Tigers Get Head Start On Plan For Gamecocks

Offensive coordinator Al Borges takes a look at Auburn's offense as the Tigers prepare to face South Carolina.

Auburn, Ala.–-Despite having to dodge a rain shower at the beginning of the practice, the Auburn Tigers got back to work on Sunday afternoon with a two-hour workout as they prepare for the South Carolina Gamecocks. Offensive coordinator Al Borges said that they worked a little more than usual on Sunday getting a head start on the gameplan.

"We gave them just a little taste of what we're thinking about doing with our gameplan," Borges said. "We won't actually officially gameplan until tomorrow, but we've had some ideas and we thought we would test them out a little bit today, more than we usually do on a Sunday. We don't usually do that much on Sunday, normally fundamental stuff. We started playing with a few ideas today."

Sunday the Tigers practiced without starting quarterback Brandon Cox, who missed Saturday's homecoming game against Western Kentucky because of a virus that included a high fever. Borges said they plan to hold the sophomore out until Wednesday, but that he should be fine for Saturday night's game.

"He didn't even dress out today," Borges said. "But he's okay. They just want him to take it easy for another day. He said he's feeling pretty good, but he looked great at halftime of the game when he came back."

Eddie Gran looks over the punt team during a recent practice. Gran's special teams have been a bright spot this season in the return games on both punts and kickoffs.

That's not the same look that Borges saw before the game. After eating the pre-game meal with the team in LaGrange, Ga., Cox rode the bus with the team to Auburn. When he arrived on campus Cox was already feeling sick and Borges said he saw that right away.

"He definitely couldn't have played before the game," Borges said. "There was no doubt about that. I looked at him and I thought he was going to die. I went in the training room and the poor kid was shivering. I was just sitting with him at breakfast and he was reading the high school scores, smiling, and eating his grits loving life."

With Cox out the job fell to redshirt freshman Blake Field. Despite not finding out he was starting until about 45 minutes before opening kickoff, Field did a good job of running the Auburn offense. Borges said he graded out to a high C or low B average on the day, which is good for a player in his situation.

"He handled it real well," Borges said. "I tell you what was real cool, the players around him, the linemen and everybody. They kind of took the bull by the horns helping him gain the confidence he needed. After watching the tape he had a few deals, but he did a pretty good job."

Field was helped out by the ability to run the football, something that Auburn has improved on each week since the opener against Georgia Tech. Saturday starter Kenny Irons and reserve Brad Lester combined for 175 rushing yards on just 28 carries. Borges said he's pleased with the explosiveness that both have shown running the ball in recent weeks.

"We all feel good about how we're running the football and who's running the football," Borges said. "The one thing that Kenny and Brad bring to the table is that they really hit it hard, they hit the hole full speed. There's no feeling your way through it. We're a big zone blocking team and we like guys that want to slash up in there, positive-yard guys. Kenny and Brad are really that kind of guy although they're not real big guys. They don't play like they're small."

Sunday's practice also saw several other players held out because of minor injuries. Tight end Tommy Trott continues to be bothered by a sore neck while receiver Courtney Taylor's ankle injury is better, but still not good enough to practice. Borges said that Taylor is day-to-day at the moment and should be back, but if not he feels comfortable with the receivers at his disposal.

"We've still got a corps of receivers that are pretty good players," Borges said. "You've got Devin (Devin Aromashodu) at the X, which he plays all the time. Ben (Ben Obomanu) is playing the Z and Ben is playing real well. We've still got Anthony (Anthony Mix) and he's been our inside guy all along and doing a nice job. Then Prechae Rodriguez made a wonderful catch on the post cut and he's getting better every week. No spring football is tough on a kid, but Greg (receivers coach Greg Knox) is doing a great job of getting that guy up to speed. We're still pretty good. We don't want to lose any more, but as we sit we're still pretty good out there."

On the defensive line things are looking up as both Josh Thompson and Stanley McClover practiced on Sunday. Thompson has been out since early in the Georgia Tech game and his return would bolster a defensive line that has already gotten some help from the emergence of Tez Doolittle in the middle. Strong safety Steve Gandy was held out of Sunday's practice with a deep thigh bruise and is listed as day-to-day.

The Tigers spent a great deal of time Sunday working on the kicking game. In recent seasons South Carolina has been very versatile in their punt formations and this year is no different. The Gamecocks use a variety of sets and styles of kicks in the punt game, making it a longer week than normal for special teams coach Eddie Gran.

Auburn will take Monday off before returning to the practice field on Tuesday. Kickoff for Saturday night's game is scheduled for 6 p.m. and it can be seen live on ESPN2.

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