Sept. 4, 2007
The Auburn football team worked for just over two hours in full pads Tuesday morning at the practice fields behind the Athletics Complex as the Tigers continued to prepare for Saturday's contest against South Florida.
Much of Tuesday's practice was centered around scout team preparation, but the Tigers also worked on all facets of special teams as well as group and individual drills.
Head coach Tommy Tuberville addressed the media following Tuesday's workout at his weekly press conference, and said that although there is room for improvement following the team's season-opening 23-13 victory over Kansas State, there were also reasons to be pleased.
"There are some things that I'm proud of," said Tuberville. "Obviously, there wasn't a lot of glitter in what we did or a lot that stood out. A couple of things I'm proud of are, first, we won the game; second, we found guys who can play four quarters; and finally, we have potential for improvement. We didn't play a great game, but first games you find out a lot about players, and we think we found who is going to lay it on the line for us."
Auburn (1-0) will host South Florida (1-0) Saturday beginning at 8 p.m. CT in a game that will be televised nationally by ESPN2. The Tigers, who are ranked 13th in the USA Today Coaches' Poll and 17th by the Associated Press, and the Bulls, who received votes in the coaches' poll, will be meeting for the first time in each school's history.
Individual tickets to the South Florida are currently available for $45, and tickets are also available for home games against Mississippi State, New Mexico State, Vanderbilt, Ole Miss and Tennessee Tech. To purchase tickets log on to www.autigertickets.com or call 1-800-AUB-1957.
QUOTES FROM Tommy Tuberville PRESS CONFERENCE
"The first game, it wasn't a great game in terms of the execution. There are some things that I'm proud of. Obviously, there wasn't a lot of glitter in what we did or a lot that stood out. A couple of things I'm proud of are, first, we won the game; second, we found guys who can play four quarters; and finally, we have potential for improvement. We didn't play a great game, but first games you find out a lot about players, and we think we found who is going to lay it on the line for us, who we need to push more and who is a team player. I think those questions were answered, and when you find these answers, you go back to the drawing board and find ways to correct them.
"We've got a lot of problems like everyone else does in terms of execution, discipline, and fundamentals. We went to work yesterday and today to try and correct these mistakes. We've got potential to be a great football team. We're not really there yet, but it's about turning potential into success and getting everybody doing the same thing. Right now, we aren't.
"We beat a good football team, one that will win a lot of games. We were very fortunate. They could have won it easily as we did, and we know that. It counts, and we will go to the next game and start preparing.
"We had injuries but that's what happens when you play a physical team like we did. You will have those from time to time. I can't tell you right now who will play and who won't play this weekend. It's going to take another day and see what happens, so there is no need to talk about it. There were some out there today going 70-80 percent but if they are going to play, they will need to be 100 percent because we are going to need it all. We will need everyone playing and playing in the same direction.
"South Florida, you don't know much about them. They are a young team from the Big East. They have a lot of speed and quickness. They are a little bit different ball club than we've seen the last couple of games in terms of personnel on the team. They know how to win. They have beaten some good teams, and they play very hard. They are well-coached. I've known Jim Leavitt a long time. I go back to my Miami days when he was a defensive coordinator with Bob Stoops at Kansas State. We used to visit a lot together about defense, and he does a great job. He is a native of the Tampa area, and he knows a lot of people. He has done a good job of getting that program off of the ground. They will play hard from the first play to the last. That's one thing I know about Jim. He has done a great job of picking an offense and a defense and sticking with it, and it's paid off for him.
"It's going to be a big challenge for us as well as for them. They didn't play as well as he would have hoped and us the same way. So, I think you will see two different teams, hopefully from us and how they play. We'll see how they play and each team executes. It's going to be a good challenge. They will be one of three teams that can win the Big East this year. They have the talent to win a lot of games. Another challenge is it's the second non-conference game before we get into conference play. We need to improve. We need to play better. As I've told the team, every week don't worry about winning or losing. Worry about improving and putting yourselves to a level every week that's a little bit better than the week before, and making the team better. As I said, we have a lot of potential for improvement."
On Coach Jim Leavitt and staying at South...
"I saw Jim this summer in Phoenix, and he loves it there. He grew up there, knows the people, and it's home. I think he understands what he's got there. He's got a program there that he can continue to build, and he got them from one conference to the Big East. They know how to play, and he knows how to coach. He knows what players he wants, and he has a good, experienced staff. It will be hard to get him out. It's a program that I watched from a closer distance when I was down there. It has potential with the players they have recruited and the facilities. They play in the Buccaneers stadium. It's got a lot of potential for growth and getting into the Big East is going to help. It's going to be hard to leave. He's a good football coach, and he knows what he wants. He has had a plan from the beginning. Since they've started there, they've gotten a little bit better. Sometimes more so than others with the players he has had. They've upped the level of competition by jumping into the Big East. It won't be long until they are a force to be dealt with. I also think it's a good move getting into the Big East."
On USF Quarterback Matt Grothe...
"He's very athletic and is another sophomore who started as a freshman. He had a good freshman year last year. They have an offense that turns the quarterback into another tailback, plus he can throw. They run a lot of misdirection and screen passes. It's an explosive offense. It puts you in a lot of one on one tackling situations, and it gives you problems with alignment. They've done a good job with it and stick with it. They have recruited for it, and they have one of the best receiving groups that we'll see possibly all year. No matter who we play, they have some big guys who can run and make plays. They are looking to improve on last week's game. They had some problems in some areas as everyone else does, but they have potential to be a great team and it all starts with the quarterback."
On Mike Ford, RB...
"Mike Ford is a good football player. We recruited him, but he ended up at South Florida. He will be a force, not only in the Big East or South Florida, but in college football. He's about 245 pounds. He can run, and he's strong. He had one good run last week, but he didn't play much. I'm sure they are trying to get him ready for the games down the road. Mike Ford is a guy we all noticed very quickly as a 10th, 11th grader and as a senior in high school. He's going to be one of the better players in the country the next few years."
On youth and the team's maturity...
"What you do as a coach when playing young players for the first time ... whether they are third or first year guys. If it is their first time to play, you have to evaluate them very hard. You look at everything they've done, and how they have prepared and critique them very hard. That's what we've done with all of our players, but especially with our young guys. They need to know what level to bring their play to.
"Lee Ziemba, for instance, played hard from the first snap to the last. I think I heard him tell someone that it was the most fun he had ever had. It is going to be even more fun for him once he knows what he is doing. As long as you give effort like he gave, he will be a heck of a football player. I think a lot of players, even the older guys, watch him on film and how he plays and blocks three or five yards down field in front of the ball carrier. It's contagious. You like to see guys have fun playing, but all of them playing for the first time caused us some growing pains, and it cost us in some areas. I think it caused Brandon (Cox) some restless moments in the last couple of nights sleeping. I thought he handled it well.
"We still have a lot of growing up to do. It's not going to happen in one game. Lee Ziemba is not going to come out this weekend and play perfect. It's not going to happen. He will make mistakes, but hopefully he will cut down on the amount of mistakes and understand the game a little bit more and understand our offense.
"It was fun watching all these guys, especially on film, after we won and getting on to them about the mistakes that didn't cost us. Next week, they could cost us. It's just growing up, and we have so many young guys playing that will get better in the next few weeks but we don't have a few weeks. We have our hands full this week and conference play starts next week. So, we can't slow feed them so-to-speak. We have to give it to them in a couple of bites, and they have to absorb as much as they can. If that will help us win games then we hope it's enough."
On what the offense needs to do to be as good as in 2004-05...
"That's the million dollar question. You are always looking for someone to make plays and break one 30 yards down the field. I think we get so focused on execution that no one is ad-libbing enough. We don't have an imagination. We go back and look at our offense. We are all the same as coaches as the fans see it. It looks like we are just running up to the line of scrimmage all of the time. We have a set offense. You have to be able to run the ball as well as throw it. You have to be hard headed about it sometimes. We won around here the last few years with the defense and kicking game. You don't want to abandon what you've been teaching in practice and start doing something that doesn't fit what you normally do.
"We'll get better. We have a lot of room to get better on all areas on the offense, but we don't have a lot of time to waste. We have to do a little bit better this week, and we made some changes. We aren't to the point where we can say `we only need to work on these things.' Each week we change, and we attack a defense differently, and hopefully it will pay off. The last two teams we played (Nebraska and Kansas State) almost put everyone in the box, and it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that, and we have to execute. If we execute, things will change, and I'm sure we will see the same things from South Florida this week."
On youth attributing to the slow start...
"We are in good physical shape and our defense kept getting stronger as the game went along. Quentin (Groves) was relentless in two-a-days as well as Pat Sims. I think the front four was the difference in the game against their offensive line. We were forcing them to do things quicker than in the first half and making them make decisions quicker. This gave our offense more opportunities in the second half by getting more three and outs. You thrive off of a good defense or a good offense.
"Right now, we are thriving off of a good defense who played hard for four quarters. If we would have only played three quarters we would have lost, but our defense played hard for four quarters, and I think we had a little bit left. Unfortunately, defensive players don't just play defense, they play special teams as well, and that tends to drag a team down. If you remember, I told you we were going to play a lot of guys on defense and that saved us.
"We had a lot of guys step up like Chris Evans at linebacker and some of the young defensive linemen and defensive backs played well. That allowed us to rest our starters to the point in the fourth quarter to where they had a lot left."
On Mario Fannin...
"We've done the same thing with all of our running backs except Carnell (Williams). Ronnie (Brown) was brought along slowly as well as Kenny Irons in terms of running the ball and pass protection, and Mario was the same way. Sooner or later you have to just put him in there and say `Let's go' and see what they've learned. We put him through a lot in practice during the week. He's picking up more and more each week. Last year, he didn't practice two and half months during the season. We had to pull him off of the field and there wasn't a lot of carry over, but he had a good spring practice and two-a-days. Sooner or later you're going to see a breakout game, and hopefully it's soon."
On Brandon Cox and his mental errors...
"He's made mental errors before. We all go back to his first start against Georgia Tech. He made a few there. Brandon is not going to be perfect. No quarterback is, but you have to have a few people step up around you sometimes. This time, he had the defense and kicking game step up and get us out of the hole which we dug for ourselves on offense. We aren't going to be able to live like that all of the time.
"Last year, it caught up with us in two games, and if we don't improve, then it will catch up with us again. So, we have a lot of room for improvement. We know it. Our players know it. We talk about it, and we practice it. Hopefully, this week we show a little bit of a sign of understanding of what we are trying to do. We've got to be able to play more offensive linemen and coach (Hugh) Nall is going to play more this week."