Good news for the defense is that linebacker Tavarreus Pounds returned to practice and looks to be in good shape for playing time Saturday. That would help ease some of the burden at linebacker as would the return of Mark Brown, who still hasn't been cleared after having some neck problems the last three weeks. If he's cleared to play, the Tigers will be as healthy on defense as they've been all season.
"It went pretty good," defensive coordinator John Lovett said of Tuesday's practice. "We're looking forward to getting back and playing a game. I think the kids will be into it this week. I think they've come down from a couple of weeks ago. We had pretty good preparation today and we had a lot of guys back too."
Lovett is also the position coach for the rovers and his starter at that position, Rashaud Walker, was excused from practice as he mourns the loss of his mother, Gwen Walker, who died in a traffic accident near her home in Decatur, Ga. Lovett said that Walker said he will be back for practice this week and plans to make the road trip and play against Arkansas. Lovett said that is a decision the coaches are leaving to their junior defensive back.
The linebackers could get another shot in the arm this week as Brandon Johnson looks to be in line for his most significant playing time on that side of the ball this season. Expecting the Hogs to run the ball right at them, Lovett notes that this game should fit right into Johnson's style of play, physical.
Offensively, the Tigers worked on getting the running game untracked after struggling at times against the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs. Working against the scout team for much of the day trying to get a feel for Arkansas defensive coordinator John Thompson's unorthodox defensive schemes, the offense worked on ways to get the trio of tailbacks Casinious Moore, Carnell Williams and Chris Butler more openings at the line of scrimmage. That would enable them to use their speed and quickness in the secondary rather than at the line of scrimmage and thus create more scoring opportunities. That will be a key for Auburn this weekend as the Hogs have been tough against the run and have one of the better secondaries in the league led by All-SEC safety Ken Hamlin, making passing against them a dangerous proposition.
One of the bright spots on defense for the Tigers has been the play of linebacker Mayo Sowell. Counted upon heavily in the last two games with injuries to Brown and Pounds, Sowell has responded by coming up with big play after big play. Now in line for a great deal of playing time for the first time on the road this week in Arkansas, the freshman says he knows how important this game is to Auburn's season and he hopes to come home with a win.
"It's a huge game. It's another game but it's bigger in some sort because you can be undefeated and then we have our bye week. We don't want to take our bye week with a loss. Nobody wants to do that, take a bye week with a loss. We want to go out, win this game, and do good."
Kickoff for Saturday's game is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. and can be seen regionally on Jefferson-Pilot stations.