One of the players that is hoping to have a big impact on the Tigers' chances this weekend is wide receiver Jeris McIntyre. The senior from Tampa has been one of the few bright spots on offense this season and he said this week is a chance to start over for this team in their quest for a championship.
"We just want to come out and play the way we are capable of playing as a whole offense, defense and special teams," McIntyre said. "We just want to come out and execute. This starts up the SEC season and our goal is to win the SEC Championship. This is the first step. We started on Sunday getting prepared for Vanderbilt and getting ready for the task at hand."
Jeris McIntyre works on his technique during Auburn's special teams session on Thursday.
While there are many things wrong with Auburn's offense following two games of football, one of the problems has been the failure of the passing game to produce. Some of the blame for that falls on quarterback Jason Campbell, some on the offensive line and McIntyre said a lot on the wide receivers as well.
"We just want to do the things we're coached to do and that's us getting open," McIntyre said. "We're going to have to get better as the weeks go along as far as us getting open and doing our right assignments and things we need to do to help this offense as a whole. We just want to keep getting better. We just want to do anything we can to get open and to help Jason out.
"Coach Knox teaches us to be very physical," McIntyre added. "I think that we have to be focused and aware of what they're trying to do to us. If we know our pre-snap reads and things of that nature that will help us out knowing what to do when the play starts."
Consistency and execution have been the buzz words around the Auburn football program this week as they get ready to face a Vanderbilt team much better than the one that traveled to Auburn last season. McIntyre said that the first two games were tough to watch upon returning to the film room, but it's something that he believes will make this team better down the road.
"It's frustrating after you watch it, but you have to get it out of your system and get ready for the next task at hand," McIntyre said. "It is kind of frustrating, just my being here over the years and seeing different opportunities that people have had or myself have had in all aspects of the game. It's frustrating at any level to see one play here, one thing there, one assignment here, one assignment there, but that's a part of football and it's a team sport. All 11 people on every play have to execute for it to be successful."
Tailback Brandon Jacobs carries the ball during Thursday's practice. Jacobs has yet to carry the ball this season for the Tigers.
Trying to improve in all areas, Coach Eddie Gran put his special teams unit through a complete list of everything they could possibly see in Saturday's game, something Coach Tommy Tuberville said is a trademark of Thursday practices. Finalizing work on Vanderbilt with another spirited practice, Tuberville said this week has been a good one for this team.
"This has been a real positive week for our players," Tuberville said. "There hasn't been a lot of positive going on, but I'm excited about their enthusiasm. They continue to come out and practice hard and try to get better. They are as disappointed as anyone else, but they want to try to get this thing straightened out and make something positive about this weekend."
Most of the positive this week has come from a group of players that stepped out and made themselves heard for the first time this season. Unlike past years, this season's team has quiet leaders, but sometimes they have to step forward and give a little urging to teammates. Tuberville said that is what has happened this week and it's something he was glad to see.
"This week we've had a lot of guys step up and make their presence known," Tuberville said. "All of our seniors called a team meeting Sunday and every since then I've seen a different attitude with the team. They are looking forward to seeing how much better we've gotten.
"Reggie Torbor has always been a vocal leader. Monreko Crittenden has stepped up this week. Jason Campbell has stepped up this week. Jeris McIntyre has stepped up. Carnell (Carnell Williams) is not a big vocal guy and he's not a senior, but he was out there all week encouraging and patting on the back. The coaches can only do so much when it comes to motivating in practice. Peer pressure is sometimes your biggest asset."
One player missing from Friday's practice once again was junior defensive end Jay Ratliff. Sidelined with a high ankle sprain suffered last weekend against Georgia Tech, Ratliff won't make the trip to Nashville and will really benefit from Auburn's off-week next week. Tuberville said he's the only player expected to miss the game because of injury with Donnay Young recovering nicely from a bruised shin.
While Vanderbilt will provide the Tigers with a stiff challenge Saturday, perhaps the toughest hurdle to climb this week was getting the attention of the players and make them forget about the past. Tuberville said that has been much better this week preparing for the Commodores than in the days leading up to the Georgia Tech game.
"I think we've done a lot better job forgetting about this last one than we did forgetting about the first one," Tuberville said. "That carried over way too long and that's my fault. They dwelled on it too much here and publicly. The thing you have to do is move on to the next game and forget about whether you won or whether you lost.
"That's really the mark of a good experienced team that can handle adversity and can handle success," he added. "Now we're going to see how good we can handle adversity because we've had two very mediocre games. They've come back and practiced hard and I think we're going to play a lot better."
The Tigers will travel to Nashville Friday afternoon, but will not have a walk-through at Vanderbilt Stadium upon arriving in the Music City. They will handle the walk-throughs at the hotel to make sure to get as much rest as possible. Kickoff for Saturday's game is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. and can be seen on Jefferson Pilot.