However, because of bureaucratic bungling by the NCAA, Rowell was not cleared to practice or play games for the Tigers until Friday when AU's NCAA Compliance Director, Mark Richard, received a ruling from that group's headquarters in Indianapolis that the former Opelika High star could practice with the Tigers immediately.
AU officials tracked down Rowell on Friday and surprised him with the word that he could now practice, something that he was told he couldn't do earlier in the week. Beginning at 8 a.m. on Saturday, at the first of two practices that day, Rowell will work out with the inside linebackers. He will practice with the team in the workouts prior to the Peach Bowl vs. North Carolina, but will not participate in that game because it would cost him a year of eligibility. Rowell will have five years to play four seasons starting in 2002.
"I am excited to get back into it," said Rowell. "I am a little nervous, too. I am mad about what happened to me, but not as mad as I used to be. I have calmed down and am going to try to make the best of the situation. This should give me a head start on spring training."
Coach Tommy Tuberville said the news about Rowell caught him off guard on Friday. "I have been recruiting all week and just got back today," Tuberville said. "Mark Richards, our compliance guy, said that Lemarcus is cleared and ready to go. I was as shocked as anybody. I thought he just meant to come out. Obviously, he won't play (in the bowl game.) It is good he is able to come out there and start a little bit of technique work, go to meetings, start learning what he is going to do and be a part of this team. So, we will see what happens."
Redshirt freshman offensive lineman blocks Ronald Samuel at Friday's practice.
Rowell and the rest of the Tigers will work out twice a day, except once on Sunday. They will practice through next Friday before taking a break for Christmas and reassemble in Atlanta on Dec. 26th.
Following a 13-day break since playing at LSU, the Tigers practiced for the first time on Friday. The session lasted 90 minutes and featured light contact in full pads on very wet practice fields that are in excellent shape with lots of green grass. Coach Tommy Tuberville said he liked what he saw from the workout that was short of the regular number of participants because some were still taking fall semester final exams.
Graduation is set for Saturday and one of the players who will receive his diploma, All-American tackle Kendall Simmons, was in a good mood on Friday about his big day coming up. "I know that I am going to look like a big whale in my cap and gown," he joked. "I don't plan to keep it on long." However, he was beaming about getting his degree and said, "I am really happy about it." Daniel Cobb, Ben Nowland and Hart McGarry will also receive their diplomas on Saturday and will be excused from Saturday's second practice.
On the academic front, Tuberville said the reports he is getting are very promising. "Most grades we have gotten back have been excellent--much better than we anticipated. The guys did a good job in the classroom. Our grade point average looks like it is going to go way up as a group and we are excited about that."
Tuberville noted that Friday's session was the first time for a full-team assembly since the bowl trip to Atlanta was announced on Sunday. "Our seniors, as well as everybody, are excited about a new one-game season. We are playing against a very good North Carolina team.
Karlos Dansby works out on Friday as the Tigers drilled for 90 minutes.
"Nobody is really excited about all of the practices that we are going to go through, but it is really going to give us a chance to work our younger players," Tuberville added. "They will be very intense. We are going to get back to physical practices with a lot of technique work. One practice will be basically all special teams and team drills."
Tiger Ticket Extra: Carnell "Cadillac" Williams was running under the direction of trainer Arnold Gamber on Friday and is ahead of schedule. He is recovering from a broken clavicle and could see action in the Peach Bowl, however, Tuberville said that decision will be made by the trainer, team doctors and Williams himself. "We won't do anything that will jeopardize his career," the coach said Friday night. "We won't take any chances. He is going to be 100 percent or he won't play. We will just take it day by day and see what happens."...Auburn officials are very happy at the pace of ticket sales for the Peach Bowl and the Tigers look to be on their way to selling 20,000 or more to the New Year's Eve game. AU officials say it is important for the long-term success of the program that the Tigers take big crowds to bowl games.
The new weight room is in the final stages of construction next to the AU practice fields.
Phillip Lolley, Don Dunn, Eddie Gran, John Lovett and Noel Mazzone were at the practice while the other assistants were recruiting on Friday...Even though the bowl game is indoors, AU plans to workout on the grass in practices in Auburn instead of using the indoor facility because there is less chance of an injury outdoors. Tuberville said, "The only guys who will be excused from a lot of the contact work are our seniors. The rest of the guys will have one good scrimmage and a lot of team work. Of course, we are going to put our quarterbacks through a lot of things we feel they need to do to get better coming off the season."