Tuberville Says Tigers Rested For Vol Challenge

Coach Tommy Tuberville talks about Auburn's victory over The Citadel and about getting ready for Tennessee.

Auburn, Ala.–-As expected there was very little talk of Auburn's 33-3 victory over The Citadel on Sunday around the Auburn football complex as the coaches and players quickly focused their attention on the Tennessee Volunteers.

Without both Ronnie Brown and Tre Smith on offense, the Tigers rolled up 593 yards of total offense, but had several mistakes that cost them points. Defensively Auburn played a solid game and held the Bulldogs under 200 yards for the day. Tuberville said that the Tigers got everything accomplished that they wanted to in the tune-up game for the Vols.

"Yesterday was a good game for our entire team," Tuberville said. "We had the opportunity to play a lot of players, as we did for each of our first two games. It's good for team morale and obviously good to rest some players. We held out a couple of running backs yesterday that didn't play. They will be 100 percent going into this game."

A healthy football team for the most part after four games, both Brown and Smith should return to practice on Sunday and be ready for this weekend. Brown has been bothered by a sore hamstring while Smith's shoulder has been giving him problems on and off this season. Quarterback Jason Campbell has a sprained big toe suffered against LSU two weeks ago, but played on Saturday and should be better this week.

After watching his defense once again come up with a big game, Tuberville said a group he continues to be impressed with is the front four on defense for the Tigers. Helping Auburn to a league-leading 6.6 points per game average on defense, what was the most in-experienced part of Auburn's team with just Bret Eddins, Jay Ratliff and Tommy Jackson back as heavy contributors from last season has turned into a team strength thanks to increased depth.

"I think we're getting a lot of play out of our noseguards," Tuberville said. "Josh Thompson is one that had a great spring. He's really improved and I think he's been a pleasant surprise. Wayne Dickens is much improved from the first game to the fourth game. He's a guy that is the back-up to Jay Ratliff at our three technique. We're playing so many guys we haven't really gotten any continuity, but that's good because there's a lot of competition and a lot of guys fighting to get into the starting team."

The players of the week for The Citadel game were offensive tackle Marcus McNeill, safety Will Herring and wide receiver Anthony Mix on special teams. Grading out at 93 percent for the game, including solid work in pass protection and several pancake blocks, McNeill's improved health has been a big boost to the Auburn offense this season. It's an offense that Tuberville said is more physical than last year's version with the addition of Coach Al Borges.

"We're much more physical starting up front with our offensive line," Tuberville said. "We've got the same running backs. This is an offense built around the running game first. We want to throw the football and we can throw the football, but we've challenged our offensive linemen early in the season to be more physical. We've kind of been a hit-and-miss team at that aspect, but I think overall as compared to this past season we're definitely a much more physical football team, especially on offense."

Auburn now prepares for it's second tough test of the season when it travels to face the top-10 Volunteers in front of over 100,000 fans at Neyland Stadium. It will be Auburn's 11th game against a top-10 team in the last 24 contests with the Tigers currently 6-4 in those games. Tuberville said there's no doubt this will be a tough challenge because Tennessee is playing well up front on both sides of the ball, but teams live for games like this and he thinks his team will be ready to play.

"Our team focuses on every game, but it's the nature of the beast that they understand the significance of going into a game when they're playing a ranked opponent," Tuberville said. "I'm sure most of those opponents have been conference games other than USC. They get up for the conference games. Every year that I've been here the seniors kind of take over in the big games and do a good job of motivating the younger guys. They all understand that it takes 50-60 guys to win one of these games, it's not 10 or 11."

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