Tiger Tight End Goes Down In Tuesday Practice

Auburn, Ala.--A perfect day for football greeted the Auburn Tigers on Tuesday but the team received a scare as tight end <b>Robert Johnson</b> went down in a non-contact drill with an ankle injury.

X-rays proved to be negative but the sophomore is likely questionable for Saturday's game with an ankle sprain. His playing status will be evaluated later in the week after the medical staff and coaches see how his ankle responds to treatment.

Other than Johnson's injury, the day went off without a hitch as the offense and defense did a majority of their work against each other instead of the normal work against the scout team. Offensively, the Tigers spent much of the day working on protecting quarterback Jason Campbell against the expected onslaught the Bulldogs and defensive coordinator Joe Lee Dunn will send his way.

Defensively, the Tigers did what many would expect. They worked on wrapping up and holding on to the ball carrier, something that has been a problem lately. With the power running game of Mississippi State coming their way, the Tigers had a good day of work defensive coordinator John Lovett said.

"We got some live work in against the offense, which was good," he noted. "Just to get full speed tempo, which is something that I think we needed. We got a good hour of preparation on them."

Lovett also noted that the coaches believe a factor in the missed tackles last week was a lack of substitutions by the coaching staff. Needing a fresher unit this weekend at the end of the game, look for Lovett and staff to play at least two players at every position vs. Mississippi State to try to prevent a replay of last week.

Cornerback Carlos Rogers is one of the players expected to see increased playing time this weekend against Mississippi State.

"We missed all those tackles in the second half and a lot of that was our fault for not getting guys in," Lovett said. "Not so much them. I also think the way we practiced today will hopefully cure that a little bit. Those kids are demonstrating in practice that they'll feel a lot more confident playing in the game."

On the injury front the Tigers are in good shape on offense with tailback Ronnie Brown almost fully recovered from both a shoulder and thigh injury that hampered him much of last week and kept him out of the Vanderbilt game. Also looking better was wide receiver Deandre Green, who hasn't been full speed since Auburn's September 8 game against the Ole Miss Rebels because of back problems and a bout with the flu but appears closer to that now.

Still hampered by minor injuries are defensive tackles Demarco McNeil (knee) and Spencer Johnson (bruised sternum) while wide receiver Tim Carter is still suffering from sore ribs following his tumble through Vanderbilt's sideline on a late hit following a kickoff return Saturday night but looked to be fine Tuesday. He's expected to be full speed for Saturday's game.

Cornerback Horace Willis strained his hamstring once again Saturday night against the Commodores and did not practice on Tuesday. Lovett said they should know a little more on him Wednesday.

While the focus of the day was on getting prepared for the Bulldogs, much of the practice was spent on improving the tackling of the defense, something that has plagued the Tigers the past two games against Syracuse and Vanderbilt. After beginning the season with such promise, senior end Javor Mills said the defense is embarrassed by what has happened the last two weekends and they're trying hard to remedy the situation.

"It's frustrating because we pride ourselves on run defense," Mills said. "The last two games teams have been getting 100-plus games so we're going to go to practice and try to put an end to that."

Mills said he thinks this team has what it takes to get the job done with its assignment of becoming a better tackling team. "We just need to fight and get off blocks," he said. "Last year we were pretty good against the run. This year we're not so good. We've just got to step it up all around on the whole line."

The Tigers return to the practice fields on Wednesday and Thursday to continue working on the Bulldogs before heading out of town Friday for their weekly pre-game retreat to a nearby hotel. Kickoff for Saturday's game is scheduled for 6 p.m. and can be seen nationally on ESPN2.

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