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WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 5, 2007
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Auburn

AUBURN — Jerraud Powers’ hands were aching Tuesday morning from the endless smashing of footballs against them.

Auburn defensive backs dropped so many interceptions during Saturday’s game against Kansas State that defensive coordinator Will Muschamp had them catch balls from the JUGS pass-throwing machine at Tuesday’s practice.

“We did ball drills (Tuesday) for the first time,” said Powers, a Decatur High grad who had five tackles, two pass breakups and a quarterback hurry in the 23-13 win over Kansas State.

Powers dropped two would-be interceptions. The last errant pass came in the fourth quarter and was thrown right to him. The ball ricocheted off his hands and the starting sophomore cornerback buried his helmet into the grass in disappointment.

“I don’t know what happened,” Powers said. “I catch them all in practice then I get in the game and drop them.”

Joking with reporters, Powers said his nickname may soon be PBU — pass breakup.

“(I got) bat-down disease,” he said, laughing. “I was disappointed in myself.”

Powers rated his play as “decent,” with a few missed tackles and those dropped passes. Coaches gave him 10 production points for his play Saturday. The worst defensive player rated at minus-13 points and the best received 34 points.

Powers said he had trouble keeping up with Kansas State’s speedy senior receiver Jordy Nelson, who had nine catches for 90 yards.

Most of those grabs came when the receiver was in the slot position, from which Nelson ran crossing routes over the middle of the field. Powers was the guy covering him.

The 5-foot-9 Powers slid off the 6-foot-3 Nelson more than once when trying to tackle him.

“I got a lot of room to improve,” he said.

Powers said he had about 18 family and friends make the trek from Decatur to Auburn for the game Saturday.

  • Tuberville announced at his Tuesday news conference that backup quarterback Steven Ensminger is transferring to Louisiana Tech.

    Ensminger, the son of tight ends coach Steve Ensminger, redshirted last season. He was competing during preseason practice to be the backup quarterback to Brandon Cox, but an injury slowed him down.

    Blake Field was announced as the No. 2 quarterback, while Ensminger began practicing with the scout team.

    Ensminger will enroll at Louisiana Tech on Thursday.

    “He feels like with the offense they run and what they have at quarterback would give him the opportunity to possibly play sooner,” Tuberville said. “I tried to talk him out of it, but this is his decision, his life.”

  • Defensive end Quentin Groves doesn’t plan to do anything special if he becomes Auburn’s all-time sacks leader Saturday.

    “I already dance after every sack anyway,” Groves said.

    The senior from Greenville, Miss., needs just two more sacks to break Gerald Robinson’s record of 26 career sacks. Groves said he has been fruitlessly trying to reach Robinson.

    “I wanted to meet him and get in touch with him and have him at the game,” Groves said. “We need to recognize his great accomplishment.”

    Robinson set the record during his four-year tenure during 1982-85. Groves had two sacks against Kansas State and says he’s not going to press for the tying sack Saturday.

    “If it comes to me,” Groves said, “it comes to me.”

  • Place-kicker Wes Byrum expects Wednesday to shed the protective boot he has been wearing on his injured kicking ankle.

    Byrum twisted the ankle during the opening kickoff of Saturday night’s win over Kansas State. The true freshman kicked off twice more and went on to make three of four field goal attempts with the injury.

    It is doubtful Byrum will begin kicking Wednesday, but he said Tuesday that the boot should be coming off and rehab will begin. Byrum told The Daily he expects at least to kick field goals during Saturday’s game against South Florida.

    Zach Kutch and Graham Sutter are Byrum’s backups for field goal kicking. Austin grad Morgan Hull was the No. 2 kickoff man, but he booted a kick out of bounds during the third quarter Saturday and was replaced by Kutch.

    Starting linebacker Tray Blackmon returned to practice Tuesday, Tuberville said. Blackmon suffered a twisted ankle during his interception in the second quarter Saturday.

    Ross Dellenger,
    Daily sports writer

    Alabama

    TUSCALOOSA — Vanderbilt wide receiver Earl Bennett had 223 of Vanderbilt’s 284 receiving yards in a Saturday win over Richmond.

    So it follows naturally that Alabama coach Nick Saban is placing emphasis on stopping Bennett when the Crimson Tide visits the Commodores on Saturday.

    “Earl is really a good player, and we’ll have to play sound fundamentals against him and know where he’s located all the time because they move him around quite a bit,” Saban said. “They’re going to get him the ball in every game.”

    A junior, Bennett has 174 catches for his career, which is 35 away from the all-time SEC mark, set by Kentucky wide receiver Craig Yeast.

    Against Alabama last season, Bennett had five catches for 45 yards, including a 6-yard touchdown grab.

    Alabama hasn’t revealed how it will guard Bennett, but as Saban said, the Commodores like to put the West End High grad in several different receiving slots on the field. So, it’s likely more than one person will have responsibility for him.

    “I hope I get to go against him a lot,” Crimson Tide cornerback Simeon Castille said. “I am just ready to get this thing going.”

  • During the week before road games, under former coach Mike Shula, Alabama played its opponent’s fight song along with various other loud sounds to get ready for hostile environments.

    According to cornerback Eric Gray, the only loud sounds players have heard at practice this week have come from the coaching staff.

    “We’ve just been focusing on ourselves. I don’t even know their fight song,” said Gray, who played at West Morgan High. “We haven’t done it for them. Right now, we are so focused on doing our thing right. We may do it in the future, but right now we are focusing on ourselves.”

    Vanderbilt has the SEC’s smallest stadium with a capacity of 39,790.

  • Place-kicker Jamie Christensen was out of the black, non-contact jersey Tuesday and kicking during practice.

    Christensen is recovering from a strained quadricep muscle. He was Alabama’s starter in 2005 and 2006 but is listed behind Leigh Tiffin on the depth chart this week.

  • Sophomore linebacker Zach Schreiber was granted his release Tuesday to transfer, according to Saban.

    Schreiber played in Alabama’s 52-6 win over Western Carolina but did not record any tackles.

    A native of Shreveport, La., Schreiber had six tackles last season and played in all of Alabama’s games.

    “Zach is a fine young man who worked extremely hard,” Saban said. “He wanted to go to school closer to home, so we granted him his release.”

  • Lake Worth High (Fla.) quarterback Star Jackson committed to Alabama on Tuesday. A four-star prospect according to both Rivals.com and Scout.com, Jackson was recruited by Auburn, Central Florida, Minnesota and Pittsburgh.

    “I’ve had a good feeling about Alabama the whole time, and I’m glad my decision is behind me,” the 6-foot-3, 185-pound Jackson told Rivals.com. “Alabama had been recruiting me harder than anyone, and they were there before I started to get all these offers.”

    Jackson is Alabama’s 18th commitment for its 2008 freshman class.

    Josh Cooper,
    Daily Sports Writer

    Notre Dame

    SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Notre Dame freshman Jimmy Clausen will start at quarterback Saturday against Penn State, with the Irish looking to rebound from a season-opening 33-3 loss at home to Georgia Tech.

    South Carolina

    COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier talked all preseason about how his Gamecocks were ready to compete for the Southeastern Conference title.

    It’s still early in the season, but maybe the head ball coach spoke too soon.

    “Maybe I’ve overstated our team by throwing out some goals that appeared after that game the other night, ‘That guy’s crazy. What’s he talking about?’ ” Spurrier said Tuesday, referring to the Gamecocks lackluster 28-14 win over Louisiana-Lafayette.

    South Carolina (1-0) missed too many tackles, gave up 252 yards rushing and had too many other mistakes in the win. If the Gamecocks hope to compete against No. 11 Georgia (1-0) on Saturday, they will have to play much better.

    Nebraska

    LINCOLN, Neb. — Nebraska coach Bill Callahan has been given a new, five-year contract for $1.75 million a year.

    It will run through Jan. 31, 2012. Callahan’s old contract was to run through 2008.

    Callahan is 23-15 in four seasons with the Cornhuskers, winning the Big 12 North championship last year.

    Kentucky

    LEXINGTON, Ky. — Two of the three starting slots in the Kentucky linebacker corps are up for grabs, head coach Rich Brooks said Tuesday.

    After watching film of Saturday’s 50-10 season-opening victory over Eastern Kentucky, Brooks moved Sam Maxwell in front of Johnny Williams on the depth chart at outside linebacker, and Braxton Kelley and Micah Johnson continue to battle for the middle linebacker job.

    Brooks named Williams the starter at outside linebacker coming out of the preseason, but the head coach was pleased with Maxwell’s play against Eastern Kentucky.

    “Sam, in fewer reps than Johnny had, made some outstanding plays,” Brooks said. “Sam played better in a shorter period of time in the game. I’m sure they’re both going to play, and that thing isn’t over.”

    Despite what Brooks termed a “disappointing” fall camp, Maxwell exceeded the head coach’s expectations in the season opener.

    “He played very good in the spring and took that spot over and then this fall just didn’t look very good in practice,” Brooks said. “(But) in the game he was really good. He was quick and decisive and physical.”

    UAB

    The UAB football team went back to work Tuesday afternoon in preparation for its showdown at Florida State on Saturday. The Blazers worked out in full pads for 20 periods in what was a more spirited practice in the eyes of head coach Neil Callaway.

    “We’re still learning, but I did see them fighting through things a little more, particularly defensively,” Callaway
    said.

    “We’re not where we need to be but I did see them fighting through it and I think we’ll get better. We wanted to work hard, but we didn’t want to get anyone hurt out there.”

    From Staff, Wire Reports

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

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