Tigers Working Hard For A Win

Auburn continued to fine tune the game plan for the Outback Bowl with a spirited workout on Sunday at Jesuit High. Rhett Lashlee gives an update on the return of Duke Williams to the field as the Tigers had their second practice session in Tampa.

Tampa, Fla.--Two practice days are in the books at Jesuit High in Tampa for Coach Gus Malzahn’s Auburn Tigers as they get ready to face Wisconsin in the New Year’s Day game at Raymond James Stadium. The good news for Auburn is that wide receiver Duke Williams was back working out with the team after missing the first week of on-campus workouts and also missing Saturday’s first practice in Tampa, but offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee said his status for the game is still to be decided.

“(Williams) got in yesterday, practiced today and went good,” Lashlee said. And as for his outlook for Thursday’s game? “Yeah, coach will address all that tomorrow (Monday),” Lashlee answered.

Getting Williams back on the field is the first step for the Tigers, but with plenty of questions still remaining about him it means more work for players such as senior C.J. Uzomah and reserves Melvin Ray and Tony Stevens.

“Melvin has been steady all year,” Lashlee said. “I know he hasn't gotten as many balls as probably as he deserves to be honest with you because he does all the little things right and when he has gotten the ball thrown his way he has made a play every time. I've got a lot of faith in Melvin.

“You would like to think Tony, he didn't redshirt so he got to play some last year and then he has gotten to play some at times this year so he hasn't played a ton in those two years, but he's not a young guy any more," Lashlee added. "He hass been making some plays lately in practice, which gives you a lot of confidence. I know the quarterback has got confidence in him and if he gets his number called, he'll make some plays.”

Melvin Ray, who caught a touchdown pass in last year's BCS Championship Game, could have a bigger role in the Outback Bowl.

Trying to shake off the rust and also get used to the nearly 80 degree temperatures, Auburn practiced for just over two hours on Sunday and Lashlee said he saw some positive things from the team. Adding that Nick Marshall had a strong day throwing the football, he said it was good to get back into a groove after the off-time last week.

“It's been good, hot,” Lashlee said. “Yesterday was the first day down and you could tell there had been a three-to-four-day Christmas break and it was getting a little bit heat adjustment there, but today I thought they really responded well. We had a really, really good day today. I'm really proud of them today.”

While Lashlee is focusing on getting his offensive players back into the groove that saw them score 44 points in an Iron Bowl loss, the job is a much different one for interim defensive coordinator Charlie Harbison. Taking over for the fired Ellis Johnson, Harbison is trying to get the defense together while new coordinator Will Muschamp evaluates the players to get a feel for what he has to work with next season.

Even though it’s not an ideal situation, Harbison said you just make the most of the opportunity because in the end it doesn’t change the goal of winning the game.

"I think he (Muschamp) fits in great,” Harbison said. “Worked with him before, and he's got a lot of energy, he's just watching what we've got on the field and seeing how the pieces of the puzzle fit together.

"Well, you know, I've been in this business for a while, it's just part of it,” he added of the situation as interim coordinator. “I let my work speak for itself and continue to go forward, continue to get these guys ready to play."

Saying that he hasn’t spoken to Muschamp yet about his future with the program and whether or not he’ll have a job with the Tigers in 2015, Harbison said as far as he’s concerned it’s just business as usual. That means focusing on trying to slow a physical Wisconsin offense and try to finish on a positive note.

"It's been fun,” Harbison said. “The bottom line is we're doing what we've been doing, and we're just getting guys in position to make plays, and getting fast, and making tackles, making plays, doing our assignments, sound assignments."

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