No Decision On Smith Following Sunday Practice

Tre Smith practiced on both offense and defense during Sunday's practice and Coach Hugh Nall said they're still not sure of his future.

Auburn, Ala.--Following a weekend of rest that was used to re-charge the batteries for the Auburn Tigers, the team returned to the practice field Sunday afternoon to continue working towards Saturday's game with Western Kentucky. Coach Hugh Nall said the practice was a little sluggish, but the team got a lot of work done on a muggy afternoon.

"I thought it went okay," Nall said of Sunday's practice. "You could tell they had a day or two off. Anytime they do that it's not as sharp as you would like it to be. I thought thye tried to pick it up there at the end. We're going to have to get a lot sharper on Tuesday and Wednesday."

Spending the early part of practice on special teams, the Tigers worked on punt returns following a big day in that department around the country on Saturday that meant the difference between winning and losing because of a few big plays. The rest of the day was used to continue scout team work against the Hilltoppers with the defensive scouts simulating WKU's 3-4 alignment, something rarely seen in the SEC these days.

Sunday's practice was also scheduled to be decision day for the futures of Tre Smith and Courtney Denson and their positions. Working in the defensive backfield last week, both made strides and looked good going into the weekend. On Sunday while Denson was full-time on defense, Smith also saw some time at running back. While there is still no word on what this week holds for him, Smith said that he has a lot of work to do no matter where he plays on Saturday.

"I have to meet with Coach Gran tomorrow to catch me back up on all the offensive plays," Smith said. "It is a lot of learning. They are giving up a rough view at safety. They're just teaching me certain things. There are certain plays that I don't know that they won't put me in there. All of the stuff they've taught me I've understood so I could play a series, but a lot of the stuff I don't know."

Ronnie Brown works on his footwork with Coach Eddie Gran looking on.

The decision on Smith won't be an easy one for the coaching staff because of the depth available at running back right now. A natural athlete, Smith could develop into a good safety given the chance and that's something Tommy Tuberville said will only be known over time.

"Anytime you go from offense to defense or defense to offense it's a different mentality and different playbook," Tuberville said. "It's a major jump. You not only have to learn something, but you need some experience doing it. I think it's a major move when you do that, but some players accept it and handle it better than others."

If Smith stays at safety and doesn't get much offensive action, the running back rotation will be pared down to just three with Carnell Williams, Ronnie Brown and Brandon Jacobs getting the bulk of the load. After his performance against Vanderbilt Jacobs looks like he's ready for more action, but Nall said that would just depend on the flow of the game.

"I think we'll have to see how the game goes and who's hot and who's not," Nall said. "I won't know that until we get into the game. We'll have a game plan to possibly rotate depending on the heat factor and all that, but we'll wait and see how the game goes."

Offensive tackle Mark Pera and center Danny Lindsey push the sled during Sunday's practice.

Another of the position changes looks to be a winner as tight end Ben Grubbs has shown continuous improvement and is challenging for playing time in short yardage and goal line situations. At 290 pounds, he packs a punch and could bring an extra dimension to an offense looking so shore up some problems up front.

"I think he's ready to see some reps in a game," Nall said. "Once again the execution has to be better by him and of course by everybody. I think he's really about ready to see some time."

With Anthony Mix moving back to wide receiver, the depth at tight end has become even less. Because of that Steven Ross is practicing almost exclusively at tight end now and is probably the most knowledgeable at the position behind starter Cooper Wallace. With Ross gone from offensive tackle, Nall said that he's working Drew Kirk, King Dunlap and Thomas Anderson at tackle this week. Back from a bout with mono early in the year that kept him out of practice, Anderson is working at both guard and tackle this week and Nall said he's getting closer to being game ready.

"He seems like his stamina is a lot better," Nall said of Anderson. "That's the main thing. When he first got back he could only go a snap or two. That seems better, but it just depends on how the guys in front of him are playing."

Defensively the Tigers will likely be without end Jay Ratliff again this week with a high ankle sprain that has kept him out of practice since the Vanderbilt game. One player that sat out last week and only ran without contact, but was back on the practice field Sunday is noseguard T.J. Jackson. After going through groin surgery over the summer, Jackson has progressed nicely and is playing good football.

"The doctors said that he needed a break," Tuberville said of Jackson. "Not that he re-injured anything, but he (Jackon's doctor) wanted him to go through the first games, re-evaluate him and give him a little break. He's done fine. After the surgery he had a great two-a-days, but he ran a little out of gas in the last game. I think it was just coming off a pretty major surgery in July. Last week was good to have off."

The Tigers will have Monday off before returning to practice Tuesday-Thursday for Western Kentucky. Kickoff for Saturday's game is scheduled for 4 p.m. and can be seen on a Pay-Per-View basis only.

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