News from the Tennessee Valley Sports

Auburn, Alabama Football Notebook


AUBURN — Sophomore linebacker Tray Blackmon was nearly speechless as he fumbled for words to describe a feeling that he’s never had: playing in an opener.

“I can’t explain it in words,” he said Tuesday, the final day Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville allows his players to talk to reporters during a game week.

“I’m about to explode. It’s like a whole new world for me preparing for the first game.”

Blackmon, Auburn’s starting middle linebacker, was suspended for the first six games of last season for breaking team rules. He didn’t see the field until the Tigers’ game against Florida on Oct. 14. Then he started four of the next five games collecting 18 tackles.

But Blackmon was suspended again for Auburn’s Cotton Bowl victory. The 6-foot-0, 223-pounder said all of that is in the past. The slate is clean.

“Everything is like brand new,” said Blackmon, who is from LaGrange, Ga. “I feel like I have a chance to be successful.

Blackmon played weakside linebacker in 2006 but was moved to anchor the defense as a middle linebacker during spring practice.

The transition, he said, was simple. Plus, there are more chances to make plays from there, the sophomore added.

“It’s kind of hard on weak side. Most of the time, plays go away from you,” he said. “Now, being in the middle, I go to each side.”

The guys who flank Blackmon are redshirt freshman Craig Stevens and junior Merrill Johnson. The three have a combined 12 starts. And their backups are far from experienced.

True freshman Bo Harris is listed as No. 2 on the depth chart behind Stevens. Juniors Chris Evans and Courtney Harden are the other two backups. Both have no starts.

Ross Dellenger, Daily Sports Writer


TUSCALOOSA — Cornerback Simeon Castille can see the ball heading toward him. He envisions grabbing it with his hands and cradling it, changing the game’s possession and giving the Alabama offense a chance to score.

It is a dream scenario for Castille, who has had to deal with the fallout stemming from his Aug. 19 arrest and disorderly conduct charge. He pleaded not guilty, and his trial is set for Sept. 26.

Last season, Castille led Alabama with six interceptions.

“I look to get a pick in every game, but I actually have thought about it,” Castille said. “I want to just come out and have a great game. I have already put all of it behind me and it would help a lot of other people to put it behind them.”

? For those fans hoping Alabama coach Nick Saban brings out the jacket and tie on the sidelines, sorry, it’s not going to happen.

Saban said he most likely will wear a coaching shirt and pants.

“We do dress, I hope, what you would say is nicely while we’re traveling and so will our team,” Saban said. “But I’ve never been a coat-and-tie guy for a game. I’ve never done that. I’d like to be evaluated someday on my body of work coaching, not dressing.”

On A-Day, Saban wore a sports coat and slacks on the field. He had several speaking arrangements he needed to attend before the game and didn’t have time to change.

? Last week, Saban mentioned the tight ends will play a bigger role in the Tide’s offense. And this week, tight end Nick Walker confirmed Saban’s words.

“I’m pretty sure we are going to catch some passes this year,” Walker said. “We got a bunch of different schemes and personnel. We are going to play a lot. A whole lot.”

Walker says he is leaner and quicker than he was last season. He weighs 240 pounds, down from the 255 he was last year. In 2006, Walker and fellow tight end Travis McCall had 11 catches between them.

Josh Cooper, Daily Sports Writer

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