News from the Tennessee Valley Sports



AUBURN — All three of Auburn’s injured starters are expected to play Saturday night against South Florida.

Head coach Tommy Tuberville told reporters after Thursday morning’s practice starting linebacker Tray Blackmon (ankle), safety Aairon Savage and kicker Wes Byrum (ankle) are nearly fully recovered from their injuries.

“We have a chance for everybody to play,” he said. “Everybody moved around good. Tray and Aairon took most of the snaps, and Wesley kicked well.”

Blackmon twisted his ankle during an interception return against Kansas State on the last play of the first half. Blackmon was seen wearing a protective boot on his left foot Monday. He shed the boot Tuesday and began full-speed action Thursday.

Byrum had a protective boot on his right foot taken off Wednesday. The true freshman twisted the ankle during the opening kickoff against Kansas State when he ran down field to make a tackle. Byrum kicked off twice more and went on to make three of four field goal attempts with the injury.

Zach Kutch and Graham Sutter are Byrum’s backups for field-goal kicking. Austin High 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. Tuberville said Wednesday that Kutch would kick if Byrum could not go.

? Defensive coordinator Will Muschamp has a simple motto: “Whenever you win, you did something right.”

His defense kept Auburn in the game Saturday against Kansas State until the offense finally clicked late in the fourth quarter.

“I thought they had great effort and the kids competed,” Muschamp said. “That will win you some games with great effort and pursuit to the football.”

Five of Kansas State’s 15 drives lasted only four plays, and the Auburn defense allowed just 27 rushing yards. During K-State’s opening 13-play, 61-yard drive the Wildcats converted 3 of 4 third-down attempts. They were 2 for 12 the rest of the game.

“There was nothing new they did in the first drive we had not prepared for,” Muschamp said. “We just didn’t execute very well, and they did.”

Muschamp’s squad intercepted KSU quarterback Josh Freeman twice and returned a fumble for a score that clinched the victory, but there were negatives.

Several more interceptions were dropped, and Muschamp said the defense missed 15 tackles and “missed plays in space.”

“That was disappointing, but it’s all correctable,” he said.

Auburn hurried Freeman seven times, including two sacks by end Quentin Groves. Muschamp said having speedsters Antonio Coleman and Groves at defensive end is an advantage.

Coleman, a usual second-stringer, replaces Sen’Derrick Marks at the weak-side end position on third downs when Marks moves inside to defensive tackle.

“When you have (Coleman) and Groves on the edges,” Muschamp said, “they were able to set their tackles back pretty well and get some pressure on the quarterback.”

Ross Dellenger,
Daily sports writer


Running back Jimmy Johns said the experiment of him playing fullback during preseason practice was a one-time deal — maybe.

“During camp, I never really switched to the fullback position,” Johns said. “I just learned the fullback position. That week, I was strictly fullback so I could help out there and give Baron Huber a break, or whoever is in there a break.”

Johns said that with his bruising style, he can give Alabama a change of pace at running back from starter Terry Grant’s speed and quickness.

“He’s going to wear defenses down and make them miss,” Johns said. “I need to be a power back who can beat up guys, so when he comes in he can just blow past them.”

While Johns appears to have solidified his role as the No. 2 running back behind Grant, Saban gave runners Roy Upchurch and Glen Coffee a chance against Western Carolina as they had nine carries for 76 yards and six carries for 55 yards, respectively.

Johns carried the ball for eight carries and 31 yards.

? If anything sets off Saban, it’s his defensive players saying they did not get the correct play-call from the coaching staff.

“I don’t try that excuse,” cornerback Simeon Castille said. “That doesn’t fly with him at all. That’s why I try to learn the calls so I don’t have to ask anybody else.”

According to several players, it was difficult to get the signals Saturday because Western Carolina ran a no-huddle offense.

Vanderbilt, Alabama’s Saturday opponent, doesn’t run a no-huddle attack often.

? From hotels, to sideline organization to press box organization, Saban said everything from a game week gets evaluated.

But one aspect of his team’s 52-6 victory over Western Carolina pleased Saban — the organization of his coaching staff.

“I was extremely pleased with how we functioned being a new staff,” Saban said. “We didn’t have a lack-of-communication problem with the players on the sidelines during the game.”

Last week, Saban said he prefers to have all of his coaches on the sidelines. Last season, then-head coach Mike Shula let offensive coordinator Dave Rader sit in a skybox so he could see defensive and offensive formations.

Josh Cooper,
Daily Sports Writer

Ole Miss

JACKSON, Miss. — Jerrell Powe was denied in his quest to play at Ole Miss for the third time Thursday when the NCAA rejected the appeals of the defensive lineman and the school.

The learning-disabled prized recruit has spent more than two years seeking permission from the NCAA to start his college career. Officials have ruled Powe, 20, will not be able to play football until 2008, and only then if he completes a year of college at Ole Miss.

“Based on his academic history and even after receiving all the accommodations and protections available to individuals with disabilities, Mr. Powe has not demonstrated that he can succeed academically during his first year of collegiate enrollment while also practicing and competing in athletics,” an NCAA statement said.

The NCAA granted Powe a partial initial eligibility waiver last week and ruled that Powe could attend Ole Miss and receive athletic financial aid, but not play football. He is currently enrolled.


BIRMINGHAM — Joe Thigpen ran for three touchdowns and threw for two more Thursday night to lead Birmingham-Southern to a 41-13 win over Mississippi College’s junior varsity team.

Thigpen threw for 171 yards and rushed for 75 yards on 12 attempts. Tony Myers scored on a 74-yard pass from Thigpen early in the second quarter and Josh Houston scored on another Thigpen pass later in the same quarter.

Birmingham-Southern (1-0), a private, liberal arts school is returning to the gridiron this fall for the first time since 1939. School leaders added football after deciding last year to ditch NCAA Division I athletics in favor of non-scholarship Division III sports.

Birmingham-Southern returns to the field Sept. 15 against Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference foe Rhodes College. Kickoff is slated for noon.

Appalachian State

After pulling off one of the greatest upsets in college football history, Appalachian State is still shaking things up.

The Associated Press said Thursday that lower-division schools — that means you, Mountaineers — are now eligible for its 71-year-old poll.

“It’s great they opened the door,” Appalachian State coach Jerry Moore said from his office in Boone, N.C. “Certainly we’re not going to be the No. 1 team in the country. We know that.”

From wire reports

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

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