With music cranked up to high decibel levels on the stadium public address system, Tommy Tuberville and his staff put their Tigers through a 90-minute workout in shorts on Thursday. The head coach told his team this is a golden opportunity to play for the divisional championship, something they have worked hard for going back to winter workouts.
That, and a post practice pep talk by former player Jim Lawson, brought cheers from the Tigers, who seem energized for this game as they go into Baton Rouge as a touchdown underdog.
Junior cornerback Roderick Hood predicts his Tigers will play well at Tiger Stadium. "Everybody's ready," Hood says. "I mean everybody, down to the managers, all the way up to the head coach. We're ready, and we're looking forward to the opportunity."
Kickoff is set for 6:45 p.m. CST and the game is being televised by ESPN. The Tigers will bus out of of campus on mid-day on Friday, catch a charter flight out of Montgomery and have an early evening workout at Tiger Stadium before having dinner and meetings to go over the game plan.
Former Tiger offensive guard Lawson addressed the team after practice and will be its guest on the road trip to Baton Rouge. The man who donated $4 million to the Auburn Athletic Department told the players to be sure they put their best effort into Saturday night's game and if they did that they would come home a winner. He also reminded them to enjoy their college years, which he said would be a time when they were around more quality people than at any other stage of their lives.
Tuberville says his team should be in good shape physically with the extra week off to heal. Jason Campbell was running more snaps with the first team so the redshirt freshman looks like he will be the starter although Tuberville says he reserves the option to make a last-minute change.
Campbell and the other quarterbacks called plays with rock, calypso and dance music plus LSU's fight song blaring over the stadium public address system. The noise attracted the campus police, who came to investigate what was going on, but they took a brief look and exited as quickly as they arrived.
Jason Campbell takes a snap at Thursday's practice.
Tight end Lorenzo Diamond says the Tigers have gotten over the depression of losing to Alabama. The junior says he expects a strong effort as the Tigers attempt to make back to back trips to the SEC Championship Game.
Kicker and punter Damon Duval says the entire team--players, coaches and support personnel are more fired up about this game than any other contest this season. Duval adds, "We are planning to crank it up another notch in the kicking game. We need to be playing well in all areas to win. If we don't win this game, there are no more chances to win the SEC Championship." Duval has been on target all week with his field goals so there is hope his late season field goal slump has ended.
Tiger Ticket Extra: Diamond left practice early holding his side, but the problem was nothing serious. Unfortunately, that is not the case with defensive tackle Marcus White, who will not play due to a neck injury that has limited him the past two games. He will also be out for the SEC Championship if Auburn advances to Atlanta next week...Freshman Carnell Williams is also out of action with a broken collarbone and won't be available for the SEC Championship Game either. Ronnie Brown is expected to start at tailback where Williams had played so well, but look for Casinious Moore, who had a strong week of practice, to see significant playing time. Moore says last game's performance was embarrassing. "I think we are ready to step it up a notch and, hopefully, we can get a couple of backs over 100 yards. I have been real happy with how practice has been going this week."
Defensive tackle DeMarco McNeil, who has had a stomach ailment this week, says as bad as the Alabama loss is, the team is getting over it. McNeil says, "If we can get this victory and win the SEC Championship, that will be more important than us losing to Alabama." McNeil says he is disappointed to hear fans being highly critical of the coaching staff. "Fans who think the coaching staff should be fired really don't know what they are talking about. This staff got the team in the SEC Championship Game in just two seasons, starting from the ground up. Auburn had just been one time before to the SEC Championship Game before they got here." The sophomore tackle says he is impressed with what he has seen of LSU. "They are a very dangerous ball club. LaBrandon Toefield is probably the best back in the SEC. They block well and they pass well. Their quarterback (Rohan Davey) has a strong arm and stands up tall in the pocket. When need to get pressure on him because he tends to throw off his back foot some, but he can get away with it because his arm is so strong."
Big Doug Smith, a former defensive tackle who is a volunteer helper at practice while he comes back to school to finish his degree, joked that the team needed to improve the quality of its background noise at the stadium practices. Smith said enjoyed listening to highlights of Jim Fyffe doing big plays from the 1980s that were being played over the PA system the past two days at practice at very high volume. With crowd noise in the background, you could hear Fyffe calling big plays by offensive stars Bo Jackson, Brent Fullwood, Lawyer Tillman, Randy Campbell, Freddy Weygand. "We need some sacks, some interceptions, some defensive highlights," the former Tiger and NFL star said with a big grin.