Tigers Have Long Sunday Practice

Coach Tommy Tuberville talked about the return of several key players and one of his team's strength's heading into this week's contest with USC.

Auburn, Ala.--Following the longest, and perhaps the hottest practice of the fall to this point, Auburn Coach Tommy Tuberville said that Saturday's day off allowed his team to get closer to full strength with the return of several key players on both sides of the ball. Working on all aspects of the game including polishing the game plan, Tuberville said it was a good day for the Tigers.

"We got a good three-hour practice in," Tuberville said. "We went through everything that we're going to do next week. This was our last full pad practice. We had lots of contact and worked on technique and fundamentals. Most everybody was back and that was good to see.

"We still have a couple of guys like Carlos Rogers, he's not full speed because of some soreness in his ankle, but he should be back Tuesday," Tuberville added. "Taylor Bourgeois is pushing through it. We're bringing him along slowly. Jeremy Ingle was out today, but other than that we were dragging as everyone would be in this weather. They pushed through it."

T.J. Jackson works on his technique during tackling drills on Sunday.

The offensive line depth continues to be helped as junior Thomas Anderson returned to practice in full pads for the first time this fall. Held out of the first three weeks of practice because of a bout with mono, Anderson will have to get back into shape, but Tuberville said he may play against USC if needed.

"Thomas Anderson is full speed," Tuberville said. "He practiced well and got a little hot, as we all did. He's just not used to it as much. He's going to help us. He worked some scout team, but he's going to be on some special teams. He'll play this week."

Because of Ingle's absence due to a virus, starting tackle Mark Pera took some time to work on at center in case he's needed in the future. Pera spent a few minutes snapping to back-up quarterback Josh Sullivan and looked comfortable at the position. It's something he's done several times in practice during his career.

On the defensive line both Tommy Jackson and Wayne Dickens looked to be full speed on Sunday as they zipped through drills full speed. Both are expected to play a big role in Auburn's defensive fortunes this season as back-ups at the tackle and noseguard positions. Dickens has been bothered by a turf toe injury while Jackson had a strained groin.

Big offensive lineman Thomas Anderson returned to practice in full pads on Sunday.

That fits in to something Tuberville has harped on all summer and fall, depth. With several players available at each position on the defensive front, you can expect to see substitutions early and often for the Tigers in the opener and continuing throughout the season.

"A lot of this game is going to depend on depth," Tuberville said. "You can't play four guys in this game. There is going to be eight to 10 guys play on both defensive lines. I like our depth. I think we haven't gotten a lot of the notoriety as some teams, but I like the depth of this team playing in hot weather and against teams that run and throw the ball."

Tuberville said they plan to announce a depth chart sometime on Monday, but may wait until Tuesday to say who the kicker and punter will be. If practices are any indication, the jobs could already be filled. Once again the Tigers spent a lot of practice time Sunday on special teams as they make sure to have all bases covered in the season opener against USC. The punting and placekicking jobs remain open, but it looks like true freshmen John Vaughn and redshirt freshman Michael Gibson have the inside tracks to be on the field Aug. 30. Vaughn continues to be consistent in his kicking and Gibson has been the most consistent punter this fall in live drills.

In the return game Tre Smith is the favorite to be the punt returned with Carnell Williams also available if necessary. Handling kickoff returns will be Smith and Williams with Montae Pitts and Courtney Taylor also getting a look. No matter who wins the jobs, it's obvious that opponents will have to worry about the Tigers this season when they kick the ball away.

The Tigers will have a short walk-through practice on Monday and may have to split into several sessions because of afternoon classes. Monday is normally a day off for the team, but the coaches decided to give them Saturday off this week to give them a weekend to relax. Tuesday's practice will see the Tigers begin to take it easier to allow the players to get their legs back. Wednesday's practice will be in the stadium as a test run for Saturday's game. Kickoff for the USC game is scheduled for 5 p.m. and can be seen on CBS.


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