A pair of transfers, cornerback Kevin Hobbs, a junior walk-on who came to Auburn from Texas Southern, is expected to start opposite Carlos Rogers with Junior Rosegreen moving from cornerback to safety. Doug Langenfeld, a 2003 signee out of Reedley, Calif., (junior) College, is expected to get his first start at strongside defensive end with Bret Eddins slowed by an ankle problem and backup Jay Ratliff out with a high ankle sprain.
Doug Langenfeld (98) talks to offensive guard Rhett Autrey at Thursday's practice. Langenfeld says he is excited to prove what he can do in a starting role.
Defensive coordinator Gene Chizik says that Hobbs has earned a starting spot. "Right now it looks like we would go with Kevin Hobbs," he says. "I am really pleased with the direction he has gone--really a million miles since spring. He had an interception against Vanderbilt. In the short time he was in there he was very productive. He has done a great job on special teams and I think he has earned the right to play. Obviously, we wouldn't play anybody out there if we didn't feel like he would be out there and give us a chance to win."
Hobbs, a 6-0, 179 junior, is originally from Tampa, Fla. He gave up his scholarship at Texas Southern to take a shot at the big-time of college football. "It is something I always wanted to do," explains Hobbs, who says he didn't get offers from the big boys coming out of high school. "Auburn and Florida State were the two teams I have always liked. I called the Auburn coaches and asked them about walking on and they told me how to do it and that they would give me a chance."
Kevin Hobbs (49) is shown at Thursday's practice along with freshman cornerback Courtney Denson (5).
He has taken advantage of that opportunity and will try to play well enough on Saturday to prove he deserves to be a starter. "I think he will be able to contribute to our team even more as the season goes on," Chizik says. "We always felt like Kevin could be a contributor to our team. He has made great strides in the past two weeks. I don't think it is a great surprise, but we have certainly been happy with the speed of his development. The other thing is you never know what a guy is going to do until he gets in the game. He showed that when he gets into a game he can handle the situation."
Chizik says that Western Kentucky, a team with a 13-game winning streak that is averaging 51 points per game, will challenge Hobbs, Langenfeld and the rest of the Auburn defense. "Overall, they are just very productive on offense so we have to stop it all, starting with the run," Chizik says.
Senior defensive tackle Demarco McNeil says that Western Kentucky has a good team and notes the defending Division I-AA national champs will be excited about the chance to play an SEC team. "If you don't come to play every Saturday, both mentally and physically, you are going to be in a dogfight," McNeil says. "If the game is close in the fourth quarter, it is anybody's game.
"Small schools have a lot to play for, especially coming in here," McNeil says. "They are not going to play in front of 86,000 too many times. They have got pride. They are grown men just like we are grown men. I am quite sure they aren't just going to let us push them around the field."
Kickoff time for Saturday's first ever football game matching Auburn and Western Kentucky is 4 p.m. at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Coach Tommy Tuberville says that the Tigers had a good week of preparations and should have a relatively healthy team for game four.
Other than Ratliff being out with the ankle problem, virtually all hands will be on deck although some, like linebacker Travis Williams who has a bruised shoulder, might not be 100 percent. Ratliff is making progress with the high ankle sprain. He was running on it during Thursday's 90-minute workout while his teammates worked on polishing the game plan for the Hilltoppers.
"We are going to have to be ready for this game," Tuberville says. "They have a very good offensive team with a strong running game. Defensively, they have a different front than we have seen with three down linemen and four linebackers." The coach says that speed of the Western Kentucky defense will be a test for the Tigers.
Tuberville also notes the Auburn offensive line will be challenged to be on target with the blocking assignments. "Western Kentucky likes to blitz a lot. They will come from everywhere."