"Well, we need to play a game--I know that," he said following Wednesday's practice. "It seems like we've been practicing forever for this game and you can overdo it. We're really going to cut back tomorrow. It's been good to have the extra time to get some guys healthy and work on some things that we haven't run in games and also work defensively against a team that runs a lot of formations and does a lot of different things. It's time to get back out and see if we've improved. It will be a major test for us."
The health of the team has been a concern for each of the first two games, but the week off appears to have pretty much taken care of that. With the exception of a few players suffering from the flu last week, all have been given a chance to get well and the time off has done wonders. Wide receivers Marcel Willis and Deandre Green are both well as is defensive back Rashaud Walker. Tuberville even noted that linebacker Philip Pate and offensive guard Nate French could both return to practice Sunday, right on target for the scheduled time for both after Pate's knee surgery and French's dislocated foot.
Working the first offense against the first defense in a short period on Wednesday, the Tigers appeared to be sharp on both sides of the ball as quarterbacks Jason Campbell and Daniel Cobb looked smooth throwing routes both over the middle and down the field. On defense linebacker Tavarreus Pounds and Walker continue to show the leadership that is necessary for this young team to win on the road, particularly in a hostile environment like the Carrier Dome while fullback/linebacker Brandon Johnson continues to see more and more time on the defensive side of the ball in practice.
"I would think that he (Johnson) will get some playing time because this is a running team and he's a pretty physical guy," Tuberville noted. "He feels a lot more comfortable now after practicing basically for a month at that position. He still doesn't have everything down pat, but we're not going to be able to tell anything until we get him out there and get him going."
While there is no question the Orangemen will present the Tigers with a huge challenge this Saturday night in front of a national television audience, perhaps the biggest test Auburn will face this weekend is the trip to New York state. In light of the events that happened in Manhattan and Washington, D.C. last week, flying has become an issue with many players and one said that when they get back on the ground in New York, everything should somewhat return to normal.
"I think everybody is kind of nervous about flying," tight end Lorenzo Diamond said. "That's really going to be the big thing for this team this weekend, the flight up there. I think once we get landed and get on the ground I think everybody will kind of calm down a little bit and get focused on the game."
Kickoff is scheduled for just after 6:45 and can be seen on ESPN. The Tigers will practice Wednesday and Thursday before departing for Syracuse Friday morning out of Montgomery. There the team will have a walk-through at the Carrier Dome before heading to the hotel for the night.