Tigers Getting Closer To Full Strength

Auburn is getting close to full strength as both the offense and defense welcomed back several players in Wednesday's practice.

Auburn, Ala.–-Practicing for just over two hours in stifling 90 degree heat, the Auburn Tigers continued preparing for the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers in shorts and shoulder pads. Coach Tommy Tuberville said the day was a good one for his team as they worked on all phases of the game, but in particular the kicking game.

"We had a good practice today," Tuberville said. "We weathered the heat. It was another hot day. I'm looking for some cooler weather, but we're going to have to play in it Saturday it looks like. Like last week we're prepared for it.

"We just worked on Western Kentucky and did a lot of fundamentals," he added. "We had a long session with our kicking game. The kickers are really kicking well. It looks like we've got one more day to put the game plan completely in and we'll see what happens."

Auburn's injury situation continues to improve as both Travis Williams and Tommy Jackson returned to practice on offense Tuesday while offensive linemen Marcus McNeill and Timmy Duckworth were back as well. Defensive end Stanley McClover practiced on Wednesday and appeared to be moving fine. He should be back for Saturday's contest along with cornerback David Irons. Defensive back Lorenzo Ferguson also returned to practice after straining his back lifting weights.

Punter Patrick Martyn booms a punt during Wednesday's practice.

Out of Saturday's game will be wide receiver Courtney Taylor, who sprained an ankle on the first play of the Ball State game last week. Also noseguard Josh Thompson continues to be bothered by a sprained ankle and he'll likely be held out this weekend once again. He should be ready to go for the South Carolina game next weekend along with Taylor. Tight end Tommy Trott rode a bike on the side after straining his neck against Ball State and will be held out of this week's game as a precaution .

Another injury that may affect the Tigers this weekend is a strained hamstring by starting punter Kody Bliss. With the chance that he may not be ready by this weekend back-up Patrick Martyn has been getting the bulk of the work in practice. Still Tuberville said he's confident that Bliss will be ready by Saturday.

"Kody Bliss is fine," Tuberville said. "We're just not punting him. He tweaked his hamstring running Sunday. He's fine. He can punt. He could (have punted on Wednesday) we're just not letting him."

With Irons expected back this weekend after bruising his tailbone in practice, the Tigers' depth in the secondary should again be a strength of the team. After playing fellow starter Patrick Lee and well as back-ups Montae Pitts and Jonathan Wilhite extensively in each of Auburn's first three games, defensive coordinator David Gibbs said he'll continue to rotate the guys in the secondary until something changes.

"Right now I'll keep letting everybody play," Gibbs said. "Hopefully things will work themselves out. As soon as you make a decision as to who is going to do what, then somebody is going to get hurt and somebody's feelings are going to be hurt. It doesn't do any good to speculate. Whether or not we continue to roll everybody remains to be seen, but right now everybody will keep playing. That's a luxury we have is there's not that big of a drop off."

With temperatures expected to be in the middle 90s for Saturday's game, the heat will again be a factor for both teams during the game. Tuberville said that Auburn's penchant for playing a lot of players on both sides of the ball will be something they do again this weekend to help cope with the gametime temperatures.

"It will be kind of like last week," Tuberville said. "We feel pretty good about our second group. A lot of those guys have played as much as the first-team the last few games. We hope to play as many as we can. We can dress as many as we want in a non-conference game. Last week we dressed 108. This week we'll probably dress 100-108 depending on how many want to dress out. We'll play as many as we can get in there."

Auburn will practice Thursday and have a short walk-through on Friday afternoon before leaving town for the night. Saturday's homecoming game against Western Kentucky is scheduled for a 1:30 p.m. start and there is no television for the contest.

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