Tigers Begin Work For Bulldogs

Auburn returned to the practice field on Monday as they get ready to face Mississippi State Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Auburn, Ala.-–Following an off-day Sunday, the Auburn Tigers got back to work on Labor Day Monday with a practice in shorts and shoulder pads. Although he first said the practice would be a physical one, coach Tommy Tuberville said following the two-hour workout that his team was sore following a tough opener against Georgia Tech.

"Today was a good practice," Tuberville said. "We were sore. We had a lot of guys real sore. It was a very physical game the other night. We should have everybody back, but that was pretty much a war we had. We've got to get everybody healthy and back ready to go for this game, but we do have some guys beat up. Other than that it was a good practice. We did a lot of scout team work."

One of the players that was injured during Saturday night's contest was sophomore defensive lineman Josh Thompson. The back-up to both Tommy Jackson at noseguard and Wayne Dickens at tackle against Georgia Tech, Thompson played through the pain of a high ankle sprain, but missed Monday's practice. Tuberville and position coach Don Dunn both said they expect him back for this week's contest though.

"He's all right," Tuberville said. "The ankle is sore. He should be able to go. He played the whole game and hurt it the first quarter. We're just trying to get him close to 100 percent."

Neil Brown could see some action in Saturday's game as the Tigers try to use more depth on defense.

Something the coaches will have to do more of this week is use their depth to wear down the opponent. In Saturday night's contest the Tigers played just 35 players, not nearly enough for the talent level of the team. Tuberville said this weekend there will be several more players that will see action, particularly on the defensive line. That group could include Pat Sims, Neil Brown, Tez Doolittle and Octavious Balkcom.

"We need to play more guys," Tuberville said. "I think we played 33 or 35 guys the other day. That's just on offense or defense and not including special teams. Throw in special teams it's a lot more than that, but we need to play more guys at the other positions because of the heat."

Two seasons ago Auburn lost the season opener to USC when aspirations were high and went on to follow that up with a dreadful performance in a loss to Georgia Tech. This season, while a loss to the Yellow Jackets did start things off on a bad note, Tuberville said the circumstances surrounding the two seasons are totally different and he doesn't think that's going to interfere with Auburn's play this weekend against the Bulldogs.

"This is a conference game," Tuberville said. "Then we were expected (to do) a lot more. We're expecting a lot this time, but I think everybody expected a lot more (in 2003). We played much better this past game. We didn't even show up for the USC game except on defense. Offensively I don't think we made half a dozen first downs, so it wasn't even a contest.

"We're not that far off. We've got a lot of little things that we've got to do. We've got to keep our focus better. We've got to get some of these younger guys playing. As I told them today ‘you're not rookies anymore'. They've played so I don't want to hear that excuse any more. I told them to get out there and play and play better this week."

True freshman defensive end Alonzo Horton was excused from Monday's practice to be with his family in Atlanta. Horton, a native of New Orleans, was affected greatly by the devastation created by Hurricane Katrina. Horton lost two half brothers (ages seven and eight) and an aunt following the storm. He is expected to return to the team tomorrow.

Auburn will return to the practice field Tuesday afternoon to continue working on the gameplan for the Mississippi State Bulldogs. Kickoff for Saturday's contest is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. and can be seen on Jefferson Pilot Sports. Tuberville said they want to get out on the practice field earlier on Tuesday to get ready for the hot conditions expected on Saturday.

"Tomorrow we're going to go earlier so we can get out in the heat a little bit and closer to an 11:30 kickoff," Tuberville said. "We're going to go as early as we can in practice and throw the ball and do a lot of punting with the sun above us."

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