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Evaluations get serious with today's scrimmage

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Evaluations get serious with today's scrimmage

Wednesday, August 09, 2006


News staff writer

AUBURN - The calendar says it's still forever to Auburn's first football game. Eddie Gran knows better.

The Auburn running backs coach and his fellow assistants will mark today's mini-scrimmage and Saturday's maxi-scrimmage as important moments toward establishing a pecking order for a handful of freshmen, wannabes and second-stringers who have 3½ weeks to challenge starters before meeting Washington State on Sept. 2.

Auburn passed its first week of practice without much fanfare by conducting its first two-a-day workout Tuesday, but the evaluation process will get more serious with the scrimmages.


"To me, this is test time," Gran said.

Today's scrimmage won't have the flavor of marching up and down the field, but will be staged in a controlled environment. But, for the first time this fall, there will be tackling.

Gran would seem to have one of his easiest scrimmage seasons. He has SEC-leading rusher Kenny Irons on top of the depth chart. But some positions will be contested, if only because of injury. The offensive line will be without center Joe Cope, who is days away from returning from a knee sprain, and that has required some juggling in the line. Scrimmage or not, the offensive line is supposed to be a strength.

"Everybody keeps saying that, but an experienced offensive line is one that's played games together. I don't have an experienced offensive line," said offensive line coach Hugh Nall. "That's for you experts to say."

The defensive line figures to come into sharper focus today after a fast fall start by tackle Pat Sims and end Chris Browder; and the battles for playing time will continue between safeties Aairon Savage, Tristan Davis, Eric Brock and Lorenzo Ferguson.

Gran has a few questions to answer, too. Can sophomore Brad Lester make it out of fall practice after a fragile 2005 season? Where does a slimmer veteran Tre Smith fit in? Junior Carl Stewart has a place, probably at fullback, but what do you do with rookie Ben Tate, who is getting a taste of Ronnie Brown's old F-back position? And what about freshman Mario Fannin, he of six real-life practices?

Are you going to trust a pair of freshmen to pick up a blitz with the less-than-nimble Brandon Cox at quarterback?

Gran figures to find out fast, starting this morning.

"When the scrimmage starts, I get out of the way," Gran said. "When they come out of the huddle, they either know what to do or don't know what to do. I don't say a word. This is their time."

And Gran figures a fun time.

"We're not going to throw anything at them that we haven't done in practice. We're going to try to put them in the best situation to succeed," he said. "But there are going to be some things out there where things are going to be flying a little bit faster."

Head coach Tommy Tuberville is ready to take it in.

"We'll know more when we start tackling," he said. "We don't have much offense in. We're just trying to watch these young guys."

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