Working on all phases of the game on the hot Sunday, Coach Tommy Tuberville said it was a good indicator to see where his team is physically heading into the first game of the 2004 season.
"It was a tough practice," Tuberville said. "We had a lot of contact. We pushed them through it. We worked about half of the practice against each other and the other half against the scout team and Louisiana-Monroe. It was pretty spirited until the fourth or fifth period then the bear got on their backs. We've got to hope like heck we've got enough players to play this level of ball because the weather has not cooperated with us getting them prepared for this kind of weather coming up."
With game week now upon them, several Tigers returned to practice on Sunday. Defensively, both Bret Eddins and Doug Langenfeld were taking part in the practice and looked to be moving around pretty well. Also back and nearly full speed was offensive tackle King Dunlap, who is backing up Troy Reddick at right tackle. Defensive lineman Tommy Jackson was practicing with a heavy wrap on his elbow for the third consecutive day, but appears to be ready for the season opener on Saturday. Only receiver Silas Daniels missed the practice as he continues to recover from a hamstring strain.
Both Bret Eddins and Doug Langenfeld were on the practice field on Sunday.
Back to almost full strength on both sides of the ball, the Tigers took advantage of the situation to have a long blitz period with the first teams facing off against each other. Tuberville said the day was a good one for the offense, and in particular quarterbacks Jason Campbell and Brandon Cox, as they used the time to work on something they'll likely see a lot of this season.
"We focused on blitz on both sides, our defense blitzing our offense," Tuberville said. "It's pretty much even. I was proud of our offense because that's definitely a defensive drill. What we do is set the chains at third and five and see how many opportunities the offense can make a first down. You hope you get 50 or 60 percent and that's what it was today.
"I was real pleased with the quarterbacks, how they are adjusting to the blitz," Tuberville added. "We're going to see a lot of it this year with eight man fronts and people bringing people off the corner, especially with all of the formations that we run. Our protections are looking good and the quarterbacks practiced well."
After nearly three weeks of practicing against each other the Tigers are visibly excited about the opportunity to play an opponent this coming Saturday. While the game isn't getting the attention that last year's season opener against USC garnered, Tuberville said they have preached to the team that they must use every game as a chance to improve if they want to accomplish their goals as a team.
"We had a talk about focusing on game week," Tuberville said. "You just can't focus on certain games, you have to focus on all of them. If you don't then you won't get any better. We have to focus on ourselves this week, next week and the week after, you can't worry about your opponent. You have to try to show what you've got and try to improve on that each week. That's what we're looking for. We're looking for 100 percent performance out of everybody and we're going to play a lot of players. There are a lot of guys that are close on the depth chart. We're going to put them in the game and see what happens."
A new year brings excitement to the team, but also to the coaching staff. Each season begins with an air of excitement and hope springs eternal across the country. At Auburn that means new life once again and a team that Tuberville is anxious to see in action under the lights.
"I'm like everybody else," Tuberville said when asked about the new offense. "I'm anxious to see how it's going to look. I've seen it in the scrimmage and it's not going to look any different. It's just, ‘are you going to execute?' Ronnie (Brown) and Carnell (Williams) practiced last spring and did pretty good. We haven't slowed them down yet.
"We're all anxious," Tuberville added. "I'm anxious to see how our defense will do without five of those guys that were here last year. It's always a new year."
While much of the team is settling in to the routine of the season, the kicking job is still up in the air with both John Vaughn and Philip Yost in the mix for the position. Even though both have had good days and not so good days, Tuberville said they're planning to pick one and stick with him this season and the decision will be made this week.
"We're going to look at everything they've done up to this point and we'll name a starter by Tuesday at the press conference," Tuberville said.
One loss came on Sunday as senior guard Thomas Anderson has decided to give up football and concentrate on academics this year. Running third team at right guard behind senior Danny Lindsey and sophomore Tim Duckworth, Anderson would have likely been relegated to mop-up duty this season.
Auburn will take Monday off, except for meetings, before returning to practice on Tuesday for shorter practices until Thursday. The team will travel out of town on Friday afternoon before returning back Saturday for the 1:30 p.m. kickoff.