Auburn Safety Ready To Play; Rain Or Shine

Sophomore safety Will Herring talks about the threat of Ivan and the challenge of facing LSU.

Auburn, Ala.–-It seems like there's always something strange taking place when Auburn and LSU meet on the football field. From the fire game to the earthquake game to the events of 911, it seems the Auburn Tigers and LSU Tigers can't meet without something out of the ordinary happening.

This season is no different with Hurricane Ivan making it uncertain that the game will be played on Saturday. Expected to pack a serious punch even as far inland as central Alabama, sophomore safety Will Herring says he is staying focused on playing a football game at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday.

"I can't speak for the rest of team, but as far as myself I'm taking the approach that we're playing Saturday rain or shine," Herring says. "We're showing up for work everyday here at practice with that mentality. If something else happens we'll have to adjust and take it from there. From what I'm hearing it's going to be out of here by Friday evening at least. We'll see what kind of damage is done and hopefully we'll be playing on Saturday."

Void of starting experience in the front seven except for junior Travis Williams and seniors Bret Eddins and Jay Ratliff, the Auburn defense was thought to be the weak spot of the team heading into the 2004 season. Through two games that hasn't been the case though as the Tigers went seven quarters without giving up a point before Mississippi State got two late scores. Herring says that while the Tigers didn't have many starters back, they did have some experience.

"Coming into the season everybody saw how we lacked experience at a lot of positions," Herring notes. "We said at the beginning that we're going to have our ups and downs, but we're going to get better with experience. Personally, I have been exceptionally pleased with the way we've played. I think the coaches feel the same way. The effort has been outstanding the first two games. We're still making some mental mistakes here and there, but as a whole we've come farther than we could have expected before the season.

"Somebody like A.T. (Antarrious Williams), who hasn't started much but has a lot of experience, and Kevin Sears played a lot last year," Herring says. "They weren't just ice cold. It's not like they hadn't been out there on special teams and getting a lot of reps with the number twos. That has been a big benefit for our defense. It's not like we've got true freshman coming in here stepping on the field for the first time."

Will Herring

The talent level Auburn's defense is expected to face this weekend is going to take a big step up if LSU takes the field on Saturday. Loaded with several future NFL players on offense, the Bengal Tigers will be a big challenge for the Auburn defense and Herring says stopping the run is going to be the main goal this week.

"LSU has a whole crew of excellent backs in the backfield," Herring says. "If you can control the line of scrimmage and shut down the run first then we would like to put it in the hands of either one of the quarterbacks they have."

The front four of Eddins, Ratliff, Tommy Jackson and either Marquies Gunn or Stanley McClover will have their work cut out this week trying to slow down a running game spearheaded by All-American candidates Ben Wilkerson and Justin Vincent. Herring says there is little doubt what LSU will try to do when the game gets started Saturday.

"A team like LSU, they are just going to try to line up and beat you because they believe they're the better team," Herring says. "We believe the same ourselves. It's going to be a smash-mouth, straight up game without a lot of trickery. The best team wins."

Unlike last season's 0-2 start that left everyone looking for answers as to what happened, this season Auburn is riding higher after two easy victories to start the season. Herring says there has been quite a difference in emotions this time around and he's enjoying it to the fullest.

"It's completely different end of the spectrum," Herring says. "This time last year, with the expectations we had, we were coming off two disappointing losses. Right now we couldn't ask to be in a better situation. We've taken care of the first two games and we have to continue to take them one at a time."

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