Injuries Force Tigers To Alter Playing Rotation

Auburn, Ala.--The Tigers received some tough news on the injury situation as linebacker <b>Tavarreus Pounds</b>, cornerback <b>Travaris Robinson</b> and tight end <b>Robert Johnson</b> all appear doubtful to play against the Florida Gators Saturday night in Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Pounds suffered a high ankle sprain in Saturday's win over Mississippi State while Robinson sprained a knee early in the contest. Johnson continues to be bothered by an ankle sprain suffered last week in practice.

While Auburn has the depth at both cornerback and tight end to combat the injuries, the same can't be said for linebacker where Dontarrious Thomas and Mark Brown are the only two experienced players on the roster at the moment. Because of that Brandon Johnson has been moved to the defensive side of the ball this week and will see significant action on defense against the Gators as well as time on offense as a fullback. Defensive coordinator John Lovett said there was no other way around it this week, they had to have Johnson at linebacker.

"Brandon Johnson will play a big role this week for us," Lovett said. "He'll play linebacker this week. I don't know if he will start but he will play. He'll be the next guy in."

Also expected to see playing time is redshirt freshman linebacker Mayo Sowell. Struggling some earlier in the season with certain parts of the defense and making calls, Lovett said this should be a good game to get Sowell into the action.

"We'll use Mayo this week," he said. "This will be a good game for him because he's an athletic guy in space. This should be a good game for him. Those four guys are the guys that will probably be playing."

Practicing for nearly two and a half hours on a perfect afternoon, the Tigers got started working on ways to handle a potent Gator football team both on offense and defense. Offensively, the Tigers worked on gearing up an attack that has struggled to find the end zone this season. Much of the time was spent in the passing game as the Tigers look for answers after a 79-yard outing last Saturday night.

Defensively, the Tigers worked on tackling in the secondary to avoid the big plays that plague defenses when they face the Gators. With Robinson out at corner freshman Carlos Rogers spent much of the day on the first unit opposite junior Roderick Hood. Up front the defensive line continued to work on their pass rushing skills heading into their biggest challenge of the season against an experienced and talented Florida offensive line.

One of the players Auburn needs to be successful against the Fun-N-Gun offense is sophomore defensive tackle DeMarco McNeil. Not himself this season with minor injuries and illnesses off and on for the first half of the year, the Mobile native said he believes he'll be ready to play this week after playing just four plays in the win over Mississippi State. After missing Tuesday's practice recovering from a leg infection that caused a fever of 104 degrees for several days over the weekend, McNeil said he's anxious to get back on the field.

"I feel alright right now," he noted Tuesday evening. "My leg is just a little sore and tight, I just need to stretch it out a little bit. Right now I feel okay. Florida is coming in town and they are the number one team in the nation and they are a great football team. It's going to be a challenge. They don't make any mistakes or at least we haven't seen them make one yet so far in the games we've seen on film. It's going to be a tough challenge for us."

The challenge begins at 6:45 Saturday night in a game televised nationally by ESPN. Gates open two hours before kickoff and fans are encouraged to get there early because of additional security measures. Additional gates will be open this week to avoid the long lines present before the Mississippi State game. AU officials announced on Tuesday that chairback seats will be allowed this week. Also, there will be express lanes into the stadium for fans with no gear to be inspected.

The Tigers will practice Wednesday and Thursday before closing the books on preparations for the Gators.

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