Preparing his defense for the stiffest test of the season to this point, Coach Gene Chizik said that a tough task awaits his troops when they face the Vols' potent two-headed offense led by true freshmen Erik Ainge and Brent Schaeffer. Instead of getting too ahead of themselves this week in practice, Chizik said the Tigers went back to basics for the two hour practice on Tuesday.
"(We worked on) just the base stuff today," Chizik said. "It went well. They're going to practice hard and practice at the right tempo. We just worked on all our base stuff today. It was kind of generic and vanilla trying to work all the base stuff against theirs. They'll be ready to go again tomorrow. They're into it."
The defense will need to be into it Saturday when they face the red hot offense of Tennessee under the lights in Neyland Stadium in front of over 106,000 fans. Averaging 38 points and 503 yards of offense per game, the Vols have been able to move the ball through the air, but it's the ground game led by Cedric Houston and Gerald Riggs Jr. that has impressed Chizik.
Tre Smith is ready to go against the Vols.
"They're good," Chizik said. "They're an excellent offense. The quarterback situation is ironing itself out I think. Both of the guys are productive in their own ways, but Ainge is certainly capable of moving the football. He made some great throws Saturday. Some throws that seniors have been playing a long time make.
"They have a great running game. The numbers speak for themselves. All you have to do is look at their numbers. They are averaging 500 yards per game on offense for a reason. It looks like they've made a concerted effort this year to run the football first. I think they're getting back to their old ways. They're going to run the football first and then play-action you. They have a big offensive front. Ainge has been highly accurate. It's going to be an unbelievable test for us. It's the best offense we've played for sure."
A power running game similar to LSU's two weeks ago, Tennessee goes about things a different way and from different formations. Chizik said that playing the Bengal Tigers will help with the physical style of play, but that's where the comparisons end.
"They are similar from the standpoint because there's no tricks," Chizik said. "It's a different sort of football because there's different running plays involved, but it's the same idea and same concept. They are going to run the football and out-physical you at the point of attack. May the best man win."
The Tigers are extremely healthy heading into Saturday's game on both sides of the ball. Offensively both Ronnie Brown and Tre Smith were practicing on Tuesday after sitting out this weekend's game against The Citadel with minor injuries. Quarterback Jason Campbell appears to be fine after struggling through last weekend with a sprained big toe.
Defensively Marquies Gunn is moving well after being bothered by a sprained knee the last few weeks. Last week's starter Doug Langenfeld has been hobbled by a deep thigh bruise and a slightly sprained ankle, but is moving well and could possibly start again this weekend, but Chizik said that will be decided later in the week.
True freshman Pat Sims still hasn't returned from South Florida after going home last week to be with his family because of the death of his older sister. Sims is expected back to practice this week, but is doubtful to make the trip to Knoxville. Expect true freshman Neil Brown to be Auburn's fifth interior defensive lineman as well as providing depth at end as well.
Kickoff for Saturday's ESPN game is scheduled for 6:45 CDT in Knoxville.