Sunday, February 24, 2008

Preaching to the choir, leveling with the press

AUBURN -- Auburn head football coach Tommy Tuberville poured it on Sunday, assuring a crowd of 10,500 at Auburn's men's basketball victory over Alabama that tales of Auburn's football decline are greatly exaggerated.
"Regardless what you read and what you hear, we will still have a football team next year," he said in a thundering voice.
Tuberville was speaking during ceremonies to mark Auburn's retention of the James Foy/ODK Sportsmanship Trophy, which goes each year to the winner of the Alabama-Auburn football game. Auburn won 17-10 on Nov. 24 2007, marking the Tigers' sixth consecutive victory over its chief rival.
However, Alabama stole Auburn's thunder on National Signing Day earlier this month. Second-year coach Nick Saban energized the Tide fan base with the nation's No. 1 recruiting class, according to most recruiting services.
Auburn's class was ranked 20th, but Alabama won all head-to-head battles with Auburn and took most of the state's top prospects.
The recruiting news caused much angst among the Auburn fan base, but Tuberville sounded a resounding and reassuring note Sunday.
"We've won six, and we're working on seven. War Eagle!" Tuberville said.
He sounded a slightly more cautious note after Sunday's opening session of spring practice.
"We've got a chance to have a good football team," he told a huddle of reporters. "I think this group has jelled to do something special, but we have to wait and tell as we go through spring.
"You never want to make any predictions until you see what this group is about, but I like the attitude, and that's where you start."
Here's what else Tuberville had to say after day one of spring practice:

--Opening comment:
"Good first day, good intensity. With this offense, you have no choice but to do that, but it was great weather, and I thought our guys came out in the right frame of mind. You've got to do two days in shorts, so we'll do this same thing very early Tuesday morning at 7 o'clock, so we'll see all of you here.
"I watched the quarterbacks today. I'm pretty impressed with all of our quarterbacks, how they're picking all of this stuff up. We only got a small portion of what we want to run in for the bowl game, so we've got a lot to do, but I like what we're doing.
"Defensively, there's not a lot you can do without pads on, but we've got good leaders this year. I think this group will be the best leadership we've had the last few years, and we've had good leadership to this point, so that will make us even better.
"We've got a chance to have a good football team. I think this group has jelled to do something special, but we have to wait and tell as we go through spring. You never want to make any predictions until you see what this group is about, but I like the attitude, and that's where you start."

--Newness create more energy?
"There's not a lot new on defense. New guys. I'll have to wait until we get in pads. Offensively, this offense still amazes me, how many reps you can get in practice, and it really keeps everybody, coaches and players, managers, everybody on their toes. When you go against your defense, it really keeps everybody concentrating. I think sometimes you need that in practice, because you can get a little bit lackadasical. With this tempo, nobody can drop their guard. You've got to be ready to go and concentrating. The new clock rules, the 40-second clock rule, I think that will help us a little bit more, so we'll see what happens."

--Anyone not here?
"Ben Tate had an award that he didn't get in high school that he want to California to pick up today. He wouldn't have practiced. He's got a thigh bruise or something, but he'll be back tomorrow. … High school award. He got the award, but he didn't go. They asked him to come and be a part of it this year. They had somebody else getting that award, but he's never attended the banquet, so that was good."

--Tyronne Green (starting offensive guard)?
"I don't know. He's got a sore thigh. He's been out for about two weeks. He's been out for about two weeks, but he'll be ready to go soon."

--Any one quarterback stick out?
"Nah. We'll hold judgment until Saturday. Saturday will be judgment day, when we scrimmage. We'll practice Tuesday and Thursday, Thursday in pads, morning again. Friday afternoon. It'll be a good practice, and then we'll flip it around and go 9:30 on Saturday morning and probably go about 170-180 plays. All of these guys will get good looks. They'll get 30-40 plays each, so it'll be a pretty good report card coming out Saturday afternoon."

--Going in the stadium?
"Going in the stadium."

--Did you watch new defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads today at all?
"I heard him a couple of times. I thought he broke down well. I thought he hollered well. He ran drills well. He's going to have to get some sun on his legs, being from Pittsburgh. It's a little bit bright. He had to wear some sunglasses early."

--Talk about induction to Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame?
"It was good. A lot of those guys like Jerry McKinnis, I grew up watching them on television. It was two days of festivities. It was to spend a lot of time with them away from the banquet and a lot of guys that I watched in football over the years play. I saw a lot of high school friends. My college coach was there. He did remember my name and number. We had a good talk. Everybody gets a little (couldn't hear). We had a lot of family, so it was a fun night. It was something I'll always remember. … My speech, I did talk about Tubby's Catfish."

--Talk about Junior Day for recruits?
"Junior day went real well. We invited 52 juniors, and 52 of them showed up, a lot of them with parents, and that's another reason we wanted to practice today is to give them the opportunity to watch these guys, but it was also a good day to start. You know, with the basketball game and be able to talk about academics a little bit with them, about the beginning of recruiting, the baseball game going on and then practice, so we had a lot of activities going on, but we had a lot of good players here. Had some interest. Hopefully, we'll have some guys make decisions early."

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