Working on all phases of the game with an added emphasis on special teams, the Tigers got back into the installation process of the game plan on Sunday. Offensive coordinator Al Borges said that the practice was a good one and it was easy to see the team got some much needed rest in the off week.
We're fresher," Borges noted. "We had a nice little practice today. It was crisp and the kids were pretty excited to come back. You could tell the legs were going pretty good. Now all we have to do is keep it like that so come Saturday we'll come out of the locker room breathing fire. It was a nice practice and you could tell this is a little different week."
The Tigers got some good news on Sunday as starting center Jeremy Ingle returned for a portion of the practice and looks to be getting closer to 100 percent, a number Coach Tommy Tuberville said he would need to be at before playing against the Bulldogs. Unfortunately, the news isn't as good on junior center Steven Ross. Hurtin a non-contact drill last week, Ross is scheduled to have surgery to repair a torn ACL and is done for the rest of the season.
Because of that Ingle will be backed up by senior guard Danny Lindsey, who has extensive experience at the center position. Walk-on Joe Cope will also get some work at center this week as Coach Hugh Nall tries to get the group together in time to face a very tough Georgia defensive front. True freshman offensive tackle Leon Hart missed Sunday's practice because of the death of his grandfather. He's expected back for Tuesday's practice.
Borges said this week is perhaps the biggest challenge the offense has faced this season. "I think their defensive line, especially Pollack number 47 (David Pollack), is really strong," Borges said. "He's as active a player as we've played against. He's a great pass rusher and he just never stops. He goes 1,000 miles per hour with his hair on fire. We're going to have to have a plan for him to block.
"In the secondary I think they're the best tandem of safeties (Thomas Davis and Greg Blue), assuming both of them play, that we've played against. I don't think they're bad anywhere. Across the board every player is an SEC player."
Unlike last week, when the Tigers went three days in shorts and shoulder pads, Sunday's practice was a physical day with several sessions of full contact work. Borges said that has been the plan all along and now they'll back off the team to get them ready for Saturday.
"This is really good to be the only day we go in pads," Borges said. "That could change, but we were going to get after it today knowing that we want to take a couple of days to make sure we're physically solid for the game. Today was going to be a little bit more physical than the other ones."
Something that could be a concern this week is a loss of concentration with all the hype surrounding this week's game. Later in the week ESPN's College Gameday will be on the Auburn campus and the national attention is coming from all over. Even with all that Borges said he's not worried about this team being ready for Saturday or becoming caught up in the emotion of the week leading up to the game.
"That could be a little bit of a problem," Borges said. "But, this team, if they have done anything, they've done a really good job of peaking at game time and coming out ready to play every game. I think this game, and the rest of the season for that matter, is not going to be a problem. I think they understand where they've got to be mentally and physically for game time. They've done it for nine games and there's no reason to think they won't do it again."
While the matchups between quarterbacks, offenses and defenses will get most of the attention this week, Borges said this game is going to come down to the wire because both teams are that good. With national championship hopes on the line for the Tigers and Georgia hoping to stay in the race for a BCS game, Borges said you can expect nothing less than a heavyweight title bout at 2:30 Saturday afternoon.
"To me, if you look at it, this is the classic matchup," Borges said. "You have two great defenses against two real good offenses and a couple of solid special teams. It just doesn't get any better than this. This is championship caliber type of play here. There are no blatant weaknesses on either team. You don't see that very often."