News from the Tennessee Valley Sports

South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier, who returned to the SEC after two years in the NFL, has no advice for another coach who did the same: Alabama’s Nick Saban.
AP photo by Rob Carr
South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier, who returned to the SEC after two years in the NFL, has no advice for another coach who did the same: Alabama’s Nick Saban.


Freshman backup QB

HOOVER — Auburn redshirt freshman Neil Caudle will go into two-a-days as the backup to starting quarterback Brandon Cox.

Blake Field was Auburn’s reserve at quarterback last season, but head coach Tommy Tuberville said Wednesday at SEC media days that Caudle moved to the No. 2 spot “because he didn’t make as many mistakes” during spring practice. Tuberville said the race for the No. 2 position is “real close.”

“When you are looking for the guy who could be the heir apparent — one play away — you are looking for a guy that doesn’t make as many mistakes,” Tuberville said. “And the reason Neil moved up is because he didn’t make as many mistakes.”

Field, who saw action in five games in 2006, hit 8 of 9 pass attempts for 47 yards and an interception.

Tray Blackmon

Tommy Tuberville told reporters at media days that he hasn’t decided what to do about linebacker Tray Blackmon.

The sophomore was suspended for a second time for the Cotton Bowl last season and left school for spring semester to return home for personal reasons.

Tuberville said Blackmon must convince himself and the defensive coaches that “he’s going to be a team player.”

Clearinghouse problems

Four Auburn football players have not been cleared by the NCAA Clearinghouse or the university. Head coach Tommy Tuberville said Ryan Williams, Chris Slaughter, Eltoro Freeman and Nick Fairley are awaiting clearance.

“We should know something by Monday on all of them,” Tuberville said. “Hopefully we can get it all cleared up.

Watching for Saban

If Auburn defensive end Quentin Groves was the Alabama athletics director or a board of trustee member, he probably would have spent his money differently on a football coach.

In response to Alabama coach Nick Saban’s comments on having “an opponent in this state that we work every day, 365 days a year, to dominate,” Groves said that he put that quote in his locker, over his bed and in his bathroom.

“They are a great team,” Groves said. “But if they work 365 days to dominate one team, you forget that you have to play 11 other teams. If you work that hard to dominate us, you go 1-11 and hey, what is the $4 million for?”

It was just part of the tone that Saban’s re-entry into the league brought to the first day of media days — and he won’t even address the assembled reporters until Thursday.

Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville answered a total of three questions on Saban.

“It has been good for us,” Tuberville said. “I know Nick has probably had a tough time as I did my first year at Auburn, having to answer all the questions about this and that. Again, that is part of it. But I’ve kind of enjoyed being underneath the radar for the last six months.”

Speaking of Saban

South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier knows all too well what Saban is going through. Sort of.

As another successful SEC coach who had a tough time in the NFL, then returned to his comfort zone at another school, Spurrier has an idea of what Saban will see when Alabama plays his old school, LSU.

Spurrier just hasn’t spoke to the new Alabama coach about it. Nor will he.

“I don’t really try to tell people what to do,” Spurrier said. “I’m not very big on advice or anything like that.”

Arkansas’ passing woes

Winning the Southeastern Conference Western Division with a passing game ranked 108th in the nation doesn’t bother head coach Houston Nutt.

Why should it? He has a hoard of running backs — including Heisman runner-up Darren McFadden — to give the ball to.

“If you came to practice, you’d say, ‘Hmm, No. 5, you better give him the ball,’ ” Nutt said of McFadden. “You do what’s best with your players to give them the best chance to win.”

Arkansas’ running game ranked first in the SEC last season averaging a whopping 228 yards a game, more than 60 yards ahead of second-place LSU.

This year the Razorbacks again should rely upon McFadden and counterpart Felix Jones in the backfield.

As for the passing problems, McFadden said, “That’s something I’m not worried about because I’m doing a great job of preparing myself. I feel like our offense will be more balanced this year.”

After the departure of highly touted quarterback Mitch Mustain, Casey Dick will start for the Razorbacks. Dick, a junior, started five games of the 2006 season. He completed fewer than 50 percent of his passes.

AU’s tight end strength

Auburn’s Tommy Tuberville realizes he has some serious replacing to do on his offense — running back, receiver and four offensive linemen — but one position that looks solid is tight end, where Auburn returns three experienced players.

Tommy Trott, Cole Bennett and Gabe McKenzie will work as a cumulative group at the position.

“We’re going to do a lot of different things with our tight ends this year,” Tuberville said. “Just looking at what we can do with all those guys is going to help this offense become even more imaginative than it was last year.”

Trott and McKenzie stepped in for an injured Bennett last season, catching a combined 23 passes for more than 230 yards. The two scored three touchdowns. Bennett, a senior, brings 21/2 years of experience to the position.

No Kentucky blues

When Kentucky coach Rich Brooks walked up to the podium, smiled and said “I’m back.”

That’s funny, considering the doom and gloom predicted for Brooks before Kentucky’s 8-5 season last year, which culminated in a Music City Bowl victory over Clemson.

Much of that success can be attributed to quarterback André Woodson.

Last season Woodson finished first in the SEC in yards a game (270.4) and touchdown passes (31). Much of this had to do with first-year Kentucky offensive coordinator Randy Sanders, who used to coach at Tennessee.

According to Woodson, Sanders taught him how to read defenses better and study them with more detail.

So what does Woodson do for an encore?

“I can’t go out there and try to throw a bomb on everything,” Woodson said. “The best thing I can do is to go out there and be a general. If the defense drops eight (players into coverage), I give it to the running back and make a play.”

- Ross Dellenger, Josh Cooper and The Associated Press

Copyright 2005 THE DECATUR DAILY. All rights reserved.
AP contributed to this report.

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