Hoping For More Good Team Chemistry

Coach Tommy Tuberville discusses his football Tigers as they prepare for opening night.

Auburn, Ala.--An upbeat Tommy Tuberville says he is anxious to get his seventh Auburn season started as his team spends the rest of the week fine-tuning the offense, defense and kicking game for Saturday's season opener vs. Georgia Tech.

The Auburn head football coach notes that Auburn's 13-0 2004 SEC Championship team developed great chemistry, something this year's group of Tigers will try to duplicate.

"We work real hard on chemistry in two-a-days," Tuberville says. "It has been great in practice, but we haven't lined up against anybody else."

The Tigers won't have to wait long to test themselves with a crowd of 87,000-plus watching the opening exam at Jordan-Hare Stadium at 7:45 p.m. on Saturday vs. Georgia Tech.

"There is a lot that goes into a first game," Tuberville says. "A lot of the planning and the small details that go from the day before the game until after the game, all of the small details we have to work out as coaches and players have to understand.

"Everything has gone smooth," Tuberville adds. "The players' attitudes are great. That is what I worry about. They are looking forward to playing this game. They are excited about the season, but they understand it is a long season.

"We have got a lot of room for improvement," he notes. "We have shown that in practice so we will just have to wait and see. Going into this week we will try to perform the way we have been performing on the practice field."

The offense has to replace the 2004 SEC Player of the Year, Jason Campbell, who is now with the Washington Redskins.

Auburn will be looking for its 16th straight victory when the Yellow Jackets come to Jordan-Hare Stadium for a game that will be televised nationally on ESPN. Tuberville notes that the winning streak makes his team a target for Tech and everybody else on the schedule, a point the coaching staff has been making to the Tigers going back to the offseason workouts.

Tuberville says to expect growing pains on offense with his team losing three star players from the backfield. However, he says he likes what he is seeing from quarterback Brandon Cox along with running backs Tre Smith, Carl Stewart, Jake Slaughter and Kenny Irons.

The coach says that "the talent is there, the work ethic is there," but there is no way the 2005 starting backfield will play at the level that the 2004 group did with current NFL players Jason Campbell, Ronnie Brown and Carnell Williams in last season's lineup.

Tuberville predicts the new backfield will improve as it gains experience. "They understand they want to be the best they can be. They also understand it is also going to be a growing process of not just this game, but of several games throughout this season.

"I am anxious to see it," he adds. "They have got a great supporting cast around them--offensive line, tight ends, wide receivers. They are not out there by themselves. It is a complete start over, so to speak, for the backfield for this season compared to last year."

The Tigers have an unusual schedule this season with no road trips until an Oct. 15 journey to play the Arkansas Razorbacks.

Tuberville says that situation, with five home games to start the season, is a plus with the Tigers breaking in a new starting quarterback. However, he notes that it is a double-edged sword. "We are going to pay the price. After those five games, we are going to have four of the next six on the road, but if you had a scenario where you had to do this, this would be a good year for us because it gives us a chance to get our feet on the ground and not have to worry about all of those things that happen away from your friendly confines."

In addition to the backfield, there is a question on how the Tigers will be at center with projected starter Steven Ross missing all of spring training and much of preseason with injuries. Undersized walk-on Joe Cope, 6-0, 277, is scheduled to open at the position and Ross is expected to play a reserve role. Jonathan Palmer, a reserve guard, can also play center if needed. "Joe Cope has earned the right to start with his performances in the two scrimmages," says Tuberville, who adds there will continue to be competition between Cope and Ross for the number one spot.

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