News from the Tennessee Valley Sports

SEC Football Notebook


Alabama may finally start looking ahead to Western Carolina.

Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban has talked constantly during the preseason about focusing on personal improvement each practice, but he hinted after Saturday’s scrimmage that the team will move into installing plays for its Sept. 1 season opener against the Catamounts.

“We won’t start game preparation until later in the week,” Saban said. “We did have some things we need to work on fundamentally, but we will do that probably Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.”

  • Alabama’s football guide includes this one statement on the cover: “The Process Begins.”

    For those wondering when the “process” ends, the answer appears to be never. According to Saban, the moment it seems to be over is the moment when things start to fall apart.

    “There is never an end,” Saban said. “We’re teaching all our players, developing our players, evaluating our players every day.”

    While Saban continues to say there is no depth chart, he does realize that the need to focus on coaching certain players more intently will come soon.

    And one of the main factors in making that decision is whether certain players are performing the way he wants on a daily basis.

    “I do think that we have to decide at some point in time, ‘OK, these are the guys that we want to try to coach this year,’ ” Saban said. “It’s a work in progress in making that evaluation on guys , and consistency is a big part of it.”

    Josh Cooper,
    Daily Sports Writer


    AUBURN — True freshman Wes Byrum has been named Auburn’s kickoff specialist and field goal kicker, while redshirt freshman Ryan Shoemaker won the punting job.

    Seven players competed for the three kicking duties that were left vacant by the graduation of place-kicker John Vaughn, punter Kody Bliss and kickoff guy Matt Clark.

    Shoemaker has missed the last seven days of practice with a pulled groin, but special teams coach Eddie Gran said earlier in the week that he never lost his No. 1 spot that he received in spring practice.

    Byrum won the kickoff duties over walk-ons Ross Gornall and Patrick Tatum. Gornall, junior Zack Kutch and walk-on Graham Sutter were competing to take Vaughn’s place as the field goal kicker.

    Shoemaker was competing against Tatum. Byrum recently began punting, also.

  • With only 12 days remaining until Auburn’s home season opener against Kansas State, the Tigers have started their normal weekly practice routine, taking off Monday and resuming drills Tuesday.

    After Sunday’s two-hour practice, head coach Tommy Tuberville said the team is “starting to get a little bit of personality.”

    “A lot of guys have begun to realize they’ve made it through the long haul and there is a lot more enthusiasm in practice,” he said. “I really like the work ethic of our team.”

    Although Tuberville said that the scout team would not be assembled until Tuesday, it was gathered Sunday, and preparation for Kansas State began.

    Quarterback Kodi Burns and Steve Ensminger practiced with the scout team, which is not permanent and could change daily.

  • Right guard Mike Berry (shoulder) was the lone probable starter who returned to practice Sunday.

    According to Tuberville, receiver Montez Billings (hamstring) should be back Tuesday. Fullback Carl Stewart (hamstring) and receiver Tim Hawthorne (ankle) should return by the end of the week, he said.

    Right guard Leon Hart had an MRI on his ankle and will “probably be out longer than all of them,” Tuberville said.

  • Tuberville told reporters after practice that 2007 signee Nick Fairly is still waiting for approval from the NCAA Clearinghouse. He expects to hear something in the next few days.

    Ross Dellenger,
    Daily Sports Writer


    NASHVILLE — Vanderbilt head coach Bobby Johnson put the Commodores through their first preseason scrimmage in Vanderbilt Stadium on Saturday, using the occasion to take another look at inexperienced players who need to step forward and secure important roles this season.

    The scrimmage was a 19-series, 65-play session and it was conducted exactly two weeks before the Commodores host Richmond in the season opener. It was also held during yet another hot Middle Tennessee afternoon, with temperatures reaching the high 90s.

    Similar to a full-contact session Wednesday, Johnson took full advantage of the chance to put several newcomers and untested upperclassmen into the fray.

    Johnson left the Dudley Field playing surface liking much of what he witnessed in the 90-minute drill.

    “I was pleased with everybody’s attitude and how hard they were working,” Johnson said. “I’d be pretty happy if we would eliminate some mistakes, but most coaches are saying that this time of year. Once we have a chance to look at the film, we’ll know a lot more.”

    From staff reports

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