Tigers Conclude Peach Bowl Preparations

The Tigers wrapped up preparations for the Peach Bowl with a brief walk-through on Sunday and got a surprise visit from a special friend.

Atlanta, Ga.--Auburn got an inspirational boost Sunday as the football team concluded its final on-field preparations at the Georgia Dome.

Auburn manager Jim Hardy, who was paralyzed following a hunting accident the Friday before the Louisiana Tech game, was at the Tigers' 45-minute walk-through. At the conclusion of the workout, the team circled around Hardy chanting his name as the players huddled for the final time before the Peach Bowl Monday night.

"We went through a walk-through and Jim Hardy came out and broke the team on our final practice and we are ready to go," Coach Tommy Tuberville said. This was the first time Hardy, who had spent three years working with the Tigers, had been reunited with the team since his accident.

Dressed in sweats, the Tigers used the brief workout to review the game plan and get lined up properly for each unit's different assignments.

"The guys are a little bit tired after last week's tough practices and this week's practices on turf, but they are anxious to go back out and see how much we have improved," Tuberville added. "We're going to have to improve a lot to beat (North Carolina). They are very talented and have a lot of seniors, so we're going to have to be a lot better than we were at the end of the year. But, we have something to prove and hopefully we can go out on a winning note."

Seeing Hardy again was not the only good news for the players. Both tight end Robert Johnson and inside linebacker Mark Brown, who had been questionable for the Peach Bowl, have been cleared to play. Tuberville said neither will start, but the tight end and linebacker should see some action in backup roles and on special teams.

The Tigers also attended a Chalk Talk luncheon featuring both head coaches who will go over the X's and O's of football, then 15 team members will attend the Chick-Fil-A Fan Fest Sunday afternoon where they will spend time with foster children at a charity event.

Tuberville said the players would spend Sunday night at a separate hotel to get away from any distractions and just take it easy on Monday, relaxing and watching some of the other college football bowl games that afternoon before heading to the Georgia World Congress Center for Tiger Walk which is scheduled to begin at 4:15 p.m. CST (5:15 p.m. local time).

Defensive tackles coach Don Dunn will be looking to keep his players healthy against North Carolina due to depth concerns.

Tiger Ticket Extra: Starting defensive tackles Spencer Johnson and DeMarco McNeil have seen limited practice time as they battle through knee problems. Depth at the position is a concern. Marcus White is unavailable due to a neck injury suffered prior to the Georgia game. His status for next year is still undetermined. The good news is that defensive tackle Dante Booker, who suffered a knee sprain in practice before Christmas, is moving well and is cleared to play.

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