News from the Tennessee Valley Sports



AUBURN — It took linebacker Tray Blackmon almost two months to finally play an entire game.

Blackmon led the team with nine tackles in Auburn's 9-7 win at Arkansas on Saturday. It was the sophomore's first-ever full game of this season.

"That's what I've been looking forward to for the whole year — to get a whole game," Blackmon said. "I'm looking forward to getting out there (this) week."

Blackmon expects to start and play during Auburn's game at No. 5 LSU on Saturday night. A Georgia native, Blackmon has missed 11 of 20 games in his time at Auburn.

He was suspended for six games during his true freshman season last year. He twisted an ankle during an interception return in the second half of the season-opening win over Kansas State in September.

A month later he drew the start against Florida, his first playing time since the injury. But he played just 26 snaps against the Gators before the injury flared up again. He didn't even dress out the next week against Vanderbilt.

"I figured I'd give it one more week and that would be better than to play that week and be out another week," he said. "I took a week and it all worked out."

He started and played most of the game in the win over the Razorbacks, garnering the SEC defensive player of the week award for his part in shutting down Arkansas' duo of Darren McFadden and Felix Jones.

That came at a price. Blackmon said he "tweaked" the ankle "a couple times" during the game, but he added that it felt "pretty good out there" and expects to play against LSU.

Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville said Tuesday that Blackmon's injury is "obviously much better."

  • Tuberville told reporters following Thursday's practice that tackle Ryan Pugh is the only starter not expected to play against LSU.

    "Everybody practiced but Ryan," he said. "He was walking around a little bit but not much."

    Linebacker Merrill Johnson (shoulder), defensive end Quentin Groves (toes) and safety Aairon Savage (knee) all practiced and will likely play, according to the coach.

    "Quentin's beat up, but he's back," Tuberville said. "Savage is moving around good. Just getting the experience out there, if they can play a dozen plays that will help."

    Ross Dellenger,

    Daily sports writer


    TUSCALOOSA — On Wednesday, sophomore defensive lineman Brandon Fanney pleaded guilty to a disorderly conduct charge stemming from an incident outside a nightclub on the Tuscaloosa Strip last summer.

    Fanney was fined $100 and court costs. Both total $319, which will have to be paid by Dec. 12.

    On July 14, Fanney was arrested and charged along with fellow defensive lineman Brandon Deaderick and running back Roy Upchurch. Last week, Upchurch pleaded guilty.

    Deaderick was charged with giving a fake name, resisting arrest and criminal mischief. He applied for youthful offender status, which would make his record inaccessible.

  • Defensive back Lionel Mitchell waited anxiously on the sideline of Alabama's game against Florida State, hoping to get in.

    He waited, and waited, until the clock struck zero in the fourth quarter at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium with Mitchell still on the sideline.

    Mitchell did not play a single snap in that game, being punished for poor practice habits.

    "The coaches didn't like the effort I was giving in practice at the time," Mitchell said.

    "He said the best way to teach me a lesson was to take away something he knew that mattered to me. He just wanted me to respond in a positive way."

  • Tennessee's Erik Ainge is not exactly the quickest quarterback, but to Simeon Castille, he may seem like an Olympic sprinter.

    In last year's game, with time running out in the second quarter, Castille intercepted an Ainge pass on the Alabama 32-yard line, sprinted downfield, but was caught by Ainge and knocked out of bounds on the Tennessee 8-yard line.

    Alabama settled for a field goal and went in at halftime with a 6-3 lead.

    The Crimson Tide eventually lost 16-13.

    Castille stayed mum on the subject when asked by reporters this week, jokingly saying that he could have used a few more open lanes down the field.

    "If I get a pick this time, I'll wait on some of my teammates to come throw a block," he said.

    Josh Cooper,

    Daily Sports Writer


    OMAHA, Neb. — Nebraska interim athletic director Tom Osborne responded Thursday to reports that football coach Bill Callahan said the former coach was "trying to run things from Washington" while he was a congressman.

    Callahan allegedly called Osborne a "crusty old (expletive)," according to former Nebraska football trainer Doak Ostergard, who is quoted in a book to be self-published by a student at the University of Nebraska.

    Osborne became interim athletic director this week when Steve Pederson was fired after several dismal performances by the football team.

    "I understand that head football coaches, like everyone else, have emotions," Osborne said Thursday.

    "I'm not surprised that my long-term influence on the program could sometimes be felt as a controlling force even while I was away, but that was never the intent."

    In a statement Thursday, Callahan didn't deny the reported comments, but said he's had a great deal of respect for Osborne since he started coaching.


    FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Arkansas coach Houston Nutt says the decision whether receiver Marcus Monk will play in the Razorbacks' game Saturday against Ole Miss will be made that day.

    Monk still suffers from soreness in his knees after practice Wednesday. Monk, Arkansas' career leader in touchdown catches, has been out all season with a knee injury. Nutt has said Monk wants to play rather than redshirt the season.

    Receiver Robert Jordan returned to practice Thursday after an ankle injury and is expected to play Saturday.

    Arkansas held an hourlong practice in shorts and helmets Thursday. Much of the practice focused on kicking, ranging from kickoffs, punts to field goals.


    KNOXVILLE — Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer says he's glad to have a healthy team taking on Alabama this Saturday, in what he believes could be the toughest challenge this season for the No. 20 Vols.

    "We're really in good shape pretty much," Fulmer said Thursday. "The open date really helped us get some guys back well."

    Despite the season losses of Brad Cottam, David Holbert and Antonio Gaines, the Vols have no injuries exceeding bruises and soreness, Fulmer said.

    Tailback LaMarcus Coker and wide receiver Lucas Taylor, who both worked slowly back into the mix this week following a concussion and injured toe respectively against Mississippi State, are both healthy and will be available Saturday.


    BIRMINGHAM — The UAB football team closed the practice week with high spirits Thursday, following a nearly two-hour practice without pads.

    UAB head coach Neil Callaway felt his team ended the week on a good note and was pleased with the squad's performance during the 15-period practice.

    Callaway named Bryant Turner (defense), Sam Hunt (offense) and Tony Shepherd (special teams) as captains for Saturday's 6 p.m. kickoff against the Houston Cougars at Birmingham's Legion Field.

    From Staff, Wire Reports

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

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