Dec. 14, 2007
The Auburn football team returned to the practice fields for the first time since the regular-season finale against Alabama, working out for a little more than two hours Friday at the practice fields behind the Athletics Complex.
The Tigers began preparations for the Chick-fil-A Bowl match-up with Clemson, while also practicing for the first time with new offensive coordinator Tony Franklin. The workout followed the typical routine, as the team started with special teams before conducting individual and group drills. The Tigers also spent much of the practice working against the scout teams.
"We had a very good practice today," said head coach Tommy Tuberville. "What we did today and tomorrow will be technique and fundamentals. We're getting back to the field trying to feel our way around to see how we want to do it on both defense and offense. We worked a lot of special teams. We did some three-on-three, one-on-one, just tried to have a spring practice type of practice to get them in the frame of mind of getting ready to go."
Auburn (8-4) will host Clemson (9-3) Dec. 31 in the Chick-fil-A Bowl in the Georgia Dome. The game will kick off at 7:30 p.m. ET and will be nationally televised on ESPN.
It will be Auburn's fourth appearance in the Atlanta-based bowl. Auburn's last appearance in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, formerly the Peach Bowl, was in 2001, when the Tigers lost to North Carolina, 16-10.
Auburn will return to the practice fields Saturday at 9:30 a.m.
Auburn Head Coach Tommy Tuberville Press Conference Quotes
"We started practice today for the 2007 Chick-Fil-A Bowl. Our guys are excited - I think because finals are over today and we only have a few more days of practice before they go home.
"Injury wise, Chris Evans will probably not be practicing until we get to the bowl. He has a strained groin that happened in the Georgia game. It's still bothering him a little bit. Other than that, everybody's in pretty good shape. Brandon Cox did not practice today. He had a friend pass away. He was at the funeral today. He'll be back tomorrow, ready to go.
"It was a good day at practice. Obviously everybody wants to know about the new offensive coordinator. He was observing. We'll do a little bit of the things he has been doing over the past few years. It's hard to make a change this quick and learn all the terminology. That would be the big point. There will be a happy medium in there we will hit. We will find out what everybody can handle - coaches and players. We'll go from there.
"We had a very good practice today. It was a long practice. Our schedule will almost be two-a-days - a big practice and then walk-throughs. We'll do something of that nature to try and to get in enough time before we leave on Tuesday. Tomorrow, the weather will change and that will probably change a lot of things we do, but we'll still get in a lot of practice and meeting time.
"Clemson is a very good football team. They are probably one of the better teams we'll face all year in terms of balance. They can run the ball. They are very good defensively and have a lot of speed when it comes to special teams. We've started looking at film. What we did today and tomorrow will be technique and fundamentals. We're getting back to the field trying to feel our way around to see how we want to do it on both defense and offense. We worked a lot of special teams. We did some three-on-three, one-on-one, just tried to have a spring practice type of practice to get them in the frame of mind of getting ready to go.
"We want to try and have all of our game planning done Tuesday. When we go to the bowl, we'll have a lot of practice time but we won't add anything once we get to Atlanta on Christmas night. Our guys are excited.
"We had a good press conference yesterday in Atlanta. I had an opportunity to speak with coach Bowden in Atlanta. He's very excited about his team. I think it's going to be a very good matchup. They try to do it right. They were just a few plays away from having a tremendous season just like we were. They were on the edge of having several more wins. You can look at that both ways.
"It should be a very good game. We are excited about having the chance to practice 10 or 12 more times between now and the first of the year. We want to get everyone back in the next couple of days and get them ready."
(On play calling duties...)
"It just depends on how much we're going to do on both sides. Today coach Franklin wanted to go out and look at what he had to work with in terms of if there was anything we could do simply that he does. He wanted to look at some things we were doing on the field, not just on film. There might be a mixture of both but we want to finish with Tuesday's practice to see where we are at on offense. I think there's going to be a lot of input in this game because it's such a short amount of time. He'll be the play caller when he gets full speed in what he's doing."
(On who will be offensive play caller...)
"Probably Hugh Nall. Hugh's been in charge of the running game for the last several years. I'm not saying that 100 percent but in the game situations up until this point, he was the on e that has been scripting runs and putting our game plan together. That would probably be the logical choice."
(How do you plan to organize the offensive staff?)
"Steve Ensminger will have a little more of a hand in coaching the H's - Robert Dunn and those guys. There won't be much of a change in terms of position coaches in this game. We're going to stick with what we're doing. We're not going to shift gears that quick. There will be a little bit of carryover. Greg Knox will handle the outside guys a little more in terms of focusing on what they're doing. Steve would handle the inside receivers and tight ends."
(On what led to change in philosophy...)
"We're not abandoning everything we were doing. We're trying to do something that will give us an opportunity on the field and in recruiting to be able to take another step up. We've got good football players on the team but we've had a tough time making big plays. Whether that's got to do with personnel or the plays we've been running is yet to be seen. Everything you do, you do to improve. Is it going to help? We're going to have to wait and see. I don't know. There are a lot of good defenses in this league that have a say so in what you're going to run no matter you run a wish-bone or no backs. We're just looking for answers. I think this is going to give us an opportunity to look at a lot of thing s in spring practice and going into next year.
"You really run your offense depending on your personnel. What we were doing on offense with the personnel we had was pretty good. Again, our outside guys weren't burners. We didn't get the ball downfield but sometimes we didn't try enough. You look for a different tempo and that's basically what we've done."
(On running an offense with a mobile quarterback and spread offense...)
"We've looked at it the last couple of years. If you go back and look at the people in the top-10, there are a lot of them running a version of the spread. That's what we're looking to do. We're not looking for wholesale spread. We're looking for something that will help in the recruiting area and also something that will help in the big plays."
(On recruit interested in spread offense...)
"I'd say wideouts, probably quarterbacks, different types of tight ends - Tony Franklin might look at our players and say, `This is perfect for what we need.' That's the beauty of being able to get him in here for a couple of weeks before recruiting gets on a dead run. Recruiting is, you say, halfway through. The month of January is your big month. A lot of people change their minds. We might want someone else. There are a lot of questions that need to be answered before all of that."
"It looks good so far. I've always had a surprise or two at the end. We had a meeting on that today. We still have some tests to take but it looks real good. It's one of the best semesters we've ever had. It's always tough on the semester during the season because there is so much going on, especially on the young guys. This year we played so many true freshmen. It makes for a tough semester for them, on the field and academics."
(On players recruited to Al Borges' offense...)
"They ran this offense in high school. Neil Caudle ran this. Blake Field ran it. Kodi Burns ran it. The thing you get into in this offense, almost everyone you recruit is in this offense. That's the beauty of this. You can probably go out and evaluate players a little easier for this than you could the West Coast Offense. Not many high schools out there run what we've been running. There's not much changeover for the players other than the players that have been here and been in our system for a year or two. They're going to have to learn something different in spring practice."
(On moving on from West Coast Offense...)
"I didn't say the West Coast Offense wasn't going to work. We're going to run some of that. I'm a believer in two backs. I believe you have to line up and pound the ball some. The part that I like more is you can use different personnel and do that in the offense we're running in the spring. You can spread people out and do the same thing. In the spread offense, you can also bring everybody in with the same personnel you're spreading them out with and run some of the two-back things we like to run."
"We ran about five running plays out of the West Coast Offense that were very good. That's not what I was concerned about. I'm concerned more about getting the ball downfield in the hands of our guys, like James Swinton, who can break plays and get the ball down field. I think that's the biggest thing we're trying to do with this offense. It's not that Al Borges didn't do that. That just was not the scheme. It was more of a two back, one tight end, and two receiver scheme. This basically is taking a running back out at times, putting a slot in the game, spreading them out, putting guys in motion and throwing the ball a little quicker. We tried some of it. At times it worked. At times it didn't."
(On competition for starting quarterback...)
"It will be wide open. They all ran it. Brandon Cox ran it in high school. He ran the same exact spread offense. So many people run it in high school."
(On Neil Caudle and Blake Field picking up new offense...)
"The one thing when you get in the spring and we start running the quarterback draws, the quarterback counters and all those things, the quarterback is starting to run the ball 10-to-12 times a game. That's where quarterbacks have to hold up in this league. That's why you have to have more than one. I talked to Mike Bellotti in New York about his offense. He had a pretty offense and had a chance to win a national championship. He lost three quarterbacks this year. That's the drawback of this offense. You have to have more than one quarterback. You think you're going to go into a season like we did with Brandon Cox and he's going to take 99 percent of the snaps. You're probably going to fool yourself. You have to have guys who are practiced.
"We're going to have to do a lot of work in the spring. We've got a couple of guys we are recruiting at quarterback this year we feel are able to run this scheme and we'll continue to look at receivers and tight ends. You call it the spread offense. The only difference is the quarterback is a much more physical type of player that runs more. The rest of it is not much different than what we have been doing. We are not going to abandon the two backs. In this league, you've got to be able to line up with a fullback and change the tempo a little bit."
(On Tony Franklin...)
"I've heard Tony talk before. I'd watched a lot of film on Kentucky when he was there. Over the last couple of years I had watched a lot of teams run a lot of this stuff and envisioned our players in it in terms of being able to execute it. It's pretty tough, too, with me being a defensive guy watching film of teams we played against. It gives you some problems in terms of getting ready - having the right personnel on the field. We didn't just look at it from the eyes of the offense. We also looked at it from the eyes of the defense. It's coming. We'll start running it in the spring. I'd imagine in the future we'll start seeing it in more and more teams. Talking to Tony, he knows exactly how many high schools in the country are running this and how they have done."
(On hybrid system between West Coast and Spread...)
"You have to look at who you are playing and what you can do. I don't think every down in this league you can line up in shotgun. Everybody knows we've won games around here going for it on fourth-and-one. It would be pretty tough to do that out of the shotgun. You've got different personnel settings and formations in the Spread. It's not too hard to say, `Ok, we're going to have two backs in the game, three wide receivers, quarterback under center and run an isolation play.' It isn't that hard to do that. The running game that we have had in the past wasn't simple, but it didn't take a lot of practice time. There will be some situations where we look a little bit like last year."
"Tony will be the offensive coordinator but he also understands that he's getting ready to line up against defenses that are going to be a little different. He's got four other coaches on his staff that will discuss with him in the spring what to expect, `Next year we play Tennessee. What can we expect from them defensively?' Same thing for Arkansas and LSU. You set your offense against the team you are getting ready to play. He knows there is not a better conference in the nation, defensively. We're going to have to have a plan that's going to be thorough and thought out for a lot of hours before we come to the decision on what we're going to do. He understands. He knows the game. What I like is Tony loves to run the ball. They ran 81 plays a game this year and half were running plays."
(On Tony Franklin's camps...)
"We'll have camps here. In the SEC, you can't leave campus and work another camp. He has other people run them for him. We'll get film and feedback from them. I think it will be good carryover for us."