Tiger Greats Take In Wednesday Practice

Defensive tackle Jay Ratliff will be one of the key figures in the task of slowing down Louisiana Tech's Ryan Moats.

Auburn, Ala.–-With more than 100 former Auburn lettermen looking on, the sixth-ranked Auburn Tigers practiced for just over two hours Wednesday working on the game plan for the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs.

Correcting mistakes and working on fundamentals has been the theme of most weeks for the Tigers and this week is no different. Coming off an impressive 34-10 victory over Tennessee Saturday night, Coach Tommy Tuberville said his team has to keep their nose to the grindstone this week because the Bulldogs are a dangerous team.

"We worked hard on the kicking game and we're really improving," Tuberville said. "We've got a few guys beat up, Tre Smith (shoulder), Brad Lester (foot), Jeremy Ingle practiced today, but he's still beat up a bit from Saturday's game and will play.j

"We've spent a lot of time, obviously, on the running game of Louisiana Tech," he added. "We tried to do as much as we possibly can to simulate a guy that is as quick as he (Ryan Moats) is. That's hard to do."

Auburn is fortunate enough to have a veteran SEC back to play the part of Moats (the nation's second-leading rusher in yards per game and first in total rushing yards) this week in practice. Redshirting after transferring from South Carolina, Kenny Irons has been acting as the Bulldog star this week in practice and Tuberville said he's doing a great job getting the defense ready for what they'll see Saturday.

"Kenny is quick, fast and really understands playing running back," Tuberville said. "He gives us a great look, but it's not just this week it's been every week. He's done a great job simulating other teams' running backs.

"It's going to be good for him because he's spent extra time in the weight room working hard to gain some weight. He's working on his speed, he's already fast enough, but he's trying to do everything he can to get better before next spring."

Former AU defensive end Liston Eddins, former head coach Pat Dye and former AU quarterback Phil Gargis chat on the practice fields= Wednesday.

Lettermen's Day on the Plains included visits to practice and many stayed and had dinner with the coaching staff following the workout. Former Coach Pat Dye, Jimmy "Red" Phillips, Liston Eddins, Phil Gargis, Scotty Long, Ken Rice and Tommy Lorino were among the former Tigers that made an appearance at the practice. Tuberville said it was good to see so many former players show their support.

"It's good to see them back on campus," Tuberville said. "Tigers Unlimited and Jimmy Harris kind of orchestrated this thing to get as many back on campus as we could. It's good for our coaches and our players to meet them. I know a lot of them, but some of them I don't. It's good to see this many come back and reminisce about their playing days and be able to see the football team of today.

"Mike Kolen (former AU All-American linebacker) talked to the team a little bit after practice. It was good to have 'Captain Crunch' come in there and say something as much as he's meant to Auburn and football since he's been around."

Defensively, the Tigers have been solid this season, ranked in the Top 10 in the country in both scoring and total defense. One of the reasons for that is the play of defensive tackle Jay Ratliff. A leader both on and off the field, Ratliff said this team isn't going to fall into the same trap many teams do. They aren't going to look past this weekend's game against Louisiana Tech and get caught napping.

"We're more relaxed," Ratliff said. "Taking it one game at a time is definitely our theme. Last year we had all the right ingredients for a championship team and the season kind of went down the drain. It's pretty easy to get ready when you think about that."

Something that helps the Tigers focus on Saturday is a memory. For many of the seniors the only knowledge they have of the Bulldogs is almost losing to them as freshmen. Ratliff said they'll make sure to watch that film this week to get everyone to understand the danger present this Saturday.

"If you remember a few years ago we played this team and it took overtime," Ratliff said. "All you have to do is look at that film and you're ready to go after that. It makes it tougher now that they're running the ball. It's definitely going to be a challenge for the front seven. We have to stop the run and it's one of those big tests."

Kickoff for Saturday's Homecoming contest against Louisiana Tech is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. and will be available on Pay-Per-View in both Alabama and Louisiana to cable subscribers and dish owners. Contact your local cable company, dish provider, or home dish owners can call 1-800-TV-STARS to order the game.

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