News from the Tennessee Valley Sports

Alabama, Auburn Notebook


AUBURN — Coach Tommy Tuberville said Sunday he has to look away when Robert Dunn fields punts.

“I can’t even watch sometimes,” Tuberville said. “He’s got to learn that when the wind is with the ball, let it go over your head.”

Dunn, a junior receiver who serves as Auburn’s punt returner, had a 57-yard return in the third quarter Saturday night that led to a field goal. But Dunn bobbled most of the six punts before getting a firm grip on the ball.

He muffed one punt inside the 5-yard line, instead of letting it go into the end zone for a touchback. He was able to recover the fumble but Auburn began the drive at its own 2.

“That was a real bad choice on my part,” Dunn said. “I was trying to make something happen. I was trying to spark something.”

True freshman speedster Chris Slaughter is the backup to Dunn. When asked if Slaughter would take Dunn’s place if he continues to struggle, Tuberville said that Dunn is doing fine.

Dunn dodged two defenders and followed his blockers down to the K-State 15-yard line during his 57-yard dash. He seemed as if he were a step from scoring, but a K-State player caught him from behind.

“They were climbing me today, talking about how I got hawked down,” Dunn saidMonday. “I wasn’t tired. I was not expecting somebody to come from behind with all the guys in front of me.”

Dunn said his bobbles can be attributed to the new Auburn jerseys. Dunn said the combination of his sweat and the slippery jersey numbers makes the ball slide down his chest.

He will begin simulating game situations after practice by wetting his jersey and fielding punts.

Dunn also is trying to use his hands more instead of catching punts against his chest.

  • Running back Mario Fannin is expected to share carries with Ben Tate on Saturday after getting no rushing attempts against Kansas State.

    Fannin said he expected to play in the K-State game, but coaches held him out because of issues with his pass blocking and a lack of experience. Offensive coordinator Al Borges said Fannin should play against South Florida.

    “We’re going to find a way to get him in there this week,” Borges said Monday. “We’re going to exploit his skills this week.”

    Tate rushed for 82 yards on 23 carries while replacing suspended starter Brad Lester. Fullback Carl Stewart was given five carries and he picked up 7 yards.

    Fannin, who suffered a groin injury two weeks ago, said he has felt healthy since Aug. 27. The redshirt freshman had one kickoff return Saturday for 15 yards.

    Fannin said he has been working “harder in practice” so that he can get on the field.

  • Starting linebacker Tray Blackmon did not practice with the team Monday but expects to return Tuesday.

    Blackmon “turned an ankle” during his interception return that ended the second quarter of Saturday night’s game. He was wearing a protective boot on his left foot Monday. Blackmon said he expects to shed the boot and practice Tuesday.

    Receiver Montez Billings was seen riding the stationary bike during Monday’s practice. Offensive coordinator Al Borges was unsure when Billings would return to practice. Billings has spent the last few weeks recovering from a hamstring injury.

    Aairon Savage was also riding a stationary bike and had his left ankle taped. Savage suffered an injury to the ankle Saturday.

    The Tigers practiced in shorts and shoulder pads for about two hours Monday.

    They will practice again Tuesday morning.

  • After spending the weekend in Auburn, prep recruit George Baker committed to the Tigers on Monday.

    Baker, recruited as an athlete, played wide receiver and defensive back at Miami’s Archbishop Carroll High. He was offered scholarships by Kansas State, LSU, Ole Miss, Rutgers and Central Florida, according to

    Auburn’s 10th commitment of year, Baker runs the 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds and was rated as a three-star recruit.

    Ross Dellenger,
    Daily sports writer


    TUSCALOOSA — When talking about Vanderbilt’s atmosphere, Alabama players were careful to say they were expecting the typical Southeastern Conference environment.

    “I have never played at Vanderbilt, and if it is anything like these other SEC schools, it will be a hostile environment,” cornerback Simeon Castille said. “The crowd will be hating us. But it will be fun. I like playing on the road.”

    No Alabama player has played at Vanderbilt, which has the smallest home stadium in the SEC.

    Saturday’s game is a sellout at 39,790.

    The last time Alabama played at Dudley Field was 2002. The CrimsonTide scored a 30-8 victory over the Commodores.

  • Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban announced that linebacker Prince Hall and wide receiver Keith Brown will return to the team after serving their one-game suspensions.

    Hall was seen practicing with the first-team linebackers Monday, but freshman Rolando McClain shadowed him.

    Saban hasn’t said whether McClain or Hall will start at middle linebacker against Vanderbilt.

    “I think it’s up to (Hall and Brown) to work their way back to where they make a contribution to the team,” Saban said. “I think both players are capable of doing that.

    “They’ve served their penance, and they’ll have an opportunity to compete and get back and help the team any way they can.”

  • Saban announced several team awards Monday. Center Antoine Caldwell and running back Terry Grant were named Alabama’s offensive players of the week. Grant had 134 yards on 18 carries against Western Carolina on Saturday.

    Linebackers Ezekial Knight and Darren Mustin were defensive players of the week. Knight had four tackles and a sack and forced a fumble, while Mustin had seven tackles.

    Kick returner Javier Arenas and safety Rashad Johnson were special teams players of the week.

  • When talking about the highlight-reel, helmet-popping hit delivered on Western Carolina running back Willie Harper on Saturday, linebacker Darren Mustin deferred to McClain.

    Mustin did want some credit for the play, which included both him and McClain.

    But he was a little perplexed why the television camera followed him after the crunching blow.

    “I’m going to give it to (Rolando),” Mustin said. “But if you watch the film, we got there at the same time, and I guess the camera came on me because I got a little more pumped than he did. I don’t know what he did — he just took off running.”

    Josh Cooper,
    Daily Sports Writer

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