teammates, Thomas was a Freshman All-SEC selection in 2000.
Diamond, a 6-3, 258-pound returning starter, heads a talented group of tight ends that includes junior 6-7, 270-pound junior Robert Johnson and 6-3, 252-pound redshirt freshman Cooper Wallace. Johnson is making a strong recovery from offseason wrist surgery and is a talented receiver as is Wallace, who won praise from new offensive coordinator Bobby Petrino for strong play in spring drills.
Diamond caught 10 passes for 105 yards and one touchdown last season in 10 starts. Those numbers are expected to improve with Petrino likely to call more passing routes for the tight ends. In three seasons, Diamond has 39 catches for the Tigers.