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News of the day, 8/18

Hey everyone. Another day, another practice. The workout lasted approximately two hours and was attended by a gaggle of athletic donors and other people of influence. And, presumably, affluence. Tuberville didn't name a starting punter or placekicker as promised. He said that news will come on Sunday.

Check below for today's information. Looks like Chris Slaughter is moving up the list. Lee Ziemba looks like the starter at RT. Could Brent Slusher really play this season?

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Several younger players seem to have benefitted from strong performances in Friday's scrimmage. DT Jake Ricks, WR Chris Slaughter, TB Ben Tate and RT Lee Ziemba all received significant praise from their position coaches on Saturday.

Assistant coach Greg Knox didn't elaborate on his playing rotation. He said the other day that he has five wideouts he likes. He wants to play six. My revised top four looks like this: Rod Smith, Prechae Rodriguez, Rob Dunn, James Swinton. Either Tim Hawthorne or Montez Billings is the elusive fifth guy. Who is sixth? I don't know. You'd think it would be the lesser of Hawthorne or Billings, but Knox said Chris Slaughter will play this season. Not sure what to think.

Here is what Knox said today as far as who works where:
"z" (flanker) -- Rodriguez, Slaughter, (Billings)
"w" (slot) -- Dunn, Hawthorne, Terrell Zachery
"x" (split end) -- Smith, Swinton, Quindarius Carr

Billings is a tough situation. He's missed more than a week with a troublesome hamstring. He still isn't back. If he was healthy, I think he'd be No. 2 at Z. Has Slaughter taken Billings' spot? Knox said he was looking for ways to get Billings on the field "in other situations."

It appears that Ziemba has asserted himself as the top option at right tackle. I've covered enough practices to know that the depth chart along the offensive front changes quickly, but I think this one will stick. He's a freshman. He needs experience. If assistant coach Hugh Nall thinks Ziemba is his guy, it's imperative that Ziemba not split time. He needs reps. I don't think we've heard the end of Antwoin Daniels, though. He again was working at guard today. He's an excellent pass blocker. Nall doesn't want to waste that.

Defensive coordinator Will Muschamp confirmed today that redshirt freshman LB Craig Stevens is the team's top strong-side linebacker. I rarely hear a word about Stevens, which apparently isn't a bad thing. Muschamp is very high on Stevens.

Muschamp floored me by saying freshman Brent Slusher has a chance to play this year. I think Slusher is a good athlete. He has a great attitude out there. It's just that Slusher was a (terrible) DE less than two weeks ago. He looks much more comfortable at linebacker, no doubt, but two weeks is enough? Linebackers coach James Willis also said Slusher has a chance to play.

Here's my projected depth chart at LB:
Strong side: Stevens, (Bo Harris), Slusher
Middle: Tray Blackmon, Chris Evans, Josh Bynes
Weak side: Merrill Johnson, Courtney Harden, Adam Herring

Harris has missed several days with a shoulder injury. He was on the practice field today but didn't participate in contact drills.

News of the day, 8/17

Hey everyone. How YOU doin'? Auburn has completed its second practice, which began at 6:45 or so this evening. Information from that event is below.

Auburn's offense, which struggled in the first scrimmage, was better this time around. Tommy Tuberville said the running and passing games were much more efficient and effective. DE Quentin Groves said he could see a major difference in the offensive line's approach. Much tougher.

Since the media wasn't allowed to watch, I can't share any official data. QB Brandon Cox said he threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to WR Rob Dunn, who also caught a 40- or 50-yard pass that didn't end with a touchdown. Tuberville said freshman Chris Slaughter caught several balls. Cox said Slaughter was working with the second- and third-team offense.

Tuberville said he liked what the running backs accomplished. Cox said sophomore Ben Tate scored on some short touchdown runs during a two-minute drill.

Several important players didn't participate: WR Montez Billings (hamstring), TB Carl Stewart (hamstring), LB Bo Harris (shoulder) and OL Leon Hart (ankle). Tuberville said QB Neil Caudle won't need surgery. He'll be back in 4-6 weeks.

Cox said he caught a halfback pass from Mario Fannin. "I caught it," he said. ``I don't know how fast I was after that."

Tuberville said he liked what he saw from the kicking game. He said the team will announce No. 1s at both punter and placekicker today.

The scrimmage lasted 130 plays. The first- and second-team offenses handled most of that work. Freshman Kodi Burns ran the third-team offense during the final two series. Tuberville said Burns wasn't nearly as effective this time. He was creating on the fly last week. Forced to stay in the pocket on Friday, Burns struggled.

Auburn practices today beginning at 10:30. I'll have plenty of reaction from assistant coaches and players during the afternoon.

I recently was talking with a fellow scribe, Huntsville Times ace Phillip Marshall, about how Auburn's defense looks so much better than the offense. It's remarkable. Phillip thinks this could be one of the truly great defenses in recent Auburn history. I'll have to see that to believe it, though I think it's possible.

This defense will be better than last year's edition. There is a lot of power and skill up front, a once-in-a-generation player at middle linebacker (Tray Blackmon) and several excellent players in the secondary. The pieces are there.

Let's assume for a moment that Will Muschamp's defense finishes among the top 10 in points per game and yards per game. Would it be appreciated when paired with an offense that can't score? I'm not ready to dog the offense just yet, but I don't see many playmakers. Rod Smith, Rob Dunn, Chris Slaughter and Mario Fannin look like possibilites (provided Slaughter plays) but none of them have been featured guys before.

I know everyone is smitten with the TEs. Yes, I think Tommy Trott is an outstanding offensive player. I don't list him as a playmaker because, well, it's impossible to make plays when they throw to the TEs twice per game. I wonder if that changes this season.

News of the day, 8/16

Hey everyone. Today is a day for rest at Auburn. No practices. If I owned a beach house in Destin, I'd be there today. Sadly, I'm a few years away from affording two mortgages. One day...

I'm going to stay in Montgomery and work on a story about the 1957 team, which earned the program's first SEC title. I made Red Phillips, Lloyd Nix, Burkett and Zeke Smith off-limits. I'm talking with more low-profile guys. It'll be fun.

BASEBALL: Auburn coach Tommy Slater scored a major coup Thursday morning when first baseman/outfielder Hunter Morris attended class. He was a second-round pick of the Boston Red Sox. Morris and the organization couldn't agree on contract terms, so now Auburn gets him for at least three years. Morris is a power bat from the left side that may provide some immediate brawn to the Tigers' lineup.

Auburn landed a few other big names include 1B Kevin Patterson (White Sox draft pick), shortstop Brian Fletcher (Astros draft pick) and infielder Wes Gilmer.

Slater also announced that Arizona State infielder Matt Hall. who hit .315. He went 8-for-11 in the Sun Devils' series against Auburn last season.

News of the day, 8/15

Hey everyone. Good day. The final two-a-day practice day is in the books. The team is taking Thursday off (first day of class) and will resume work with a closed scrimmage Friday night.

Of note: The media no longer will be permitted to watch practice. That means my pass-rush notations will end after today's installment. I also won't be hearing what the coaches say. I'll continue to provide daily updates, of course, so keep checking out the hottest Auburn blog in America.

Evening practice lasted around two hours. It was the final workout held at the intramural fields, which included a pair of full-speed team drills. Afterward, the team was treated to watermelon in what has become an Auburn tradition. Tommy Tuberville loves watermelon. He ate several pieces and had a grand ol' time telling all the players from points north of, say, Birmingham that they didn't know a thing about watermelon.

QB Neil Caudle attended the night practice in a sling. He separated his shoulder during the scrimmage last weekend and is out indefinitely. Caudle wasn't socializing with his teammates or anything.

Here are some things I heard at the night practice:

*Assistant coach James Willis to LB Courtney Harden after he pitched TE Gabe McKenzie aside during a drill: "You may have just saved the game right there, 56. Good job."

*Assistant coach Terry Price to DE Mike Goggans, who ducked inside (erroneously) during a sweep play: "You have one job and that's to stay outside. Get off the field! Get out of here!"

Here are results from tonight's pass-rush drills:
Brandon Haley (93) vs. Andrew McCain (75) -- 93, 75.
Mike Blanc (93) vs. Byron Isom (57) -- 93.
Jake Ricks (91) vs. Isom (57) -- 91.
Josh Thompson (97) vs. Michael Hatter (67) -- 97.
Pat Sims (95) vs. Mike Berry (66) -- 66.
Sen'Derrick Marks (94) vs. Lee Ziemba (73) -- 73, 73. Marks tried to get inside the first time and Ziemba wasn't having it. The freshman is catching on quickly. Ziemba knocked Marks' facemask off the second time. That's probably a penalty.

AJ Greene (90) vs. McCain (75) --75, 75.
Ricks (91) vs. Isom (57) -- 91.
Kyle Coulahan (58) vs. Isom (57) -- 58 because Isom so blatantly held him.
Zach Clayton (98) vs. Hatter (67) -- 67, 67. Nice work.
Bryant Miller (51) vs. Berry (66) -- 66, 51.
Mike Goggans (49) vs. Ziemba (73) -- 49 (inside), 49 (inside w/ big hit), 73. Ziemba refused to be beaten inside on three consecutive snaps.

Auburn's morning practice went 75 minutes. They worked on kickoffs/coverage, punts/coverage and stuff like that. It's clear that the regular position players are getting tired. This practice afforded them some breathing room before tonight's work. It'll be tough tonight.

Talked with ends coach Terry Price earlier about who will make his playing rotation. He wanted five guys, but seems OK with playing four. That's what he did last year. His top four right now are Quentin Groves, Sen'Derrick Marks, Mike Goggans and Antonio Coleman. Sounds like candidates for the fifth guy are freshman AJ Greene and Antoine Carter. I think Carter is more advanced right now. Will that translate into a job with the varsity? That question won't be answered for a while.

WR coach Greg Knox said he hasn't talked with WR Alex Rose lately. I reported two days ago that Rose had left the team temporarily. It's looking more like "indefinitely" now.

WR Chris Slaughter said his extra conditioning work with coach Kevin Yoxall last night was due to a communication error. During team sprints at the end of official practice, Knox told Slaughter to "finish" the sprints by running the full distance. Slaughter laughed. That got under Knox's skin, thus the late-night conditioning work.

As a reset, Slaughter practiced, ran sprints, spent an extra hour catching balls with the wideouts after practice, then worked solo with Yoxall for another 20 minutes. I'd say he'll be in game shape soon.

Knox said he has top five wideouts identified. He wouldn't name names. I'm sure that Rod Smith, Rob Dunn and Tim Hawthorne are in there. The second group, based on how they're used in skeleton drills, is James Swinton, Prechae Rodriguez, Montez Billings and Chris Slaughter. Which of those guys will make the rotation? Hard to say. Billings has missed a lot of time with his hamstring issue. Swinton has been a practice tease in past seasons. He struggles to carry his practice performance to the field. Slaughter has been here for 10 days total. Prechae hasn't been outstanding in camp by any means.

It's a tough call. Offensive coordinator Al Borges said it's a matter of finding the six best. He said they'll figure out positions after that.

It's also worth noting that Brad Lester still isn't getting the amount of work I'd expect from a No. 1 tailback. He's not hurt. He's said that over and over. Not sure what's going on.

News of the day, 8/14

Hey everyone. Practice has ended. Look below for the goodness.

Auburn's wideouts spent an hour after practice running routes. Position coach Greg Knox was all over them for dropping passes during 11-on-11s. It was pretty bad. They dropped a quarter of the balls thrown.

The deal was this: The group concentrated on one route at a time. Each player, and there were probably 12 of them, had to run the route and catch the ball five times to "clear" the route. One drop reset the counter for that route.

Five routes took an hour. Several drops from Rob Dunn. At least one apiece from Prechae Rodriguez, Tim Hawthorne and Terrell Zachery. It went on and on.

I stayed and watched the whole thing. It's interesting to me. Here's the most gruesome part of it all -- Chris Slaughter then had to go do up-downs with Kevin Yoxall after the extra hour of work. Oh man.

Here are some of the things Knox was telling the boys:
*"I'm glad we're tired now. We took practice off. Now we can work."
*After the quarterbacks left about 10 minutes into the drill, student assistants and others began throwing passes: "We've got other arms. Get them ready. Let (the quarterbacks) go. I've got a feeling somebody won't finish and we'll be here a while."
*After Knox heard some quiet grumbling: "You're the reason we're here. You don't concentrate in practice and now you're out here. If you want to complain, talk to yourself."

Line coach Hugh Nall had another banner quote day:
*To nobody in particular: "Move your feet. You're all dead."
*To Antwoin Daniels after he was beaten by Quentin Groves on a speed rush: "He's running a 4.3 and you're (rear) hasn't moved. Move!"

Linebackers coach James Willis, trying to teach the position to freshman Brent Slusher, was discouraged when Slusher was mauled by tight end Tommy Trott: "Keep beating his (rear), Tommy Trott. Take him to the trees. Teach him."

WR Montez Billings (hamstring) was running some, but not in drills. Same for FB Carl Stewart. OL Leon Hart again was on the exercise bike. LB Bo Harris still has his left arm in a sling. DT Kyle Coulahan is playing with a broken finger on his left hand. It's heavily bandaged.

Here are the results from today's pass-rush drill.

Brandon Haley (93) vs. Andrew McCain (75) -- 75, 93.
Pat Sims (95) vs. Ty Green (71) -- 71, 95. Sims knocked Green backward the second time.
Josh Thompson (97) vs. Michael Hatter (67) -- 97, 97. Easy.
Jake Ricks (91) vs. Mike Berry (66) -- 91, 66.
Sen'Derrick Marks (94) vs. Antwoin Daniels (70) -- 94, 94. Swim moves like a pro.

AJ Greene (90) vs. McCain (75) -- 75, 90.
Kyle Coulahan (58) vs. Byron Isom (57) -- 58, even.
Zach Clayton (98) vs. Hatter (67) -- 67, 98.
Bryant Miller (51) vs. Berry (66) -- even (Berry penalty), 66.
Mike Goggans (49) vs. Daniels (70) -- 49, 49. He loves the inside move. Good at it, too.

Antoine Carter (45) vs. Oscar Gonzalez (78) -- 45, even.
Ricks (91) vs. Jared Cooper (79) -- 91.
Clayton (98) vs. Cooper (79) -- 79, 98.
Miller (51) vs. Jackson Timmerman (64) -- 64.
Darrell Roseman (41) vs. Chaz Ramsey (76) -- even, 41. Swim move getting better.
Greene (90) vs. Lee Ziemba (73) -- 90, 90. Greene was too fast for him on the edge.

One thing I wanted to point out from last night's practice ... I am impressed by how quickly some of these lower-tier defensive linemen are improving. Mike Goggans has made more strides than anyone. He's a bull rusher, a pretty good one, right now. When he gets some of those moves down, he'll be hell for opponents. I like his motor. I also like Antonio Coleman, though speed looks like his main thing right now. He'll need to improve against the run to emerge as a productive every-day player.

Also, I'm not sure what to think about Antoine Carter. He's quite small, particularly in his upper body. The kid has enough brawn to at least break even right now. That impresses me. He burns offensive linemen pretty regularly. I wonder what'll happen to him this fall.

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Liberty @ Mitylene, exit 11: $2.66/gal.
BP @ Waugh/Cecil, exit 16: $2.69/gal.
Exxon @ Shorter, exit 22: $2.95/gal. **Things that make you go hmmmmm**
Shell @ Tallassee, exit 26: $2.79/gal.
Amoco @ Wire Rd, exit 42: $2.89/gal.
Spectrum @ Wire & Shug Jordan: $2.55/gal.

News of the day, 8/13

Hey everyone. Practice has ended. They went a little longer than two hours. Usual slate of activity. Jason Bosley is not nearly as injured as we once believed. Diagnostic tests showed a fully in-tact set of knee ligaments. The official diagnosis is a bruised knee. Bosley said he expects to return in a few days. In fact, he was walking around the athletic complex tonight with only a sock pulled over the knee. No big brace. No significant limp or anything.

Tommy Tuberville just let out a hugh sigh of relief.

QB Kodi Burns worked the team's skill-position skeleton drills tonight, which served as a nice promotion for him. With Neil Caudle out indefinitely with a separated shoulder, maybe Burns is emerging as the No. 2 guy. He looked OK in that drill, which emphasized deep passes. He has a lot of arm strength. Burns' accuracy is only so-so.

DT Jake Ricks returned to practice on Monday after missing everything up to this point. He actually looked pretty good considering. He used his hands and arms well. That's what these coaches like.

Another tough night for assistant coach Hugh Nall, who watched his players struggle during pass-rush drills. To nobody in particular, he said: "We've got too many deer-in-the-headlights looks. Didn't you all grow up playing football?"

DE Quentin Groves: "My favorite part of practice -- break."

Nall unhappy with his line's slow preparation for a blocking drill: "Get up there and get down! This ain't a beauty contest."

Here are the results from tonight's pass-rush drill. It was abbreviated because of work on formations and schemes.

Quentin Groves (54) vs. King Dunlap (77) -- 77, even.
Jake Ricks (91) vs. Ty Green (71) -- even, 71.
Josh Thompson (97) vs. Michael Hatter (67) -- 97.
Zach Clayton (98) vs. Hatter (67) -- 98.
Pat Sims (95) vs. Mike Berry (66) -- 95. Power rush. Dominated him.
Darrell Roseman (41) vs. Berry (66) -- 41, 66. After the first one, Nall said: "You just won't do it right. Grow up!"
Sen'Derrick Marks (94) vs. Antwoin Daniels (70) -- 94, 94. Using a variety of moves.

Antonio Coleman (52) vs. Dunlap (77) -- 52, even.
Bryant Miller (51) vs. Green (71) -- 51, even.
Clayton (98) vs. Hatter (67) -- 67, 98.
Roseman (41) vs. Berry (66) -- 41, 41, 41. It was loud. And unhappy.
Mike Goggans (49) vs. Lee Ziemba (73) -- 49, even.

News of the day, 8/12

Hey everyone. Thanks for tuning in. Practice has ended. It was pretty short, 13 periods or so, in reasonably cool conditions. They started at 7 p.m.

There is some engaging stuff to discuss.

Center Jason Bosley went down with an injury to his left knee during the late stages of practice. I'm not a doctor, I don't play one on T.V., but this looked pretty serious to me. He was in a lot of pain. Bosley is a tough dude, too. He disappeared into a van a few minutes after the injury, which tells me it's serious business.

My guess is that Leon Hart gets shifted to center. Mike Berry would take over at right guard. True freshman Ryan Pugh is the only other real center on the roster. He looks like he'll be a really good player. I just don't think he's ready to be the starting center at Auburn right now. There is too much real-time administrative responsibility at center. Inexperience there is a killer.

Quarterback Neil Caudle has been diagnosed with a separated throwing shoulder. Tommy Tuberville said he expects Caudle to miss at least four weeks. This development could generate some ire toward Tuberville. Caudle was injured after being tackled during the scrimmage. The decision to allow tackling on the quarterbacks was curious. Now the team is without the guy who looked like the second-best quarterback in camp.

CB Jerraud Powers picked off a pair of passes during Sunday's workout. He nearly had a third, too. It's obvious that Powers has emerged as the team's best cover corner. I wasn't a believer. I didn't see how a kid who's 5-foot-9 could be a good SEC corner but I have changed my mind. He's pretty damn good. After the first pick, which saw Powers step in front of a Brandon Cox-thrown out route, defensive coordinator Will Muschamp said: "That's perfect. That's how we play."

Offensive line coach Hugh Nall had some nice things to say to tackle Antwoin Daniels on Sunday. After Daniels shut down end Michael Goggans on a power rush, Nall said: "Nice job. That's what I'm talking about. You're moving your feet and staying with him." Then Nall patted him on the helmet.

Nall wasn't as nice when Berry completely missed Darrell Roseman during a pass-rush drill. "You've got good feet. Move 'em!"

Here are the results from today's pass-rush drill. Abbreviated because they spent some time on formations and schemes.

Quentin Groves (54) vs. King Dunlap (77) -- 54, 77.
Pat Sims (95) vs. Ty Green (71) -- 95, 95. Green wasn't embarrassed. Gave up too much penetration.
Josh Thompson (97) vs. Jackson Timmerman (64) --97. No contest.
Zach Clayton (98) vs. Timmerman (64) -- 98.
Darrell Roseman (41) vs. Mike Berry (66) -- 41, 66.
Sen'Derrick Marks (94) vs. Antwoin Daniels (70) -- 94, even.
**Notice than Daniels was running with the 1s, not Ziemba.

Antonio Carter (52) vs. Oscar Gonzalez (78) -- 52. 52. Speed domination the first time. Gonzalez offside the second time.
Bryant Miller (51) vs. Green (71) -- 71, even. Miller lined up offside the first time.
Clayton (98) vs. Timmerman (64) -- 98, 98. The kid will be a player.
AJ Greene (90) vs. Berry (66) -- 90, even, 66.
Mike Goggans (49) vs. Daniels -- 70, 49, 70. Goggans' win prefaced by a blow to the chest.
Antoine Carter (45) vs. Lee Tilley (74) -- 45. Not close at all.
Sims (95) vs. Byron Isom (57) -- 95.
Brandon Haley (93) vs. Lee Ziemba (73) -- 93, even, 73.

In team, Ziemba blocked Quentin Groves well the first time. Then Groves got mad, unleashed an outside speed rush and that was that. Carter used a speed rush to beat Gonzalez badly to end the drill.

I won't inundate y'all with my love for Manchester United. I did watch a portion of my boys' opening match against Reading today. I wasn't happy. 1-1.

I love soccer because it's a sport I can play (sort of) and I don't ever have to deal with it professionally. I have a hard time watching football for fun because I watch football for a living. Soccer and NASCAR? I can just enjoy them and be a fan.

My friend Gentry, who soon will be covering Alabama for the Mobile Register, cheers for Man U's arch rivals. So we get to talk soccer smack. Not a lot of that happening in Alabama.

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