Key Tiger Questionable For Season Opener

Comments from Tommy Tuberville and a new starter are featured along with a variety of notes, including an injury update.

Auburn, Ala.--For Ben Grubbs and his Auburn teammates, the long wait for opening day is almost done.

Auburn's new offensive guard starter and his teammates wrapped up on-the-field preparations for Saturday's home opener vs. Louisiana-Monroe with a light workout on Thursday evening.

"I am anxious to see if all of the hard work I put in will pay off for me," says Grubbs, who will start at left guard for the Tigers. "I am getting better every day in practice. I am learning what to do. Now I am ready to get in a game and hit somebody I don't know."

The redshirt sophomore's willingness to hit people, and do it on a regular basis, is why Tommy Tuberville and his assistant coaches made the decision to experiment with Grubbs at guard in spring drills. It didn't take long for them to notice that the former linebacker and defensive end, who moved to tight end last season, showed promised at guard.

"Ben is really doing well," Tuberville says. "He played a lot last year at tight end. He has got the mentality of a defensive player, but that is what you are looking for in an offensive guard.

"We are going to pull him a lot and get him on the outside," Tuberville adds. "He just needs game experience."

Grubbs says he believes he has improved a great deal since spring training, but admits he is not a finished product as an offensive lineman. "I am not making the mistakes I made in spring practice, but I am still making some other mistakes and I am working on correcting them. I can tell that I am a lot better than I was in the spring."

Ben Grubbs

Another reason why Tuberville and offensive line coach Hugh Nall like what they see from the six-foot-three, 302-pounder is that he plays with intensity. "In high school, I was a lot bigger than most of the guys I played against and I had a big advantage," says Grubbs, who was a standout at Elmore County High in Eclectic. Here in college, everybody I play against is big and some guys are even bigger so I have to play hard.

"When I got a chance to play tight end, I just wanted to get on the field and play so I tried to take advantage of the opportunity by working hard," Grubbs adds. "I was just glad to be out there and didn't take it for granted. I knew if I worked hard I would get better and could stay on the field. I really loved getting out there and playing."

The experiment of moving Grubbs from tight end to guard was one of the highlights of spring training 2004.

Grubbs and his offensive teammates will be showing their new offensive system installed by coordinator Al Borges when the Tigers face Louisiana-Monroe at Saturday's 1:30 p.m. kickoff. Grubbs says that should be fun to watch.

"Coach Borges is a smart man," the guard says. "He knows what he is talking about. He is working hard to teach us his system. It works. It works real well."

Auburn walloped Louisiana-Monroe last year 73-6 when the Indians arrived at Jordan-Hare Stadium without their starting quarterback, Steven Jyles, who missed the game to attend a funeral. Tuberville says the 6-1, 191 junior from Baton Rouge, La., is a key to ULM's success.

Auburn Football Notes: One of Auburn's key players, junior tailback Tre Smith, has a shoulder that is bothering him and he may be held out of the opener. Tuberville says the plan is to use Carnell Williams as the punt returner in place of Smith and Silas Daniels plus fellow receiver Lee Guess could also return punts. Smith plays on all of the kicking teams and is coming off a strong spring and preseason as a runner and receiver. He also also worked as a nickel back on defense...Freshman wide receiver James Swinton, who has had a strong preseason, left practice early after hurting his knee on Wednesday. His injury turned out to be bruised tendon and is not considered serious although he is questionable for the opener...Senior defensive ends Bret Eddins and Doug Langenfeld, who missed much of the preseason work, will likely see limited action against the Indians even though they have practiced this week. Sophomore Marquis Gunn is expected to see a lot of playing time at strongside end and true freshman Neil Brown could play there, too..Starting cornerback Carlos Rogers is expected to start.

Tickets are available for Saturday's game, which is not expected to be a sellout...The opener is available on a pay-per-view TV basis in the states of Alabama and Louisiana to cable subscribers and small dish owners who subscribe to Dish Network and Direct TV. Fans should contact their local cable provider or small dish provider to order the game. Other home dish owners should contact 1-800-TV-STARS to order the game...The Tigers worked on the blitz and reviewed the game plan at Thursday's practice that featured some light rain for part of the session...The players have a team dinner and a team meeting on Thursday night. They will leave town on Friday evening and take buses to LaGrange, Ga., to spend the night.

Tiger Ticket Extra: Ben Grubbs, who rooms with defensive lineman T.J. Jackson, says he believes the Tigers are developing a solid team chemistry. "Off the field, we all go out together and we see each other every day so it would be hard not to bond."...Grubbs says it is a pleasure to block for running backs like Carnell Williams and Ronnie Brown, hard-working seniors who are respected by their teammates. "Sometimes when we miss a block, they are so talented they can make up for it by making the tackler miss," the guard notes...Fans who arrive at Jordan-Hare Stadium early enough to watch the pre-game warmups will get to see a new "movie trailer" style video that will be shown on the scoreboard as the Tigers huddle on the field prior to heading back to their locker room.

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