News from the Tennessee Valley Sports

Arkansas tight end Ben Cleveland, the only Springdale, Ark., product left from last year's highly touted recruiting class, warms up before football practice Monday.
AP photo by April L. Brown
Arkansas tight end Ben Cleveland, the only Springdale, Ark., product left from last year's highly touted recruiting class, warms up before football practice Monday.



After coming down hard on his back during Sunday’s Fan Day practice, Hartselle High graduate Nikita Stover wore a black, non-contact jersey and was limited in drills Monday.

A receiver, Stover was walking gingerly, but still did not appear to be seriously hurt.

  • The heat index reached 105 in Tuscaloosa during Alabama’s fourth straight day of practice Monday. The temperature at each practice has been in either the high 90s or 100s.

    “Mental and physical toughness go a long way in allowing you to do that under difficult circumstances,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “Hard work is part of that.”

    The Tide has its first two-a-day practice Wednesday, working out at 9:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m.

  • While Alabama coach Nick Saban had said cornerback Eric Gray’s hamstring was fine, the West Morgan graduate said he is fit and not feeling any ill effects from the nagging injury.

    According to Gray, strength coaches Scott Cochran and Rocky Colburn helped strengthen his hamstring to the point that won’t hamper him as it did in the past.

    During Sunday’s practice, Gray worked some with the first-team defense against the first-team offense.

    “It’s doing great. I constantly did rehab over the summer,” Gray said. “Coach Cochran, Coach Colburn did a lot, trying to get everything balanced and get everything strong.”

    - Josh Cooper,
    Daily Sports Writer


    AUBURN — Oscar Gonzalez became the newest edition to Auburn’s conundrum at the right tackle position.

    Gonzalez, a 6-foot-7, 292-pound junior, emerged from spring drills as the backup to left tackle King Dunlap, but Sunday and Monday, he practiced with the starting group at right tackle, a position that four players are fighting over.

    “Right tackle is going to be interesting,” Tuberville said with a sigh at a news conference Monday.

    Junior Andrew McCain held the position after spring drills, but a host of other players — junior Antwoin Daniels, true freshman Lee Ziemba and now Gonzalez — are battling for the spot. The right tackle position is of utmost importance because it holds the responsibility of blocking the blind side of left-handed quarterback Brandon Cox, who was riddled with injuries the last two seasons.

    Defensive end Quentin Groves has been moved from the right side of the defense to the left side during practice in order to challenge whomever happens to be at right tackle.

    “If you can block Quentin coming off the corner, you’re going to have a pretty good offensive lineman,” Tuberville said. “We’re giving Quentin full responsibility for training that right offensive tackle.”

    Tuberville said Groves has “done a pretty good job of schooling early.” He noted that the musical chairs will continue at the position for at least another two weeks.

  • Receiver Chris Slaughter was cleared by the NCAA Clearinghouse on Monday and is expected to be in Auburn for today’s practice.

    Slaughter, a member of the 2006 Auburn recruiting class, attended Hargrave Military Academy in Virginia after he failed to qualify last year.

    “I was starting to worry a little bit,” Slaughter told “I thought I was going to have to go to another school or something.”

    Slaughter, a 6-foot-3, 175-pounder, set the Georgia high school record his senior season catching 23 touchdown passes.

  • Running back Mario Fannin saw playing time in three games last season before getting hurt. This season, barring injury, he will see starting time.

    “He’ll, at one point or the other, be a starter for us,” Tuberville said.

    At 5-foot-11 and 219 pounds, Fannin can be used in an assortment of ways. He emerged after spring training as the No. 1 punt returner and the backup kickoff returner. He practiced at tailback some with the starting group Monday.

    Fannin was the No. 2 or No. 3 tailback behind starter Brad Lester after spring practice.

    “He’s always beat up because he will run through people,” Tuberville said. “The way he runs you don’t know if he’s going to run over you or run around you.”

  • Starting center Jason Bosley returned to practice Monday after missing two days because of injury. Bosley hurt his pectoral muscle lifting weights before preseason practice began.

    “We didn’t have but one fumbled snap,” Tuberville said Monday, pleased with Bosley’s return.

    Quarterback Brandon Cox was back at practice for the third day. Cox missed the first two practices on Thursday and Friday because of the flu.

    Starting fullback Carl Stewart is still recovering from a hamstring injury he suffered Friday.

    Defensive end Antonio Coleman, who suffered a pulled hamstring two weeks ago in summer workouts, practiced with the team Monday.

    - Ross Dellenger,
    Daily Sports Writer

    Punter attack

    GREELEY, Colo. — A woman who dated a Northern Colorado backup punter accused of trying to kill the starter testified Monday she lied to police at his request.

    At first, Angela Vogel told police that Mitch Cozad was with her at the time starter Rafael Mendoza was stabbed, but she said she quickly regretted that lie and 15 minutes later told investigators Cozad had left for part of the evening.

    Cozad, of Wheatland, Wyo., is on trial on charges of attempted first-degree murder and second-degree assault in the Mendoza stabbing last Sept. 11. Police and prosecutors have alleged Cozad attacked Mendoza in a bid to get the starter’s job.

    Vogel said Cozad led her to believe a player had been jumped by a group of people, and she didn’t learn Mendoza had been stabbed until police interviewed her the next day.

    - The Associated Press

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

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