More Bad News For Tiger Defense

Auburn, Ala.—Just when it looked like it couldn't get any worse for the Auburn Tigers heading into Saturday's showdown with the number one Florida Gators, on Wednesday comes the news that two more defensive starters are doubtful for this weekend.

Following what he called a very good day of practice, head coach Tommy Tuberville delivered some bad news when he said that linebacker Mark Brown and defensive tackle Demarco McNeil are both doubtful to play Saturday night because of chronic injuries.McNeil was able to perform for just four plays in the victory over Mississippi State. Brown has several injuries. The first was a hand problem that happened in preseason. While neither player will require surgery, both are enough to keep the two from practicing. Both could still be ready by kickoff Saturday but Tuberville said it's not likely at this point.

"We've had two good practice days, those who have been out there," he said. "It's been kind of a rough week for that. Mark Brown has not practiced the last two days because of a sprained neck and he's doubtful for the game. It looks a little rough defensively and this is not the week to have to have a rough practice, to have a lot of guys out. We've had good, spirited practices and worked a lot on Florida's passing game on defense, trying to recognize all their routes."

With Brown now doubtful for the game and top reserve Tavarreus Pounds already out with a sprained ankle, the linebacker position is now one of concern for the coaching staff. That was lessened some with the move of Brandon Johnson on Tuesday to join starter Dontarrious Thomas at the position but the Tigers will have to rely on the part-time Johnson and seldom used Mayo Sowell against a potent Florida offense. That could be a recipe for disaster this weekend against a team averaging 48.8 points and nearly 600 yards of offense per game or it could be the coming out party for Sowell, a highly recruited linebacker out of Shades Valley High School in Birmingham.

Offensively, Tuberville said the Tigers worked on trying to continue their improvement in the running game while also trying to implement more of the passing game. Redshirt freshman Jason Campbell continues to struggle at times running the offense, particularly in the passing game. That will have to improve dramatically for the Tigers to do what the critics said they can't, which is hand the Florida Gators their first loss of the season.

Most of the talk this week will center around the explosive Gator offense led by sophomore sensation quarterback Rex Grossman, but the hidden strength of this Florida team could be its defense. With veterans like Andra Davis, Travis Carroll, Lito Sheppard and Todd Johnson roaming around, it's no wonder the Auburn offensive players know what kind of challenge awaits them on Saturday.

"They've stopped a lot of people, good offenses," said tight end Lorenzo Diamond. "They've basically shut them down, not let them score a lot of points. That's a big thing for them because their offense scores fast and scores often. For us we're going to have to contain them on defense and get some points on offense."

Kickoff for the game is scheduled for 6:45 and can be seen nationally on ESPN. The Tigers will practice Thursday before wrapping up preparations for the Gators.


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