News from the Tennessee Valley Sports

South Eastern Conference Football Notebook


AUBURN — Starting fullback Carl Stewart said Thursday that he will be ready for the team’s opener against Kansas State next Saturday.

The 6-foot-2, 230-pounder suffered a hamstring injury during the second day of preseason practice.

He practiced with the Tigers at half-speed for the past two days but should return to full-speed action no later than “early next week.”

“I’ll definitely be ready for the game,” Stewart said. “I tried to sneak into a couple of full-speed drills, and they jerked me out.”

Senior Danny Perry backs up Stewart, but running backs Ben Tate and Marion Fannin could play the position, coaches said.

But Stewart is needed not only for his abilities as a fullback. Coach Tommy Tuberville compared Stewart to cornerback Jerraud Powers for his versatility.

“He’s the universal player, like Jerraud on defense,” he said. “It’s hard to find those guys.”

Stewart, who started six games in 2006, rushed for 98 yards on 27 carries and had 13 catches for 239 yards, but he is likely to see more action in his senior campaign.

Stewart has spent the better half of preseason practice watching from a stationary bike.

“It’s been ridiculous,” he said.

? Offensive line coach Hugh Nall will have his starters “work completely together Sunday,” according to Tuberville.

Nall announced last week his five starters will be left tackle King Dunlap, left guard Tyronne Green, right tackle Lee Ziemba, center Jason Bosley, and right guard Mike Berry. Bosley and Berry have recently recovered from injuries. The possibility of injuries has made coaches hesitant to play all five at full speed during the last week.

“You’ve always got to plug a center in or a guard in or a tackle in just in case of injuries,” Tuberville said.

The coach said the offensive line became tired during Wednesday’s 80-play scrimmage.

“It was full speed with the offensive and defensive line,” Tuberville said. “We did some 12- and 14-play drives with both groups and made sure they understood you’ve got to keep your focus and concentration in the long drives.”

Ziemba is a true freshman, and Berry is a redshirt freshman. When asked if the young starters worried him heading into game week, Tuberville shrugged it off.

“They’re not new guys anymore,” he said. “The biggest thing is keeping their focus, understanding it’s going to be a little different when we get to game time.”

Tuberville said Antwoin Daniels continues to rotate with Ziemba at the right guard spot. He said “everybody’s got a backup we feel good about.”

“It’s not that we’re going in without any depth on the offensive line.”

? Running back and kickoff returner Mario Fannin (groin) is at 100 percent and practiced full-speed Thursday. The redshirt freshman played only at half-speed during Wednesday’s scrimmage.

Guard Leon Hart (ankle) remains out. Stewart (hamstring) and receiver Montez Billings (hamstring) went only half a practice again Thursday.

True freshman linebacker Brent Slusher was held out of practice because of a bruised arm he suffered Wednesday. Tuberville said Slusher should return to practice Sunday. Coaches have said that Slusher is one of a handful of true freshmen who could see playing time this season.

? The Tigers spent 50 to 60 percent of practice preparing for Kansas State on Thursday. Tuberville said that will continue for the next four or five days. The Tigers will have another mock scrimmage Friday night, the coach confirmed.

Ross Dellenger,
Daily Sports Writer


TUSCALOOSA — Alabama coach Nick Saban announced Thursday sophomore Leigh Tiffin is the starting place-kicker.

Jamie Christensen, the starter the past two seasons, is struggling with a strained quadriceps muscle.

“(Leigh) has been consistent all through camp,” Saban said. “I think the competition was good for both guys, and both guys are better because of it. I don’t think that decision was a final decision. When Jamie comes back, if he kicks well, he may get another opportunity.”

Last season, Christensen injured his groin during the preseason, thrusting Tiffin, then a true freshman, into a starting role.

He is the son of former Alabama kicker Van Tiffin, who kicked the game-winning 52-yard field in the 1985 win over Auburn. Leigh Tiffin nailed a game-winning 47-yard field goal against Vanderbilt in the second contest of the season.

But Tiffin suffered a nightmare game against Arkansas, missing two field goals and an extra point in a 24-23 loss. That led to Christensen’s hasty return as a starter the following week.

? Decatur High grad Trent Dean practiced with the defensive backs Thursday, wearing No. 37. Chris Pugh, a former Lawrence County standout, was with the receivers, and Athens grad Rob Ezell wore No. 8 and worked with the quarterbacks.

Offensive lineman Cody Davis and fullback Baron Huber wore black non-contact jerseys. Saban said Huber is day-to-day with a thigh bruise.

Defensive tackle Brian Motley wore a cast, but practiced in a black jersey as well.

Josh Cooper,
Daily Sports Writer

South Carolina

COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina quarterback Blake Mitchell was one of three players suspended for the opening game against Louisiana-Lafayette for missing summer school classes.

Steve Fink, a spokesman for the athletic department, said Thursday that Mitchell, tailback Bobby Wallace and cornerback Chris Hail were suspended for the Gamecocks’ home opener Sept. 1.

The three players also were suspended from the team’s first two practices this fall for missing classes.

South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier was not immediately available for comment Thursday.

The suspension is the latest setback for the Gamecocks’ starting quarterback. Mitchell was arrested a year ago and charged with simple assault after a nightclub bouncer told police that Mitchell punched him. The charge was later dropped, but Mitchell sat out for several weeks as Syvelle Newton ran the South Carolina offense.


KNOXVILLE — Tennessee’s backup squads donned navy blue jerseys Thursday and began running through Golden Bear schemes as coach Phillip Fulmer focused on the Sept. 1 opener at No. 12 California.

Junior linebacker Ellix Wilson was back in practice after sitting out the last two weeks with a strained knee.

Despite his long absence, Wilson will travel with the team to Berkeley and will work his way into the rotation behind the starting three.

The Associated Press

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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