As the stretch of games in which the Tigers are heavily favored continues this week against Western Kentucky, the Auburn coaches are putting a heavy emphasis on playing hard and getting better during practice.
?You never know (how you are improving) until you start back playing teams that are on the same line of caliber that you are,? Tuberville says. ?We feel good about what we?ve done. We felt real good about how we?re practicing.
"Guys are really into practice and working on the little things. Last week was a very tough, physical week with a lot of heat and humidity. We had guys lay it on the line.
?As long as we can keep them practicing hard we?ll continue to improve all year long,? he adds. ?I think we?re much improved from how we played the first game and that goes back to confidence.?
Tailback Kenny Irons, who rushed for 147 yards and two touchdowns in Auburn?s 63-3 win over Ball State, is one player who has stood out while the heat has been turned up on the practice field.
?It?s more mental,? Tuberville says of Irons, who was named the coaching staff's Offensive Player of the Week. ?The biggest thing is we have got to have confidence in a player as much as they have to have confidence in themselves. They?ve got to show it on the practice field.
?Kenny was just kind of the odd man out because of inexperience and what we were doing in the game against Georgia Tech,? he adds. ?Since then we?ve kind of switched gears as to what we?re doing and how we?re doing it. Kenny, obviously, did well last week, but that was against Ball State and we?ll see what he does this week.?
Irons sat out the entire second half against the Cardinals, and impressed his coaches with a 100 percent grade on assignments, which Tuberville says is just as important as what he does with the ball in his hands.
?He had three unassisted and two assisted tackles,? Tuberville says. ?With a new middle linebacker in there (Karibe Dede) he?s going to be the guy that gets everybody lined up. He picked up where Travis didn?t play.?
Travis Williams will likely be back against Western Kentucky, as well as offensive linemen Marcus McNeill and Timmy Duckworth plus cornerback David Irons, who all sat out against Ball State. Tuberville added that Duckworth may not return to his starting job because Jonathan Palmer played well in his absence.
Three other players may be out of action Saturday, including Courtney Taylor, who was injured on the opening possession on Saturday. ?Courtney Taylor will not play,? Tuberville says. ?He?s got an ankle sprain, but hopefully he?ll be back next week for South Carolina. Stanley McClover is still questionable with Josh Thompson. Hopefully, those guys will be back at practice this week, but I won?t know that until Tuesday.?
One area that Tuberville says was an improvement was the kicking game. Devin Aromashodu and Brad Lester returned two kickoffs for a total of 145 yards. The entire return team was named Special Teams Players of the Week.
?It wasn?t just the guy running the ball, it was the blocking,? Tuberville says. ?We?re getting a lot better with the blocking and staying on our blocks. We?ve got a pretty athletic special teams out on the field right now.?
As far as kickoffs are concerned, Kody Bliss has been eliminated from the mix as the Auburn coaches continue to search for someone to consistently put the ball in the end zone.
?We?re just going to have Matt Clark and Zach (Zach Kutch) trying to beat each other during the week of practice,? Tuberville says. ?We can live with what both of those guys did this week except for maybe one kick. I was real pleased with our improvement and our coverage teams.?