Tigers Getting Ready For SEC Opener

On another humid Auburn afternoon, the Tigers continued to show the intensity in practice they have displayed all week with a very spirited workout Wednesday.

Working in shorts and helmets as part of a learning day, it didn't stop the defense from getting after the scout team with a lot of intensity as defensive tackle Demarco McNeil was back leading the charge at practice after missing Tuesday with a sore knee.

On offense the Tigers continued to work on a variety of situations such as goal line and the two-minute drill as they get ready to face the unorthodox styles of Ole Miss defensive coordinator Don Lindsey. The kicking game also received plenty of attention with the punt coverage and kickoff coverage teams working to fix some flaws they had in last week's performance against Ball State. Coach Tommy Tuberville said Wednesday was a much needed intense day of practice and a good way to close out the real on-the-field working part of the week for the Tigers.

"We had a good hot practice for the third day in a row," Tuberville said after Wednesday's two and a half hour session. "We've had three good days of practice, some better than others, but we needed the sun to be out because I've got a feeling it's going to be a hot game this weekend."

"We've been working on all the situations this week because of the time limit we've had. We've had more time to work this week than normal so it's been a good week. Tomorrow we'll let up quite a bit. We'll go out for about an hour and a half and basically walk-through. We've got to get our legs back because we've run almost everyday and we've pushed them pretty hard."

In addition to McNeil's presence, the familiar gait of wide receiver Marcel Willis was back on display for the coaches just briefly on Wednesday. Missing since two-a-days with an ankle sprain, Willis returned for some individual drills and looks to be progressing nicely towards Saturday. Tuberville said because of his experience in the offense, Willis could possibly see playing time if he's cleared by team medical personnel to go by this weekend's game.

Defensively, only reserve tackle Marcus White missed the practice but he should be fine for Thursday after suffering a little tightness in his hamstring. Having the majority of the defenders on the field Wednesday is good news for Auburn as the Tigers prepare for what could be a high-powered Rebel offense. Although the passing game will get most of the attention in the days leading up to the game, Tuberville said the running game is always the key to stopping an opponent and it will be no different for the Tigers this week.

"We're going to have to stop Joe Gunn and (Robert) Williams," he said. "That will be our focus going into the game. You've got to stop the running game because if you don't that makes the quarterback that much more dangerous. You want to get them in a situation where they're one-dimensional, of course that's what everyone tries to do with us. They try to take our run away and know that we're one-dimensional and they can play better pass defense. This is no different game than any, we've just got to go in and play sound on both sides of the ball, don't give up the big play, stop the run and try to score some points."

A sight for sore eyes for the coaching staff and defensive players is seeing the number 37 of Rashaud Walker back running around on the practice fields. Hampered by an ankle injury the last few weeks, the 5-10, 200 junior said that he is finally ready to play after trying to find a way to play last week.

"I feel real confident that I'm going to play on Saturday," Walker said. "Because I've made some big strides, like Friday (before the Ball State game) I tried to test it out to see if I could at least dress out on Saturday and I could barely run on it. I tried it again (Monday) and I'm striding better. I'm probably 80 percent."

Having Walker back on the field when Eli Manning and the Rebels come to town should be a big boost for an already confident Tiger defense. Holding Ball State to just 92 yards of total offense and five first downs last Saturday, this young defense will need the leader ship and experience of Walker when they take a step up in competition this weekend.

"It's good to see him back because of his leadership and knowing how to play the defenses," Tuberville said. Walker echoed those sentiments as well saying, "I think it's real important because it's an SEC game. The intensity picks up and so does the speed of the game. When you have somebody out there that has been exposed and has experience in these types of games, it helps you out a lot. The more guys you have that are experienced with these types of games, the better your chances."

The Tigers will practice Thursday and have a short walk-through Friday afternoon before heading out of town Friday night for their weekly vigil at a hotel where they have team meetings. Kickoff for Saturday's game is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. and the game is a sellout, as are all remaining home games with the exception of Louisina Tech. The game can be seen regionally on Jefferson-Pilot sports.

Kickoff for the battle is set for shortly after 2:30 p.m. CDT and can be seen regionally on Jefferson-Pilot Sports television.

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