The Heat Is On For Tigers In Wednesday Practice

Coach Tommy Tuberville talks about Auburn's preparations for South Carolina and the health of his football team heading into the game.

Auburn, Ala.–-With muggy conditions following an afternoon shower in Auburn, the Tigers practiced for two hours in shorts and shoulder pads as they get ready for the South Carolina Gamecocks. Coach Tommy Tuberville said his team appears to be getting healthy at just the right time with the SEC schedule heating up beginning this Saturday night.

"The last two days have been miserably hot," Tuberville said. "We've kept their attention pretty good. We struggled at the end of each practice, but it has been real hot. We're looking for some cooler weather. A lot of our guys have pushed through it, but some of them have struggled mentally. That's the reason you practice. Tomorrow we've got a shorter practice and we'll push through it.

"Courtney Taylor practiced today," he added about Auburn's junior wide receiver. "He caught a long post route at the end of the practice. It was good to see him back. He practiced all day. He'll be with us Saturday night. Everybody else is pretty much healthy."

That list includes quarterback Brandon Cox and defensive linemen Josh Thompson and Stanley McClover. Cox, bothered by a virus just before Saturday's game against Western Kentucky, returned to practice on Tuesday and Tuberville said he has looked good the last two days. Both Thompson and McClover are back from ankle injuries and Tuberville said he's ready to see them back on the field.

"Josh is full speed," Tuberville said. "Stanley, I guess, is full speed. He looked full speed to me last week, but he said it was just a little bit tender. He was roaring out there today. We haven't blocked him yet. Hopefully he's back."

Josh Thompson works on a tackling drill with Andrew McCain during a recent practice.

Defensively the Tigers must be up to the challenge of facing a Steve Spurrier coached offense, although it may not resemble one at times Saturday night. With starter Blake Mitchell expected to be limited for the game and possibly out because of a high ankle sprain, back-up Antonio Heffner has been getting the work during practice. Tuberville said that changes how you prepare on defense to face the Gamecocks.

"We've looked at Heffner and the things he's been doing," Tuberville said. "He's a little bit different. They run the quarterback attack, quarterback draws, sprint him outside, a lot of things Mitchell didn't do. I'm sure they'll do a few things in the pocket him with like Mitchell did such as throwing the ball downfield, but there's not that much difference other than he's mobile...we've worked for both of them, mostly for Heffner.

"We've played Coach Spurrier quite a bit and he's doing some things with this quarterback he's never done before because he's more of a drop-back guy," Tuberville added. "I'm sure he's got a few things to add to what he's been doing, but we feel like basically he's going to be doing what he's been doing. He runs a lot of the offense, but it's a little bit different than what Mitchell runs."

For Auburn this weekend is a big game offensively as the Gamecocks come in with one of the worst run defenses in the country. That is good news for an Auburn running game that has come on strong since struggling to begin the season. Running back Carl Stewart said that the unit feels much better about things than they did three weeks ago.

"I think the last two games have been a way to polish up the offense," Stewart said. "We had a few rough edges, especially coming into Ball State. We're starting to work out the kinks a little bit more."

With Cox back under center this week the Tigers have a chance to get back into rhythm on offense after last weekend's virus kept him out of the Western Kentucky game. Although the Tigers could have used more time with their sophomore quarterback in game situations, Stewart said that Blake Field did a good job keeping them moving forward until Cox could get back to action.

"I don't think we fell off at all with Blake, but just having Brandon in there brings a level of comfort knowing Brandon is the number one guy," Stewart said. "He's got the most experience out of all the quarterbacks. Having that confidence is the upside to this weekend."

Auburn will practice Thursday and have a short walk-through Friday in preparation for Saturday night's 6 o'clock kickoff on ESPN2.

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