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Gilbert gets scholarship

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Gilbert gets scholarship

Friday, August 18, 2006

AUBURN -- Auburn cornerback Zach Gilbert thought his coach was calling him out for a public scolding. Instead, defensive coordinator Will Muschamp just wanted to share the good news.

"He said, 'When you work hard like this guy, you get rewarded with a scholarship. Everybody give him a hand,'" Gilbert recalled.

Gilbert's tenure as a walk-on ended this week with a round of applause from teammates. Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville said Gilbert is the only walk-on player moving to scholarship status for this semester.

"He's paid his dues," Tuberville said. "He's been around a long time and worked hard. You want to reward somebody for that."

Gilbert also has a chance to play a meaningful role in this year's secondary, especially in nickel situations.

"He's going to play a big part in what we're doing on defense," Tuberville said.

Tuberville said he always defers to his assistants when making decisions about scholarship players, and they agreed that Gilbert deserved the available scholarship.

The move is more than symbolic for Gilbert. He has two college-aged siblings, and the scholarship will help relieve a financial strain for his family.

Gilbert, a junior from Bradshaw High in Florence, walked on at Auburn in 2003. He's played in 22 games over the last two years, largely on special teams.

-- INJURY WATCH: Offensive tackle Antwoin Daniels returned to practice Thursday, helping Auburn's depth on the second-team line.

Courtney Taylor (knee) appeared close to being ready to return, but Tuberville joked that the senior receiver spent most of the day "coaching."

Two true freshmen also sat out. Defensive lineman Mike Blanc missed practice with an infected tooth. Running back Mario Fannin will be out a couple days with a hip pointer.

-- EARLY RISERS: Most players had few complaints about setting their alarm clocks for an early wakeup on Thursday.

After years of afternoon weekday practices, Auburn is switching to morning practices on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

The move was made to free up time for players in the afternoon and help in class scheduling.

"If you've got practice in the afternoon, you've got a lot of people tired, and then you have to shoot right over to study hall after a long day of classes and practice, and people are tired and exhausted, and they feel themselves dozing off in study hall," running back Kenny Irons said. "The study hall monitors report that to the coaches. I feel this is better."

Auburn will continue to practice on Wednesday afternoons.

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