News from the Tennessee Valley Sports



TUSCALOOSA — With the New England Patriots under scrutiny for videotaping New York Jets coaches sending defensive signals to their players, Alabama coach Nick Saban came to the defense of Patriots coach Bill Belichick.

Saban was defensive coordinator with the Cleveland Browns during 1991-94 when Belichick was the head coach there and often speaks fondly of his former boss.

“Bill is a good friend of mine,” Saban said. “I have a tremendous amount of respect for him. I don’t know exactly what happened in this circumstance, and I don’t know anything about it, but I have every respect that Bill is a great competitor and he has always been an advocate of fairness in the game.

“I don’t think he would do anything that is not ethical — certainly not when I coached with him.”

  • If wide receiver Keith Brown and Prince Hall are going to make their way back from their one-game suspensions, they still have a lot of work to do, according to Saban.

    Saban suspended both for the season-opening win over Western Carolina. They were allowed to play against Vanderbilt on Saturday, but both were used sparingly. Hall had one tackle, and Brown had no catches, although quarterback John Parker Wilson threw his way twice.

    “Keith Brown has a role on the team, and there are certain parts of the team where he is going to participate in,” Saban said. “Prince has to compete with the other guys who are playing right now and win his job back. We are happy with him.”

  • It looks as if freshman cornerback Chris Lett (diabetes) will not play this season, and it is unclear whether he will play again.

    According to Saban, Lett’s blood sugar fluctuates when he practices, making it difficult for him to feel like he is 100 percent.

    “He can be a good player for us if we can get him on the field,” Saban said. “But I also feel like if this condition does not improve that he’ll be able to do the work load on a consistent basis.”

    Josh Cooper,
    Daily Sports Writer


    AUBURN — Special teams coach Eddie Gran is confident Austin High grad Morgan Hull will see the field again one day.

    Gran said that Hull pulled a groin during the first week of the season. Hull replaced the injured Wes Byrum as Auburn’s kickoff specialist for one kick during the third quarter of the season-opening win over Kansas State.

    Hull’s kickoff flew out of bounds, and following a 5-yard penalty, Hull’s second kick nearly rolled out of bounds again.

    “We thought maybe (Hull) could be the backup guy,” Gran said. “He’s got the ability and somewhere down the road he will.”

    Hull, who is on academic scholarship at Auburn, walked on to the team a week before the first game. He impressed coaches with his leg strength and began competing with Byrum, who also kicks field goals, for the kickoff job. Byrum twisted his ankle on his first kickoff of the season.

    Junior Zach Kutch has been kicking off for the Tigers, but Kutch’s leg strength is nowhere near Byrum’s. Whether Byrum can kick off this week against Mississippi State is a game-time decision.

    Gran said the lack of hang time is affecting the coverage team, which he says is “not very good.”

    “If you don’t kick the ball to the goal line or 5-yard line, you’re hang time needs to be in the four-seconds range,” Gran said, “and we were in the 3.3-3.5 range. That doesn’t give us a chance.”

    The Tigers rank last in the Southeastern Conference in kickoff coverage, and they will be facing Mississippi State’s Derek Pegues this week. Pegues averages 20.8 yards a return.

  • Offensive coordinator Al Borges has one solution for Auburn’s poor play on third downs: “Keep practicing the heck out of it,” he said.

    “We’ve been terrible on third downs,” Borges said.

    That’s an understatement. Auburn has converted just five of 28 third-down attempts, or 17.9 percent, in its first two games, including a dismal 2-of-13 mark last week. Borges said the key to converting third downs is getting the ball to playmakers.

    “Two things: Practice the crap out of it, and gear your third-down package to the player that gives you the best chance to make those plays,” he said.

    Playmakers have been missing from Auburn’s offense. Receiver Prechae Rodriguez has had nine catches in the first two games, but he dropped two touchdown passes in Auburn’s overtime loss to South Florida.

    Running back Mario Fannin is emerging as a possible playmaker.

    The redshirt freshman saw his first action against South Florida, leading the team with 62 yards.

  • Auburn’s injury situation remained the same following Thursday morning’s practice.

    Tuberville told reporters linebacker Tray Blackmon (ankle) and safety Aairon Savage (ankle) practiced Thursday but are doubtful to play against Mississippi State.

    Linebacker Merrill Johnson (bruised shoulder) is not expected to play .

    Linebackers Chris Evans and Courtney Harden will fill in for Blackmon and Johnson.

    Ross Dellenger,
    Daily Sports Writer


    Alley Broussard, who lost his star status at LSU, has apparently regained it at Missouri Southern.

    “It feels so good,” said Broussard, who rushed for 110 yards and a touchdown in NCAA Division II Missouri Southern’s 48-20 win over Harding University on Saturday in Joplin, Mo.

    “Just tell everyone I’m back — everything’s back.”

    That list includes his love of football and his dreams, Broussard said. A big change from his statement July 24 when he left LSU.

    “My heart was no longer in it,” Broussard said in a release by the school just weeks before preseason camp opened.

    “I’m scheduled to graduate in December, so I want to use the fall semester to dedicate my time toward getting my degree.”

    A former LSU player and head coach at Nicholls State from 1999-2003, Daryle Daye — now the defensive coordinator at Missouri Southern — was responsible for luring Broussard north.

    Broussard was one of the blue-chippers in Nick Saban’s recruiting class of 2003 — along with JaMarcus Russell.

    The Associated Press

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

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