The Tigers wrapped up on the field preparations for the seventh-ranked Volunteers on Thursday with a light workout going over the game plan for the contest, which will kick off at 6:45 p.m.
"I can feel that this team is ready to play," notes McNeil, who has been a fixture in the Auburn since his redshirt freshman season. The defensive tackle says the challenge awaiting from the unbeaten Volunteers is the kind of test he enjoys.
"They are pretty tough on film," McNeil says. "Man on man they are coming off the ball. They are very physical. It is going to be a tough ball game.
"It is going to be everything you want from a defensive tackle/offensive line perspective," McNeil adds. "You want somebody to come at you. There won't be any tricking going on inside the tackles. You know what they are going to do. You have to be man enough to stand up against that."
Saturday night's game will be televised nationally by ESPN as the 2-2 Tigers try to win a third straight game and continue bouncing back from an 0-2 start caused by miserable play on offense. The defense has played solidly in all four games and is ranked second in total defense, but for McNeil that is not enough. "We have got to get the turnover rate back in our favor," the senior says. "That is one thing I think we are going to work on the rest of the year. We feel like we should get two or three turnovers a game and we haven't been doing that. We can help our offense a lot by giving them good field position, but we haven't been able to do that. That is one thing coach (defensive coordinator Gene Chizik) has been stressing to us."
Another Tiger defender, junior cornerback Carlos Rogers, agrees with the need to come up with more turnovers. He hasn't had many opportunities with teams generally not challenging him. Instead, they have gone after the other cornerback. Last week that guy was sophomore walk-on Kevin Hobbs. This week it could be Hobbs or Junior Rosegreen, who could play both cornerback and safety.
"I told Kevin they are going to try to pick on him because he is the new corner," Rogers says. "They did the same thing to me when I was a freshman." Hobbs came up with interceptions in each of the last two games, but the bad news is that nobody else on the Auburn team has as single pick. That needs to change, Rogers says.
"Starting with the Vanderbilt game, we have been making the offenses we play go three and out and then punt," Rogers says. "The key thing to go with that is that we have to create turnovers to put the offense in better position so they don't have to drive so far to score."
Rogers says one of his main assignments will be to provide steadiness in the secondary "They do a lot of things to get the ball vertically down the field," Rogers says of the Volunteers. "We have to play disciplined football and not be suckered up their play action passing game."
Coach Tommy Tuberville gave the entire week of preparation a thumbs up after the Thursday practice with the Tigers preparing for their first home conference game. "The intensity has been much better, the concentration...it has just been a good week. I think we are ready to play in all areas."
News and Notes: Offensive tackle Marcus McNeill had a good day of practice on Thursday, Tuberville says. The sophomore missed the Western Kentucky game with a back problem. "He is ready to go," Tuberville says...Another injured Tiger, defensive end Jay Ratliff, worked out on the exercise bike and saw some brief practice time. It is doubtful he will play vs. the Volunteers...Auburn spent extra time on the kicking game all week because the Volunteers are strong in that area...ESPN's Ron Franklin, who will do play by play of the game on Saturday night for the 6:45 p.m. kickoff, was a visitor to Thursday's practice...Tuberville says he told his players that they need to "use their home field advantage," something they did not do vs. Southern Cal. "We did not use it at all," Tuberville says. "They didn't take us out. We took ourself out. We can't do that in this game. Normally in the past in night games we have kept our fans in it and they have done a great job. We let them down the last time we played at home the first game of the year."