Tigers Cover Everything In Sunday Practice

Coach Tommy Tuberville said his team came back with a good practice after having Saturday off heading into game week.

Auburn, Ala.–-With powerful Hurricane Katrina looming off the coast of Southern Louisiana and Mississippi, the Auburn Tigers went back to the practice field in full pads on Sunday to continue preparations for Saturday's season opener against Georgia Tech. Coach Tommy Tuberville said that after giving his team a day off they returned to work Sunday refreshed and ready for the week.

"We did everything today about like we're going to do in every game week," Tuberville said. "We're going to get in a routine meeting-wise. Obviously we don't practice like this every Sunday, but this was a Tuesday practice on a Sunday for us. Tuesday will be a Wednesday (practice) as we get into game week and then we'll have two Thursday practices on Wednesday and Thursday of next week of the type of speed that we do."

Working on all phases of the gameplan for Georgia Tech both ones against ones and against the scout team, Tuberville said Sunday's practice was needed for his team, but there's still a lot to be done before they're ready for the opening kickoff.

"It was a good day and it was hot," Tuberville said. "We really pushed them hard. That's probably the longest practice that we've had this camp. What we did was we combined us practicing one-on-ones and two-on-twos full speed and then we did about 45 minutes of scout teams. We doubled up today, but we've still got a lot of work to do to get better. We used this as a good day for drills, fundamentals and techniques."

Again on Sunday the scout teams featured all of the freshmen, something that will likely change later this week. While players such as tight end Tommy Trott, wide receiver Robert Dunn and defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks are expected to play this season for the Tigers, Tuberville said he wasn't sure if any would be ready for significant action this week against the Yellow Jackets.

"We've got a lot of guys on back-ups or second team," Tuberville said. "We probably won't make any decision until we get closer to the end of the week and see if we have any injuries. There's not anybody obviously that's starting. There's no urgency about playing anybody on special teams that are really freshmen. We have some guys backing up, five or six players.

"Will they play? We'll have to wait and see how this week of practice goes. When we get to the game do we feel like they can help us? If anybody can help us this week then obviously we'll play them, but there's really no freshman ready to mentally take on the challenge of playing this week."

Quentin Groves and the Auburn defense have a big challenge facing them in the opener against Georgia Tech.

The injury situation is becoming much better for the Tigers as the game gets nearer. Defensive tackle Wayne Dickens returned to practice full speed on Sunday after missing part of Friday's work with a slight hamstirng problem. Tuberville said he should be 100 percent by game time. Also linebacker Merrill Johnson continues to recover from a dislocated elbow and Tuberville said he's getting closer to being 100 percent.

Offensively the return of center Steven Ross to full speed has been a boost for the offense. Bothered by a strained hip flexor, Ross split time with Joe Cope at first-team center on Sunday and Coach Hugh Nall said both will play against Georgia Tech. Junior Jonathan Palmer also got some reps in practice at center and it wouldn't be a surprise to see him in the game as well if the situation becomes available.

Defensively the Tigers are preparing for one of the most talented offenses they'll see this season in terms of skill players. While Calvin Johnson and P. J. Daniels will get a lot of attention, quarterback Reggie Ball is a big threat to a defense because of his ability to run and pass. Even though athletic freshmen Aairon Savage and Walter McFadden have been imitation him in scout team work, defensive coordinator David Gibbs said there's really no way to prepare for a player like Ball until you see him on the field.

"You can't get ready for the speed issue just like they can't prepare for our speed," Gibbs said. "They're going to be faster than we've practiced against with our scout team and hopefully our defense is faster than their scout team defense. Whoever adjusts the quickest out there on gameday will have an advantage, but you can't simulate his speed. Reggie Ball runs around and he knows when to throw that ball up to number 21. And, he's got (Damarius) Bilbo on the other side. It's tough. It's going to be a tough challenge for us."

There will be something a little different for the Tigers this season as Gibbs will be on the field for games instead of in the box upstairs. Linebacker coach Joe Whitt and defensive ends coach Terry Price will be in the booth. That's a change from former coordinator Gene Chizik and most defensive coaches, who prefer to be upstairs. Gibbs said there is a simple explanation for why he's not going to be on the field when Auburn plays this year.

"We'll have a good pair of eyes upstairs," Gibbs said. "I have always been on the field. I have always done it and guys I grew up under did it. The guys that taught me what I know were always field guys. That's my background. I don't know the other way. Up here I guess everybody has always been upstairs. We'll see what happens.

"They say if you go upstairs you can see better and if you're on the field you have better communication with your players. Who knows? As long as you play good I don't know that it matters."

The Tigers will take Monday off before returning to the practice field on Tuesday. Saturday's kickoff against Georgia Tech is scheduled for 7:45 and will be shown on ESPN.

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