News from the Tennessee Valley Sports

College Football Notebook


AUBURN — Auburn’s rearranged offensive line shouldn’t see more shuffling this week. Coaches say true freshmen Chaz Ramsey and Ryan Pugh, who were added to the starting lineup against New Mexico State, likely will get the start at fourth-ranked Florida.

“I like what I saw,” offensive line coach Hugh Nall said.

Said offensive coordinator Al Borges: “Until further notice, yeah. We’re always under review. Our depth chart is (in) pencil.”

Ramsey replaced Mike Berry at right guard, and Pugh took over at left tackle for King Dunlap. Both Dunlap (elbow and wrist) and Berry (shoulder) were injured during the Sept. 15 loss to Mississippi State and did not dress out Saturday against New Mexico State, nor did they practice much during the week.

Both players have been practicing with the team this week. When asked about them returning to the starting lineup, Nall was ambiguous in his comments.

“We’ve got to move on,” Nall said. “We can’t count on anybody to be healthy if we’re not sure if they are or not. Once they are, have they fallen behind in what we’re doing? Their techniques, the fundamentals, all that stuff.”

Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville said Dunlap and Berry need to be 100 percent “before they can compete like these guys.”

“They got to earn their spots back,” Tuberville said. “There’s a lot of competition.”

Nall said the freshmen graded “real high.” Tuberville said the young linemen were expected to make mistakes and they did. But still, the rushing yards alone are a testament to their blocking. The Tigers ran for more than 229 yards against New Mexico State.

It’s unusual for Tuberville not to redshirt incoming freshmen. He insists that Pugh and Ramsey playing was not a move of panic.

“It’s not that we’re giving up on the season or anything because we lost two games,” Tuberville said. “We’re looking for some way to run the football more consistently.”

? Running back Tristan Davis received good news Monday. Doctors cleared the junior, who was to begin practicing with the team for the first time since preseason practice, which is when he fractured his toe.

Tuberville said Davis gained some weight during his six-week hiatus.

“He looked like he’d been off for Christmas dinner,” Tuberville joked Tuesday.

Davis should assist a depleted running back corps. Sophomore Ben Tate and redshirt freshman Mario Fannin are the only remaining tailbacks. Davis said earlier this week his goal is to return for the Vanderbilt game Oct. 6.

Tuberville is still unsure if Davis will play against Florida. The decision, he said, will be made following Wednesday’s practice.

“If (he plays) at all, it won’t be a whole lot,” Tuberville said.

The coach said linebacker Merrill Johnson did not practice Tuesday and will not play. Linebacker Tray Blackmon practiced Tuesday and likely will play.

Safety Mike McNeil said his knee is “not 100 percent.” A true freshman from Mobile, McNeil injured the knee in practice Thursday but said he practiced Tuesday and will “definitely” play against Florida.

? Tuberville said during his Tuesday news conference that “we’re trying to work out a system” for both quarterbacks. He reiterated that senior Brandon Cox will start and true freshman Kodi Burns will play against Florida.

“Kodi will see some playing time. We’ll continue to work with him to give us another option,” he said. “Since we have taken a redshirt off him, we are going to use him and play him.”

During the first three weeks of the season leading up to the game against Mississippi State, Tuberville continuously designated Blake Field as Auburn’s No. 2 quarterback. The coach clarified Tuesday that Burns is “our second-team quarterback.”

Ross Dellenger,
Daily Sports Writer


TUSCALOOSA — For Alabama wide receiver DJ Hall, playing Florida State is more than winning and losing.

Like many Alabama players, Hall grew up a Seminoles fan. But the Fort Walton Beach, Fla., native didn’t have a passing interest in Florida State — he actually wanted to go there.

“I was probably going to go to Florida State, but it didn’t work out like out like that,” Hall said. “But I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else now. Glad to be at Bama. But it’s my home state — I just want to go out and prove a point.”

When he was a child, Hall’s friends rooted for the Seminoles as well. He said they all are Alabama fans now and will wear crimson No. 22 jerseys as part of Hall’s contingent coming to the game in Jacksonville, Fla.

“I know I have a lot of people watching, wanting to see what I can do,” Hall said. “I want to do what I’ve been doing, but kick it up a notch because it means so much to me. I want to play the best ball I can and make the team better.”

? Running back Roy Upchurch wishes Saturday’s game was at Florida State, but the Tallahassee native still has many friends and family making the drive to Jacksonville.

“It’s right down the street, about two hours away,” Upchurch said. “I’ve got a lot of relatives coming, a lot of friends.”

Last season, Upchurch had two ankle surgeries and had shoulder surgery during the summer.

“I’m just trying to focus on what I need to do to get back on the field. That’s it,” Upchurch said.

Upchurch had two carries for 19 yards in the fourth quarter of Alabama’s 26-23 loss against Georgia.

With Saban favoring a multiple running back system, it appears Upchurch has bulled his way into the rotation.

“My number got called. I was ready to capitalize on my opportunity,” he said.

? Alabama has set the kickoff time for its Oct. 6 homecoming game against Houston.

The game will start at 2:07 p.m. and will be televised on a pay-per-view basis. Chris Stewart and former Alabama quarterback Tyler Watts will have the call.

Josh Cooper,

Daily Sports Writer


LITTLE ROCK — The Southeastern Conference has told Arkansas that former running backs coach Danny Nutt should not be in the coaches’ booth or near the team bench during games.

Nutt, brother of coach Houston Nutt, resigned in July with a recurring condition involving bleeding from his brain stem. The Razorbacks hired Tim Horton to replace him.

News on Nutt’s health was more encouraging following his resignation, and he was able to join the team on the field before the season opener against Troy. The Razorbacks have worn helmets with his initials.

Last weekend, during Arkansas’ 42-29 loss to No. 14 Kentucky, ESPN cameras showed Nutt in the Razorbacks’ coaching booth with headphones on.

Charles Bloom, associate commissioner for the SEC, said the conference office has reviewed the matter.


KNOXVILLE — The Tennessee Volunteers focused on tackling better Tuesday during practice, trying to take advantage of their open date.

They needed to work on tackling with a defense ranked 91st nationally and 11th in the SEC. They rank last in the league in scoring defense.

“It’s very good to get the fundamental work done that we’ve needed to get done,” coach Phillip Fulmer said. “We spent about 15 minutes on tackling today, and that’s exactly what we needed to do. We’re continuing to work to not make the mistakes that beat us.”

The Vols (2-2, 0-1 Southeastern Conference) practiced for more than 90 minutes Tuesday and will practice again Wednesday and Thursday. The Vols also are playing the first junior varsity game in 15 years Thursday night against Hargrave Military Academy at Neyland Stadium.

South Carolina

COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier says the 16th-ranked Gamecocks are in “tryout mode” as he continues looking for players who can build the program into a Southeastern Conference contender.

Spurrier previously announced that freshman Chris Smelley would start at quarterback for Blake Mitchell against Mississippi State on Saturday.

Spurrier also says that receiver Dion Lecorn and left guard Seaver Brown will make their first starts this week.

In addition, linebacker Marvin Sapp will get the call to replace injured star Jasper Brinkley. The school says Brinkley will have surgery Wednesday to fix his right knee.

The senior was injured in last week’s 28-16 defeat at LSU.

Jacksonville State

JACKSONVILLE — Despite a slow 1-3 start to the 2007 season for Jacksonville State, three players are rising fast in the NCAA individual statistical rankings.

Junior place-kicker Gavin Hallford and senior punter Zach Walden both rank in the top 10 at their respective trades and junior quarterback Cedric Johnson ranks 38th nationally in total offense. All three are near the top of the Ohio Valley Conference’s individual rankings.

Hallford leads the OVC with 10 field goals and ranks second in the nation, just one behind the national leader. Twice already this season he’s booted four field goals in a game to set a school record and is on pace to shatter the previous school mark of 13 field goals in a season.

North Alabama

With 14 take-aways in the first three games of the 2007 season, the North Alabama football team leads the nation in turnover margin in the latest NCAA Division II statistics released Tuesday.

North Alabama, 3-0 entering a Saturday evening contest at Arkansas Tech, has turned the ball over just five times this season and has a plus- 9 turnover margin or an average of gaining three turnovers a game over its opponent.

The Lions have recovered six fumbles and picked off nine passes this season, returning them for 253 yards. UNA junior safety Bobby Brooks of Hoover ranks second in the nation in interceptions with three in three games.

Oklahoma State

OKLAHOMA CITY — A columnist for the largest newspaper in Oklahoma wrote Tuesday that Oklahoma State football coach Mike Gundy “attacked my credibility” during a postgame tirade three days earlier.

Jenni Carlson, in a column that appeared on the front page of The Oklahoman, maintained the accuracy of an earlier column critical of the Cowboys’ former starting quarterback.

Meanwhile, Oklahoma State officials seemed hopeful the controversy — fueled by tens of thousands of views of Gundy’s rant on Internet sites such as YouTube — soon would dissipate.

Oklahoma State athletic department spokesman Kevin Klintworth said Gundy did not intend to comment any more about the matter. Another university spokesman, Gary Shutt, said “we’re looking to move past this and looking at Saturday’s football game” against Sam Houston State.

Whether or not the public would allow that to happen remains to be seen, as the story continued to lead newscasts in the football-crazed state and remained the focus of sports-talk radio shows — including one hosted by Carlson, who has worked as a columnist at The Oklahoman for eight years.

Following Oklahoma State’s 49-45 win over Texas Tech on Saturday, Gundy used his postgame news conference to berate Carlson for 31/2 minutes and left the room without taking questions. In an interview with ABC’s Good Morning America that aired Tuesday, Carlson described what she thought as Gundy screamed at her. The week earlier Oklahoma State lost to Troy.

“It was unbelievable that this was happening,” she said. “I just was really not expecting that there was going to be this sort of outrage.”

Carlson’s column Saturday suggested quarterback Bobby Reid’s demotion was a result of his attitude more than his ineffective play. Carlson wrote that Reid, who lost his starting job two games ago, had not always handled his nerves well and his slow starts put the Cowboys in some early holes, including some they dug out of with Reid “wielding the biggest shovel.”

From Staff, Wire Reports

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

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