Friday, August 15, 2008

Today's scrimmage meaningful to Hood

Note: Luke Brietzke is The Anniston Star’s new Auburn beat reporter. The 2006 Towson (Md.) University graduate covered Auburn for The Florence TimesDaily and The Gadsden Times in 2007.

By Luke Brietzke
Star Sports Writer

AUBURN — D’Antoine Hood doesn’t know what his role will be for Auburn this year.
After tomorrow, the true freshman cornerback probably will know.

For some players, Auburn’s Saturday morning scrimmage at Jordan-Hare Stadium — the second and probably the last of camp — won’t mean much.

For many others, like Hood, the game is an audition for playing time.

“I feel good,” Hood said. “My body feels good right now. I think the biggest part is just coming out there and showing my talent. I just want to show what I can do.”

Hood is one of four possible candidates vying for regular playing time in the nickel defense. Jerraud Powers and Walt McFadden are already entrenched starters. True freshmen Neiko Thorpe and Harry Adams are also battling for the spot.

“Neiko Thorpe and Hood and Harry Adams have done a real good job of trying to pick up as much as they can and tomorrow will be a really big test for them,” Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville said.

Ryan Williams might also be competing for playing time, but his academic status is currently unclear. During SEC Media Days, Tuberville said Williams was in trouble academically. Though the summer semester ended more than a week ago, Tuberville maintains that not all of the grades are in. Williams has not seen many reps in practice.

It appears that Thorpe currently leads the battle. He often practices with the top nickel group and plays corner for the base second-team defense.

Thorpe knows his performance on Saturday morning could help him solidify his position.

“I’m feeling more confident,” Thorpe said. “I got more reps and learned from what I was doing wrong in the first scrimmage, so I would say I’m a lot more confident going into the second scrimmage. It’s like a test from all the practices and two-a-days to see where I stand.”

Cornerbacks aren’t the only players currently fighting to get on the field this year.

“We want to look at some guys who will be borderline on whether we’re going to play them or put them on the back shelf and work their way up if they’re going to play this year,” Tuberville said. “This is going to be a big day for 16 or 17 guys that we circled on the board.”

Saturday will be crucial for true freshmen Philip Pierre-Louis and Darvin Adams, who both could play receiver and work as return specialists. The scrimmage will feature full-contact special teams work.

Tuberville said Auburn would run more passing plays than usual, but wanted to get a good look at another true freshman, Eric Smith.

So far, Smith has impressed running backs coach Eddie Gran by quickly learning the offense.

“Probably as fast as any freshman I’ve ever had,” Gran said. “He is very mature for being a freshman and I’ve really been excited by how he’s pushed through it and hasn’t missed any reps.”

Smith will get more reps because Tuberville said two of the three tailbacks in front of Smith – Brad Lester and Tristan Davis — will sit out with ankle and foot injuries, respectively.

Position battles will most likely not be settled after Saturday’s scrimmage, which is closed to the media and public.

Kodi Burns and Chris Todd will likely continue to battle for the top quarterback spot into the season. Merrill Johnson and Chris Evans will be interchangeable at weakside linebacker. Clinton Durst and Ryan Shoemaker will probably remain in a stalemate for at least a little while longer.

One spot that might get determined is the third-string quarterback. Neil Caudle and true freshman Barrett Trotter are competing for the job. Tuberville said those two would play the entire second half.

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