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News of the day, 8/11

Hey everyone. Auburn held a 120-play scrimmage at Jordan-Hare this morning. The press wasn't allowed in, so all information below was gleaned from people who were there.

Auburn received some bad injury news on Saturday. DT Tez Doolittle, the team's most valuable defensive line reserve and a fifth-year senior, will miss the season with a torn Achilles tendon. Just an awful situation for Tez, who had completely revitalized his career of late after a difficult start during the early days.

TB Tristan Davis is out at least six weeks after breaking a toe. He underwent surgery this morning to insert a pin into the toe. That means Auburn is down to three tailbacks (Carl Stewart and Davis now are out), which is an interesting development. Sounds like Mario Fannin will take over for Davis on kickoff returns.

QB Neil Caudle injured his throwing shoulder during the scrimmage today. Reports vary on how it happened. Coach Tommy Tuberville said he didn't think it was a particularly serious situation. Of course, he said that about Tez yesterday.

UPDATE: Tuberville said: ``It's one of those deals that's going to knock him way behind." That doesn't sound good.

QB Kodi Burns, a true freshman, dazzled observers at the scrimmage. He apparently showed unusual speed and arm strength. More important, he approached difficult situations calmly and made plays. I think he has a real shot at emerging as the No. 2 guy if Caudle's injury is serious. The coaching staff, Tuberville in particular, is intrigued by Burns' skill set.

Auburn initially chose to take Sunday off, but now will practice beginning at 7 p.m. I'm not a coach and don't pretend to be one. I'll just say that I'm surprised at how rigorous the team's practice schedule has been. Brandon Cox said today that he looked in the eyes of his linemen today and saw a lot of tired faces.


Today's Montgomery-to-Auburn gas prices:
in Montgomery: Raceway (East Blvd.) is $2.66/gal.
in Auburn: Spectrum (Shug Jordan Pkwy. & Wire) is $2.55/gal.

News of the day, 8/10

Hey everyone. First off, I have to say Happy Anniversary to m'lady. I'm married to a saint. She now has tolerated me officially for 10 years. Thanks, Courtney, for being my most loyal blog reader.

And all the other cool stuff you are.


On with the news at hand. Auburn held a fairly short morning practice today in preparation for its first fall scrimmage on Saturday. This was the hottest morning here in a while. Strength coach Kevin Yoxall said he knew at 4:30 a.m. that it was going to be bad out there. "I usually get out early and I think it's cool. I got out this morning and it was hot ... at 4:30. It's going up from there."

Here are the salient points:
Tuberville said afterward that Auburn doesn't have a No. 1 tailback right now. That came as a surprise to TB Brad Lester, who thought he was that guy. The truth is that coaches are looking for someone to challenge Lester. Mario Fannin? Ben Tate? This is their chance.

DT Tez Doolittle went down during pass-rush drills with what I thought was a nasty Achilles injury. I swear I heard a pop. Inside The Auburn Tigers scribe Jason Caldwell thought the same thing. Doolittle is supposed to be getting some exams today to determine the injury's severity. It looked really bad. Defensive line coach Don Dunn is worried. Even if the tendon isn't torn, this is the kind of injury that lingers.

RT Lee Ziemba didn't have a great day. He was offside on two consecutive plays during an 11-on-11 drill in anticipation of DE Quentin Groves' speed rush. It's telling, at least to me, that coach Hugh Nall doesn't totally berate Ziemba when he makes mistakes. Ziemba's effort almost always is high. I think Nall is willing to deal with some rookie mistakes in exchange for consistent effort.

QB Blake Field didn't practice today because of what Tuberville said was shoulder soreness. Based on what I have seen, I don't think Field is going to be in the quarterback picture this season. I believe redshirt freshman Neil Caudle is ahead of him now for sure, and true freshman Kodi Burns probably is as well.

Today wasn't as good as Thursday for pure verbal entertainment, but here are the highlights.

  • After cornerback Jonathan Wilhite made an outstanding play to knock a ball away from WR Robert Dunn during 11-on-11s. The effort drew praise from offensive coordinator Al Borges: "Jae, that's really nice work." Assistant coach Greg Knox quickly followed up with: "Yea, Wilhite, that was a great play." It's rare that coaches from the other side of the ball take time to compliment players.

  • After DT Sen'Derrick Marks dominated Ziemba during a pass-rush drill, Dunn wasn't satisfied with Marks' slow jog back across the line of scrimmage: ``Finish the drill! Good job, but you need to be a complete player."

  • Yoxall on LB Tray Blackmon: ``If you cut him open, you'd find a whole lot of fast-twitch fibers. He's an athlete."

  • DT Kyle Coulahan took the ball away from QB Steven Ensminger during 11-on-11s and scored a touchdown. Coulahan's lumbering journey prompted Groves to begin signing part of Auburn's anthem: "War eagle, fly down the field!" he said.

  • After watching WR Chris Slaughter drop a pass during 11-on-11s, Groves was up to his usual tricks. "Welcome to Auburn," he said. ``This ain't Hargrave." That was a reference to Hargrave Military Academy, where Slaughter spent the 2006 season.

  • Defensive coordinator Will Muschamp to his players during 11-on-11s: "We're not just chopping the wood. We're using chainsaws."

The linemen held an abbreviated pass-rush drill today. Injuries were part of the problem. They also spent time working on their different fronts and schemes.

Quentin Groves (54) vs. King Dunlap (77) -- 54, 77.
Mike Blanc (93) vs. Ty Green (71) -- 71. Blanc can't push off with his right ankle.
Bryant Miller (51) vs. Green (71) -- 71.
Josh Thompson (97) vs. Jackson Timmerman (64) -- 97, 64. Bosley was at practice but didn't participate here.
Pat Sims (95) vs. Mike Berry (66) -- 95, even.
Sen'Derrick Marks (94) vs. Lee Ziemba (73) -- 94, 94.

Antonio Coleman (52) vs. Dunlap (77) -- 52, 52. Beat King with outside speed.
Miller (51) vs. Green (71) -- 71, 71.
Tez Doolittle (99) vs. Timmerman (64) -- 64. Tez was injured as Timmerman pancaked him.
Darrell Roseman (41) vs. Berry (66) -- 41, 66.
Mike Goggans (49) vs. Ziemba (73) -- 49, 49. Goggans can hit hard. He almost knocked Ziemba down the first time.

Antoine Carter (45) vs. Antwoin Daniels (70) -- 45, 45. Kid will be a player.
Courtney Harden (56) vs. Byron Isom (57) -- 57, even.
Miller (51) vs. Will Guth (51) -- even, Miller.

News of the day, 8/9

Hey everyone. Auburn started early this morning, 8:30 to be exact, and there was some fun stuff happening. I brought along my small camera and tried to take some pictures, including the one of Hugh Nall to the right. I need a bigger lens. Oh, and a shred of skill.

Today was a great day for material on the field.

  • DE Mike Goggans hit RT Oscar Gonzalez so hard in the chest that Gonzalez nearly left his feet. Assistant coach Hugh Nall's assessment: "That may be a moment in football history. Nobody's been that high before."

  • RG Leon Hart strugged during an 11-on-11 drill. Nall's loud assessment: "Why are you stopping? Get me another guard, right guard. We don't quit."

  • FB Danny Perry, after subbing out of an 11-on-11 drill, walked over to strength coach Kevin Yoxall and said: ``Pat Sims is a big dude."
    Yoxall's reply: "Yes, he is a large individual."

  • QB Steven Ensminger hesitated badly while calling an audible during the 11-on-11 drill. Offensive coordinator Al Borges said: "Call something! The clock is running!"

  • Coach Tommy Tuberville during the end-of-practice assembly: "The quarterbacks have to pick it up. You are a part of this team even though your name is in the paper everyday."

Tuberville added more criticism of the quarterbacks: "I'm going to have a little talk with them. We've got to have some leadership out of them. We're out here going through the motions and they need to be the leaders."

Brent Slusher now is working at linebacker after a, um, difficult week at defensive end. That's a nice way to put it. His body seems to fit the linebacker mold more closely.

Brad Lester played a more central role in practice. Since being banished to newcomer practices during the first three days of camp, Lester hadn't earned many 11-on-11 carries until today.

Here is the run-down from the morning 1-on-1 pass rush drills.

Sen'Derrick Marks (94) vs. King Dunlap (77) -- even, 77.
Tez Doolittle (99) vs. Ty Green (71) -- 71, 71
Josh Thompson (97) vs. Jackson Timmerman (64) -- 97. Only needed one.
Pat Sims (95) vs. Mike Berry (66) -- 66, 95.
Brandon Haley (93) vs. Lee Ziemba (73) -- even, even.

Mike Goggans (49) vs. Dunlap (77) -- 77.
Kyle Coulahan (58) vs. Green (71) -- 71.
Bryant Miller (51) vs. Timmerman (64) -- even.
Darrell Roseman (41) vs. Berry (66) -- 66.
AJ Greene (90) vs. Ziemba (73) -- 73.
Quentin Groves (54) vs. Ziemba (73) -- 54. Speed rush from wide set.
Antonio Coleman (52) vs. Ziemba (73) -- 52. Speed rush from wide set.

Goggans (49) vs. Antwoin Daniels (70) -- 49, 70.
Coulahan (58) vs. Byron Isom (57) -- 58, 57. The above picture was taken after the first play of this series.
Miller (51) vs. Will Guth (51) -- Guth, Guth. Oh boy.
Roseman (41) vs. Bart Eddins (53) -- 41, 53.
Antoine Carter (45) vs. Oscar Gonzalez (78) -- 45. Carter still looking good.

Haley (93) vs. Daniels (70) -- 93.
Greene (90) vs. Isom (57) -- 90, 57.
Coulahan (58) vs. Guth (51) -- 58, 58.
Pat Sims (95) vs. Eddins (53) -- 95, 53. Eddins fought hard the second time.
Goggans (49) vs. Gonzalez (78) -- 49. Really embarrassed him with a blow to the chest.
Antonio Coleman (52) vs. Lee Tilley (74) -- 52, 52.
Roseman (41) vs. Chaz Ramsey (76) -- 41, even, 76.
Miller (51) vs. Rudy Odom (69) -- 51, 69.

News of the day, 8/8

Hey everyone. Let's get to business.

Lee Ziemba (pictured at left) was moved to first-team offense at right tackle today. He played pretty well. Three players (Antwoin Daniels, Andrew McCain and Oscar Gonzalez) already have come and gone since fall camp started. I think Ziemba will have some struggles. Still not sure what will happen here. Remember that this is Cox's blind side, he's a lefty, so it's critical that Auburn figure out something to keep that right side guarded.

Not to harp on offensive linemen, but the situation at guard is murky. Mike Berry and Leon Hart now are bracketed at right guard. Tyronne Green and redshirt freshman Byron Isom are bracketed at left guard. Green hasn't been as good since Monday's practice. I still think he'll start. He needs to get back in the groove.

Freshman Kyle Coulahan has moved from OL to DL. He was a defensive guy in high school, so this isn't a ground-breaking change. He'll be redshirted.

WR Chris Slaughter said he thinks playing time is a real possibility this season.

Auburn plans to scrimmage on Friday night or Saturday morning. The workout will be closed to fans and the media.

DB Zach Gilbert, WR James Swinton, QB Blake Field and walk-on LB Jacob Shirey spent a while after practice with strength coach Kevin Yoxall doing some extra conditioning. Whatever they did to deserve that, I hope they don't do it again. It was exhausting just to watch.

*Remember that Fan Day is Saturday (3-5 p.m.) at Beard-Eaves.



I wanted to say a little something about Bill Walker's passing on Tuesday. My personal dealings with him were almost universally bad. He lied to me at least twice when I was investigating the Jetgate saga (before it broke) and then dodged reporters for a while after the story broke. I was just mentioning Walker the other day when someone asked me about the most loathsome people I've met.

The paper needed me to do an obit on him yesterday. You can imagine my reaction. Still, I took an hour to meet with Auburn's engineering czar, Larry Benefield, who affected me in ways I didn't expect. Benefield acknolwedged that Walker wasn't a cheery guy and didn't try to curry favor. Benefield described his friend as a brilliant engineer who didn't deserve to be remembered only for the Jetgate folly.

I thought about that more on the way home from Auburn. It's pretty amazing how differently people can be perceived. I saw only 1% of Walker's behavior. I'll say this -- the people in engineering loved the guy. Loved him. He busted his butt to make that college better. Sounds like he did one heck of a job with it.

Ok. The end.

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.

News of the day, 8/6

Hey everyone. It's been a pretty busy morning and early afternoon.

Here's what is happening:

*WR Chris Slaughter (pictured at left) has been cleared by the NCAA. He was one of the highest-valued members of the Tigers' 2007 signing class. He missed summer workouts and the first five days of camp, which is detrimental to his chances for playing time. Coaches are saying he has a chance to play right away. I don't buy it.

*LB Steve Gandy suffered a concussion during practice Saturday and now seems resigned to give up football. He walked the sidelines quietly today in his No. 26 jersey and shorts. It was the fourth concussion of Gandy's three-year Auburn career. I'll have more on this in Tuesday's editions of the Advertiser.

*I heard Hugh Nall tell Mike Berry that he's the No. 1 guy at right tackle now. That was mid-way though today's practice. Then Oscar Gonzalez took most of the RT snaps during an 11-on-11 drill that concluded the workout. Then Tuberville said at his 1 o'clock press conference that Berry is the leader at right guard. I have no idea what's going on. They need someone to start playing ball at right tackle. I haven't seen a whole lot from anyone at that position.

*Tommy Tuberville hilariously said he expects Brent Slusher, recently moved from TE to DE, to play this season. No way this happens. I'll bet my house on it.

*There were more one-on-one blocking drills today. Here are your matchups and my pick for winner. Most of these matchups are for two plays; I'll indicate at right which player won each play of the series:

Quentin Groves (54) vs. Oscar Gonzalez (78) -- even, 54.
Pat Sims (95) vs. Leon Hart (72) -- 72, even.
Josh Thompson (97) vs. Jason Bosley (68) -- 97, 68.
Mike Blanc (93) vs. Tyronne Green (71) -- 71, 71.
Sen'Derrick Marks (94) vs. King Dunlap (77) -- 94, even.

Antonio Carter (45) vs. Andrew McCain (75) -- 45, 75. That first one was an easy win.
Brent Slusher (35) vs. Mike Berry (66) -- 66, 66. Dominating.
Zach Clayton (98) vs. Nate Farrow (65) -- 98, 98.
Tez Doolittle (99) vs. Jordan Timmerman (64) -- 99, 99.
A.J. Greene (90) vs. Bryon Isom (57) -- 90, 57. Great matchup there.
Mike Goggans (49) vs. Antwoin Daniels (70) -- 49, 49, 70.

Brandon Haley (93) vs. Lee Ziemba (73) -- 93, 73, 93, 93. Ziemba hung in there overall.
Blanc (93) vs. Bart Eddins (53) -- 93.
Clayton (98) vs. Isom (57) -- 98.
Greene (90) vs. Chaz Ramsey (76) -- 90, 90. First one was an easy win.
Bryant Miller (51) vs. Jared Cooper (79) -- 79, even. Really nice effort from Cooper.

Groves (54) vs. Berry (66) -- even, 54. Beat him badly with an outside speed rush.
Sims (95) vs. Hart (72) -- 95, 95.
Thompson (97) vs. Ramsey (76) -- 97, 97. Ramsey was at center. Not his usual position.
Blanc (93) vs. Green (71) -- 93, 71.
Marks (94) vs. Dunlap (77) -- 77, 77. Dunlap was strong.

Carter (45) vs. Gonzalez (78) -- 45, 45. Nall was quite upset.
Doolittle (99) vs. Farrow (65) -- 99, 99.
Greene (90) vs. Timmerman (64) -- 90, 90.
Clayton (98) vs. Isom (57) -- 98, 98. Isom led early both times but Clayton had great second effort.
Goggans (49) vs. Daniels (70) -- even, even.

Slusher (35) vs. Ziemba (73) -- 73.
Bo Harris (40) vs. Ziemba (73) -- 73, 73. That earned some praise from Nall.

News of the day, 8/5

Hey everyone. Skip down if you're looking for practice information. I have something else pressing that needs to be discussed first.

I started today's blog early because I've been noticing something awkward lately. Faithful readers will recall me railing about the seemingly inflated gas prices at Auburn-area stations in relation to Montgomery stations. Last year, Auburn was approximately 12 cents per gallon more expensive.

Guess what? Somehow, that has changed.

Gas at the Auburn Spectrum station (Wire Rd. & Shug Jordan Pkwy.) currently is at $2.66/gal.

Gas at the Montgomery Raceway station (East Blvd. & Carmichael) currently is at $2.70/gal.

How does that happen?

I watched the linemen again today because it's pretty enagaging stuff. They go man-against-man and there's nowhere to hide. You generally either beat or get beat. It's even occasionally.

Here's what I saw today.

Sen'Derrick Marks vs. King Dunlap -- even
Pat Sims vs. Ty Green -- even
Josh Thompson vs. Leon Hart -- Hart won.
Mike Blanc vs. Mike Berry -- Berry won.
Bryant Miller vs. Antwoin Daniels -- Daniels won 2 of 3, but the loss was really bad.

Mike Goggans vs. Oscar Gonzalez - Gonzalez won.
Zach Clayton vs. Byron Isom ("Ice") -- even. Both of these guys looked good.
Tez Doolittle vs. Ryan Pugh -- Pugh won in my estimation. Impressive for a freshman.
Thompson vs. Nathan Farrow -- Thompson won.
A.J. Greene vs. Andrew McCain -- even

Bo Harris vs. Jared Cooper -- Harris was slightly better, but he's unrefined.
Clayton vs. Chaz Ramsey -- Clayton embarrassed him.
Blanc vs. Jackson Timmerman (walk-on) -- Blanc won.
Miller vs. Bart Eddins -- Miller won easily.
Brent Slusher vs. Lee Ziemba -- Ziemba. Only one play.
Antonio Carter vs. Ziemba -- even. Only one play.
Carter vs. Gonzalez -- Gonzalez won.

There were a few others after that, mostly involving Bo Harris.

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