Football rings in the spring season

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The flowers are beginning to bloom, temperatures have been in the mid-70s to low 80s for over a week now and the days will get a little longer after tonight.

While most people are thinking baseball, softball, tennis and golf, only one thing has been dominating my mind: football.

Auburn University took to the practice field last week and held their first scrimmage last Saturday on Pat-Dye Field at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

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The Tigers will scrimmage again today at the stadium.

Alabama is getting off to a late start compared with other schools, although it is not late by Alabama's calendar.

In just a week, things are beginning to shake out all over the country and that must have college football preseason magazine writers foaming at the mouth.

In Auburn, quarterback Brandon Cox is back under center after a year of getting beaten and banged up.

The senior from Trussville has been in good form, according to head coach Tommy Tuberville, and that is something the Tigers must have in order to stay atop the national scene.

Last season, Cox struggled in big games after suffering a leg injury during the LSU game.

In the two games the Tigers lost to Arkansas and Georgia, Cox was not a factor and cost the Tigers more than he helped them.

Several receivers have emerged during spring practice, which should spell good news for Cox with the departure of go-to guy Courtney Taylor.

At running back, Ben Tate, Carl Stewart and return-man Tristan Davis have shown flashes of brilliance, with most eyes focused on Davis.

Two seasons ago, Davis exploded for more than 160 yards at Kentucky and finished the game with a more than 20 yards per carry average.

He never played running back again.

The Tigers have many questions to answer and many holes to fill, so it is a good thing Tuberville is getting ahead in practice time to stay ahead of the curve.

In Tuscaloosa, practice won't begin for another week or so and the A-Day game is not scheduled for another couple of weeks.

Fans are as eager as they've ever been to see this year's A-Day game, which is evident in the number of tickets that sold in just three hours for the Florida State match up in Jacksonville.

The Nick Saban era is definitely going to be interesting to watch, but what could be more interesting is watching the development of Saban's assistant coaches.

Many of Saban's assistants have not been tried and tested in their current capacity, but the caliber of coaches in the Tide's stable is nothing short of a five-star staff.

Perhaps the most intriguing combination to watch this spring will be how John Parker Wilson and offensive coordinator Major Applewhite work together.

Wilson was one of the most impressive quarterbacks in the SEC last season and with the return of D.J. Hall and Keith Brown, the Tide aerial attack could be as potent as ever.

With Kenneth Darby gone, the Tide will be looking for a big-time back to fill his shoes.

I, personally, believe there is already one in Tuscaloosa in Jimmy Johns, but it is yet to be seen if Saban feels the same way.

The main thing the Tide must address is off-the-field problems, something that plagued Alabama's season last year.

Saban is a no-nonsense guy and should be able to keep everyone in line.

Although the Tide's practice is still days away, one thing is for sure: football can't get here soon enough.