News of the day, 8/7
Dr. William Walker, former Auburn president, died this morning. He was 69. Many athletics fans will remember Walker as the man who led the clandestine search for coach Tommy Tuberville's successor in 2003. That tumult resulted in his resignation a few months later. Long before then, Walker was a dean and provost who affected several positive changes in the College of Engineering. Colleagues on Tuesday described Walker as a brilliant engineer who rarely lost an argument.
We'll have a more thorough look at Walker's tenure in Wednesday's editions of the Advertiser.
Here's what's happening with football:
Steve Gandy, whose difficult medical situation is making headlines this morning, has decided to end his football career. Tommy Tuberville made that announcement today. Gandy is a vicious hitter whose body failed him. I liked watching him play. He'll remain on scholarship and will help coach the linebackers this season. Gandy is on schedule to graduate during the next nine months.
Chris Slaughter, all 160 pounds of him, participated in his first practice. The NCAA mandates that players receive a five-day acclimation period before wearing pads. So Slaughter was in a t-shirt and shorts.
He listened to play calls in the huddle, then backed away and players took the positions. Slaughter doesn't know the playbook. He hasn't been here. He's already five days behind in practice, which is a lot. I suspect he's headed for a redshirt season.
He's wearing the No. 2 jersey.
Center Ryan Pugh missed a second day or work because of an ankle injury. He isn't a threat to start, but he's one heck of a player. Auburn fans need to know who he is.
I thought Oscar Gonzalez was better today at right tackle -- a spot of contention right now -- though I still believe Mike Berry will be the opening-day starter.
The team held some get-off drills during the early portion of practice. It pitted offensive and defensive players in one-on-one situations to see who could fire off more authoritatively, then see who could push whom.
Things looked bad for tackle Andrew McCain, who was paired with linebacker Tray Blackmon at one point. Blackmon shucked the burly lineman aside without much effort. Offensive line coach Hugh Nall demanded that Blackmon "get on him and kick his (rear)" if McCain failed again. Linebackers coach James Willis quickly subbed out Blackmon with Merrill Johnson, who received the same instructions from Nall.
Johnson went easy on McCain. Johnson was met with a dirty look from Nall and an earful from Willis.
In the same drill, tailback Mario Fannin manhandled Blackmon. Twenty minutes later during an 11-on-11 drill, Blackmon unloaded a helmet-to-helmet hit on Fannin as retribution. Fannin laughed as ran along the defensive sideline, saying "That's his hardest one, too."
Perhaps as a third act to this play, lineman King Dunlap unloaded a memorable hit on Blackmon moments later. During a sweep play, the 6-foot-8 tackle bent down to Blackmon's level (he's 5-11), powered into the lineman's chest and knocked him upward. The force popped Blackmon straight up, which took him out of position to make the play.
Dunlap added some choice words afterward. Blackmon was an attentive listener.
There were more one-on-one linemen drills today. Let's take a look:
Sen'Derrick Marks (94) vs. King Dunlap (77) -- even, even.
Mike Blanc (93) vs. Ty Green (71) -- 93, 71
Josh Thompson (97) vs. Mike Berry (66) -- 97, 97. Brute strength.
Pat Sims (95) vs. Nate Farrow (65) -- 95, 95. Not a fair match-up.
Mike Goggans (49) vs. Andrew McCain (75) -- 49, 75, 75.
A.J. Greene (90) vs. Antwoin Daniels (70) -- 90, 90. A surprise.
Bryant Miller (51) vs. Byron "Ice" Isom (57) -- even, 57. I really like Isom.
Tez Doolittle (99) vs. Jackson Timmerman (64) -- 99. No need for additional match-ups.
**Darrell Roseman (41) vs. Bart Eddins (53) -- 41 (offside), 41, even.
Quentin Groves (54) vs. Oscar Gonzalez (78) -- 78, 78, 78. How's that for improvement?
Brandon Haley (93) vs. Jared Cooper (79) -- 79, even, 79. Another nice day for Cooper.
Greene (90) vs. Chaz Ramsey (76) -- 90, 90, 90.
Roseman (41) vs. Rudy Odom (69) -- 69, 69. First time I've seen Odom.
Antonio Carter (45) vs. Lee Ziemba (73) -- even, even, 45.
Bart Eddins was beaten the first time because Darrell Roseman jumped offside, yet continued with the play and knocked Eddins backward. Said offensive line coach Hugh Nall: "There was a day here when that would be a fight."
Moments later, disgusted in general, Nall said to nobody in particular: "No replace. No punch. No travel. No playing time." Players who heard the comment were laughing quietly with their heads turned.