With much of the talk the last few weeks centered around possible coaching changes on the staff, it should be good for the Tigers to get back on the practice fields and shake off some of the late-season rust that comes with losing three of your final four games. For Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville, this is a chance to once again show the program is moving forward and continuing to grow.
"You need to go to bowl games to have an opportunity to recruit good players," he notes. "You need to go to bowl games for national attention. Obviously, the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl will be nationally watched. It will give Auburn and North Carolina great publicity and hopefully we can return that with a great football game."
For Auburn to play a great football game, the Tigers will need to improve their play on both sides of the ball from the showings the Tigers had the final month of the season. Particularly lacking has been the offensive production. Switching from Jason Campbell to Daniel Cobb and back again looking for a quarterback to run the offense effectively hasn't given the team any major spark. But, following a better performance against LSU in his last outing, Tuberville says Campbell will get the nod against North Carolina. Also tailback Carnell Williams is a possibility to play as his recovery from a fractured collarbone is coming along ahead of schedule.
"Jason will be the starter going into the game," Tuberville notes. "The doctor said he (Williams) is progressing real well. Obviously we're going to need him to be part of this team. I think, just looking at him everyday and how he's running up and down the field getting back in shape, it's going to be real hard to keep him off the field. His attitude and his desire is going to get him back on the field…he's going to be real close if not ready to go full speed (by game time)."
Without Williams available at the moment the trio of Casinious Moore, Ronnie Brown and Chris Butler will receive the bulk of the action in practice as the team goes through a spring training-like practice session next week before breaking for the holidays. Expected to see a great deal of action are redshirted and younger players who haven't had as much practice or playing time this season as the coaches would have liked.
One position that will receive a bulk of the work is the offensive line. Players like Ryan Broome, Nate French, Danny Lindsey, David Walker, Taylor Bourgeois, Steven Ross and Rich Trucks will get the opportunity in the coming week to show the coaching staff what they can do. That is an important part of the bowl practices and senior left tackle Kendall Simmons says he's anxious to see what they can do.
"I talked to Coach Tuberville about that (practices) and he kind of touched on working the young guys more and even playing them some," Simmons says. "They haven't had a chance to even get a taste of what it feels like playing in a big ball game because they haven't played that much this year. They're going to need it. They don't need to go into next year not having any kind of experience at all, especially offensive linemen. I think we only have one, Danny Lindsey, that really has any experience at all. They're going to need it. I'm looking forward to the practice and helping those guys out as long as I'm still here."
The Tigers will practice through December 21 on campus before going home for Christmas break. They will meet in Atlanta on December 26 to begin practicing in the Georgia Dome for the New Year's Eve game. Kickoff for the game is scheduled for 6:30 and can be seen nationally on ESPN.