Daily Archive for March 25th, 2008

Carolina just can’t get their act together

COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina quarterback Stephen Garcia paid a fine for underage drinking on Monday after being arrested over the weekend, his third run-in with police in about a year.

After practice Monday night, coach Steve Spurrier said he would let the university discipline Garcia.

“We just have to wait and see,” Spurrier said. “His fate is out of my hands. … He’s had a lot of chances here, and we’ll see what happens.”

Garcia, a 20-year-old redshirt freshman, was one of three football players arrested Saturday for underage drinking near a campus dormitory, according to campus police tickets.

“He doesn’t make any excuses and did not want to put the fans and the university through this and have more negative attention brought towards him or the school,” Garcia’s attorney Neal Lourie said Monday.

Garcia’s brother was charged with giving beer to a minor.

Garcia enrolled early at South Carolina last year to get a jump start on spring practice but was suspended from the team after two arrests. In February 2007, he was charged with drunkenness and failure to stop for a police officer. About a month later, he was charged with malicious injury to personal property after a professor reported that Garcia had used a key to scratch the man’s car.

Garcia has previously successfully completed a pretrial intervention program to clear his record of misdemeanor charges.

An athletic department spokesman did not immediately know Garcia’s status with the team and said coach Steve Spurrier will be available Monday night after practice.

Garcia was to miss Monday night’s practice for academic reasons, spokesman Steve Fink said.

Also charged with underage drinking Saturday were offensive lineman Heath Batchelor, 20, and walk-on quarterback Zac Brindise, 19. They were scheduled to appear in court next month.

What we all knew would happen: its Burns Vs Todd

Offensive coordinator Tony Franklin said Tuesday that the competition for the starting quarterback position was down to two.

Junior college transfer Chris Todd and sophomore Kodi Burns are set to battle, and the end doesn’t seem to be in sight.

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Todd has been limited somewhat with a sore throwing shoulder, but will compete with Burns for the starting spot.

The battle between Todd and Burns, Franklin said, could stretch well into two-a-day practices in the summer. He doesn’t expect to narrow it down anymore before then.

“Right now, those guys are alternating with each other. There is no No. 1,” said Franklin. “The last few practices here, we’re giving Chris and Kodi most of the reps. If somebody emerges clear-cut a lot better than the other one, you may have one guy. But I don’t think that’s going to happen, and I’ve told them, I don’t think it is.

“I think they’ll go into the summer and they’ll be competing against each other.”

Todd has missed time this spring with a sore shoulder but participated in all of Tuesday’s practice.

“You could tell as the day went on, (Todd) got worse,” said Franklin. “I was asking the trainers, did he throw too much at the end? He threw the post ball and didn’t have anything on it at all.

“It’s just going to be a work that’s going to take some time. It’s probably going to take another few months to get it back to where it’s ready.”

Franklin said sophomore Neil Caudle will get reps behind Todd and Burns.

“He’s a great team guy. He’s a great Auburn guy that wants to be here,” said Franklin. “He’ll do a great job as a backup and if either one of them falters, he’ll be ready to come back and step in and take their place.”

According to Franklin, true freshman DeRon Furr still has a lot of work to do before he can compete for playing time.

“He’s physically been hurt, but mentally he’s not prepared himself good enough to compete,” said Franklin. “He’s a long way off from having any abilities to help us. We’ll see what happens to him over the summer. If he works hard and studies and learns, then maybe he could compete again.

“He’s a young kid. He’s going to be a good player – he’ll probably be a great player one day. But not tomorrow.”

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Pugh will likely be the No. 1 RT and No. 2 C in the fall.

Making some moves

For sophomore OL Ryan Pugh, the moved seemed inevitable.

The former No. 3 center in the country out of Hoover High School in 2007 spent his first fall at Auburn at left tackle and has worked at right tackle this spring. Not the ideal positions for a 6-foot-2, 285-pounder. But Pugh has made it work.

Tuesday morning at practice however, he was back in a more familiar role. Pugh worked with the second-team at center.

“I just want to make sure I get him enough reps at center, with all the communications and the snap counts and the cadence, everybody getting used to him being in there a little bit,” said OL coach Hugh Nall. “I thought he did well. He had some early snaps that were off a little bit, but he’s played that position before.”

The move to center doesn’t appear to be permanent for Pugh, at least not yet. With senior Jason Bosley embedded as the starter at center for another year, Pugh’s getting reps there Tuesday was more of a look into the future and shoring up the back-up role.

“Center is what I was recruited here for, but I’m still going to play right tackle. Nothing has changed there,” said Pugh. “I’m just trying to get some work at center so I’m ready to go in case something happens to Bosley. Hopefully, we can keep the five that we’ve been playing with for the last year now and keep this thing rolling.”

Mike Berry has been listed at No. 2 behind Bosley at center, but found himself working at No. 2 right tackle on Tuesday. Working three guys at center should give Nall plenty to work with come fall.

“Mike Berry has gotten a lot of reps at center. That’ll give us three good options at center by the time we get out of spring practice,” said Nall.

With Pugh working at second-team center Tuesday, junior Andrew McCain, No. 2 behind Pugh at right tackle, worked with the ones.

“He’s got to keep stepping it up,” Nall said of McCain. “He’s got to play full speed on a regular basis.”

Pugh is expected to start at right tackle in the fall, and could double as the No. 2 center. His versatility gives the Auburn coaches plenty of options along the offensive line.

“Next year he’s going to get some opportunities (at center),” said Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville. “We just wanted to get him some work there with the first team and second team.”

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Tate was back in action Tuesday and is expected to participate in Saturday’s A-Day game.

Trickling back in

Auburn was hoping the long layoff for spring back would allow a number of injured players to return. But only three were back in full pads for Tuesday’s practice and a couple of those still weren’t up to full speed.

The most notable player returning from injury Tuesday was running back Ben Tate who has missed most of spring drills with a hamstring injury.

“It was just fun to get back out there, get a little contact, talk a little trash,” said Tate. “I love the game of football. It sucks when you’re out and you have to watch everyone else have fun.”

Tate ran through position drills and got some reps in 11-on-11 work at the end of practice. Tate said he plans to play in Saturday’s A-Day game but Franklin is taking a more cautious approach.

“I was glad to see him, but he’s nowhere close to being back as far as I’m concerned,” said Franklin. “Hopefully he’ll be able to get some reps by the time we get to Saturday, but he didn’t look like the guy I saw in the bowl game.”

Also back but not quite up to full speed were quarterback Furr (shoulder) and tight end Bailey Woods (hamstring).

Still being held out of practice were defensive end Antonio Coleman and running back Tristan Davis. Tuberville said Coleman may return Thursday after being checked by the doctors Tuesday in hopes of being 100 percent cleared for contact.

Tuberville also hopes to have Davis back before the end of spring drills.

“They just don’t want (Davis) to come out here until he’s 100-percent,” said Tuberville. “He’s still a little sore. He can’t push off as much as he’d like. Being a running back, you need to be full speed.”

Out for the remainder of spring are running back Mario Fannin (shoulder), offensive lineman Chaz Ramsey (back), wide receiver Tim Hawthorne (arm), defensive tackle Jake Ricks (hand), linebacker Bo Harris (shoulder) and defensive end Raven Gray (knee).

Wrapping up

One thing Rhoads harps on with his defense is tackling. He doesn’t like to see missed tackles. In the final scrimmage before spring break, Rhoads didn’t see many.

“No. 1 impression coming out of that last scrimmage is that we tackled much better,” said Rhoads. “We had 100 gradable snaps in that scrimmage and we missed six tackles total in 100 plays. That’s pretty good defensive football tackling-wise at any level, so that was pleasing to our eye.

“I think our effort was better overall. Not satisfactory yet, but our effort was better. We’ve got to continue to tackle better. We’ve got to become a smarter football team and we have to become more urgent in everything we do.”

Quick Hitters:

***Franklin wasn’t pleased with the play of his offense Tuesday after the long break.

“It was exactly what I expected and didn’t want,” said Franklin. “Spring break layoff – there’s no telling what they did. I don’t want to know.”

***Franklin did find some positives from the offense during 7-on-7 skele drills.

“The red-zone skele part was really good, probably the best we’ve ever done down there,” said Franklin.

***While tight end Tommy Trott has put together a strong spring, Franklin has also seen improvement from Gabe McKenzie.

“Gabe’s gotten so much better,” said Franklin. “He’s got a long way to go in consistency and catching the ball. Tommy can be really dynamic, but I’m really proud of Gabe.”

***Tate said the best part of Tuesday’s practice was inside drill.

“That’s when I started having fun,” said Tate. “All these route-runners and everything – that’s for the wide receivers. I don’t have too much fun with that.”

***The players received their Chick-fil-A Bowl rings following Tuesday’s practice.

***Auburn practiced two hours in full pads Tuesday morning and plans to do the same Thursday. The Tigers will have a walk-through on Friday and the A-Day game Saturday at 1 p.m. CT.

***AU will close out spring drills with a scrimmage on Wednesday, Apr. 2.

“We’ll scrimmage a week from Wednesday night in the stadium,” said Tuberville. “That will be our last scrimmage.”