Low Key Tigers Ready For Opening Kickoff

Coach Tommy Tuberville said his team is loose as it heads into Saturday night's contest against Georgia Tech.

Auburn, Ala.-–The Auburn Tigers put the finishing touches on the work for Saturday's opener against Georgia Tech with a short practice Thursday in helmets and shorts that concluded inside Jordan-Hare Stadium. Coach Tommy Tuberville said that after a long month of practice time he wanted to make sure the players didn't play the game too early and were ready on Saturday night.

"We had a good finish to our final preparation for Georgia Tech," Tuberville said. "It was a good practice. The guys were low-key and having a little fun. They pulled a few pranks on each other, but I want them loose and ready to go. We've had plenty of practice time and every body knows the gameplan.

"The biggest thing about first games is not playing them on the practice field," Tuberville added. "We've pulled off of them pretty good the last few days trying to get their legs back. We've done more weight lifting than we've been practicing. We want them to get their minds off of it. They know the gameplan perfect, now they just have to go out and execute and hopefully the ball bounces our way."

Anthony Mix works on punt protection during Thursday's practice. The Tigers spent roughly half of the practice time focusing on special teams.

Even with evacuees from the Gulf Coast seeking refuge in and around central and east central Alabama, Tuberville said the team will continue the tradition of traveling to LaGrange, Ga. on the night before the game because of the problems associated with staying on campus now as compared to 15 years ago.

"We still go out of town and get them together," Tuberville said. "You don't have a dorm anymore, so you get a hotel and get everybody together and build some togetherness. We book them (hotel rooms) way in advance. I'm sure it's pretty crowded up and down the interstate. Hopefully we can work things out."

Auburn enters the Georgia Tech game as healthy as a team can be after a month of intense preseason practices. Of the projected two-deep depth chart only linebacker Merrill Johnson will not be in action against the Yellow Jackets because of a dislocated elbow, but he will return against Mississippi State next week. Defensive end Christopher Browder has been slowed in recent days with a sore hamstring, but practiced on Thursday and should be ready to go Saturday night.

True freshman Zach Kutch is the odds-on favorite to be kicking off for the Tigers, but Tuberville said on Thursday that he hasn't made up his mind between Kutch and punter Kody Bliss.

One thing that has been on the minds of many players this summer and preseason is trying to find a way to remember the feelings from last season's 13-0 run while also remembering the hard work it took to get there. Noseguard Tommy Jackson said that he feels like this team has done a good job of getting ready for this season because they've put in the work necessary to be successful.

"The good thing about it is that this team is learning, getting better, and working," Jackson said. "Working hard will cancel out a lot of things. It doesn't take talent to get effort. Coach (Don) Dunn says that all the time and it's so true. I think with the effort we give and the things we do it will help us down the road this season. Despite having a great year last year we're all ready to move on and play Georgia Tech.

"This week felt like it would never get here, but at the same time it kind of flew by," Jackson added. "We got through summer and Coach Yox (Kevin Yoxall) worked us good. Two-a-days came and went and it's game week before you know it. Now I remember what Reggie Torbor told me. He told me my freshman year it was going to fly by and it did. I'm a senior now. It's kind of eery."

Kickoff for Saturday night's contest is scheduled for 7:45 and can be seen nationally on ESPN following the Boise State-Georgia game. Auburn leads the overall series with the Yellow Jackets 47-40-4 and hold a 10-2 advantage in games played in Auburn.

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