"It was a good week of practice," Coach Tommy Tuberville noted following Thursday's workout. "I thought it was one of our better weeks. We're getting some people back healthy…we worked a lot on the kicking game today. I think that could be the difference in the ball game. We put a lot of emphasis on that and short yardage."
Wide receiver Tim Carter works on his coverage skills during a special teams drill.
While players like Ronnie Brown, Marcel Willis, Deandre Green, Tim Carter and Roshard Gilyard are getting closer to full speed, one injury looks like it will take away one of Auburn's biggest offensive threats for this weekend's game. Injuring an ankle during Tuesday's practice, big tight end Robert Johnson is now very doubtful to see action against the Bulldogs because of continued swelling in his ankle.
"Robert Johnson doesn't look like he's going to be able to play," Tuberville said. "Jay Ratliff is going to have to play a little bit more. He's played probably 10 plays a game up until now. Now it looks like he'll get 20 to 25. That's going to put him in the fire a little bit more."
There will be a few Tigers that may take this week's game a little more personal than the rest of their teammates. While losing to one team four-straight times is bound to make any player a little hungry, losing to your home state school four straight is the stuff that nightmares are made of. Such is the case this week for senior tackle Kendall Simmons, junior tight end Lorenzo Diamond, sophomore wide receiver Allen Tillman and freshman quarterback Jason Campbell, who have been hearing it from their Mississippi friends for a couple of years now. Diamond said that he's ready to end this here and now.
"It's very important," he said. "Being from that state, when I go home I get Mississippi State jokes because we haven't beaten them in four years. To get a victory in this game is important for us as a team because we'll go 3-0 in the SEC. But as a personal note it will be important for me because I'm from the state."
Also making this game special for many players is the way the Bulldogs handled the Tigers last season in Starkville, particularly on offense. Playing an entire 30 minutes of football without a first down should be incentive enough for this Tiger team to play with more intensity than they've displayed at any time this season. Diamond thinks that will be the case Saturday night.
"It does (make this game very important)," he said. "We didn't play well in the first half last year, we didn't play well the whole game last year. To get in and redeem ourselves and to let them know that we are Auburn, we're going to have to let them know that real early and take it to them."
The Tigers will have a short walk-through on Friday afternoon before heading out of town for their normal Friday night meeting time. Kickoff for the game is scheduled for 6 p.m. and can be seen nationally on ESPN2.