Originally created 02/28/04

Auburn opens spring amid changes



AUBURN, Ala. -- Auburn's spring practice will feature old players in new positions and a new guy running the offense.

So what else is new?

The Tigers, who return to the practice fields on Sunday, will begin implementing the system of Al Borges, the team's third offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in as many years.

One thing won't change under Borges: Auburn's focus on running the ball.

"We'll start with the running game," coach Tommy Tuberville said. "Let there be no doubt about that. We're going to run the football, and we're going to run it better than we did last year or the year before.

"The problem we've had is we haven't been able to establish a passing attack with any consistency to make people balance up against the running game, where the running game can be a lot better."

The Tigers have shuffled the offensive line, moving Jeremy Ingle from guard to first-team center and center Danny Lindsey to right guard. Tight end Ben Grubbs moves to the line.

Defensively, Jay Ratliff is moving from end to tackle and Karibi Dede shifts from safety to weakside linebacker to swap spots with Antarrious Williams. Kyle Derozan is moving from defensive line to tight end.

While much of the attention will be focused on Borges and his offense, the biggest questions center on the defense with the departure of linebackers Karlos Dansby and Dontarrious Thomas and defensive linemen Reggie Torbor, DeMarco McNeil and Spencer Johnson.

"Defensively, we've got a lot of holes," Tuberville said. "I hope we find out some answers. I hope we don't have to wait until two-a-days. There's going to have to be some crash courses and some guys are going to have to step up.

"We're going to have to have some guys step up and we're going to have to find some playmakers."

The Tigers will have four newcomers participating in spring drills. Defensive back David Irons and linebacker Lemarcus Rowell both transferred from junior colleges. Irons' brother, running back Kenny Irons, transferred from South Carolina and linebacker Montavian Collier enrolled this semester after initially failing to qualify academically.

Offensively, the Tigers are searching for a clear-cut backup for quarterback Jason Campbell. Tuberville said the coaches hoped to pick from Josh Sullivan, Brandon Cox and Kelcy Luke by the end of the first scrimmage next Saturday.

The Tigers will be without backup running back Brandon Jacobs, who has decided to transfer.

Borges joined Tuberville's staff from Indiana about two weeks ago, forcing Campbell & Co. to absorb another offense. Tuberville said the primary changes will come in the drop-back passing game, with more intermediate routes and throws across the middle.

The offensive starters are mostly settled, but plenty of defensive positions are up for grabs.

"It's going to be a very interesting spring," Tuberville said. "This is the most positions that we've had to fill in the last two or three years."