Tigers Wrap Up Work For Rebels

Auburn polished up the gameplan for Ole Miss during an energetic Thursday practice.

Auburn, Ala.–-With over 100 former football lettermen looking on, the 19th-ranked Auburn Tigers put the finishing touches on the gameplan Thursday with a hour and a half practice in helmets and shoulder pads. Coach Tommy Tuberville says it was very good to see that many former players come out and give the current team their support.

"They come out one day a year as a group and they have a get together afterwards," Tuberville says. "For the dinner all of our coaches will go to it including myself. It's good to have them here and have their support. They've been in this situation before. They all come out to show their support and a lot of them have been here all week. It's good to have them all here at one time."

Working on all phases of the game in preparation for Ole Miss, the Tigers had another very spirited practice on Thursday with the players appearing loose and ready to put the loss to LSU behind them. Tuberville says that's something he's been hoping to see out of his team this week.

"I'm excited about how the players have bounced back," Tuberville says. "As coaches you always wonder about a situation like we're in, after a big game last week and how close it was. But, the enthusiasm has been great and the enthusiasm has been outstanding. The gameplan is in. We're as healthy as we would have hoped to be at this time. We've done a few different things on offense and defense this week. Hopefully we'll execute well, a little better than we did last week. We'll have to wait and see."

One of Auburn's most celebrated players, Jimmy "Red" Phillips, takes in Thursday's practice.

On the injury front the Tigers will be without running back Brad Lester again this week. Out with a strained groin suffered against Arkansas, Lester could return against Kentucky but is likely out until the Georgia game in two weeks. The rest of the team appears to be ready to go as Timmy Duckworth returned to practice on Thursday after sitting out Wednesday with a slightly sprained groin. Defensive end Christopher Browder is also ready for action after playing just briefly against LSU last week because of a sprained knee.

A player that is happy to be back at full speed is junior wide receiver Courtney Taylor. Hobbled for a full month with a high ankle sprain, Taylor had four catches for 58 yards against LSU last Saturday night. That bettered the totals from the previous five games for the talented sophomore and he says that he feels good heading into Saturday's game with Ole Miss.

"It's a big confidence booster," Taylor says. "My mom called me and said ‘you look like your old self again'. I felt good and played okay. It's a confidence booster heading into the next week."

Another confidence booster for Taylor and the entire Auburn offense was the performance of quarterback Brandon Cox when the game was on the line last week. Leading the team on a 14-play, 87-yard scoring drive late in the fourth quarter, the sophomore showed everyone that he can get the job done when needed the most.

"That just goes to show his confidence factor and the confidence we have in him," Taylor says. "87 yards in a hostile place like LSU, that's unreal. It just shows where this team is at. We have a lot of room for improvement, but we're a pretty good football team."

One area the offense needs a confidence boost is at receiver where the Tigers dropped seven passes against LSU, by far the most since the 2003 season when that was a concern for much of the season. Taylor says that as a group the receivers have been determined this week to make up for the drops that cost the team so much against LSU.

"We were really disappointed," Taylor says. "All year we've been doing a good job of making plays for Brandon. We feel like we let him down at times. That's the thing. We have to gain his confidence because we completely have a lot of confidence in him. With those dropped passes we had on Saturday it's not going to help anything so we just have to go on and get better from it."

This week once again the job for the offense will be to move the ball against a very good defense. While their numbers haven't been overwhelming like LSU's were against the run, Ole Miss has played solid this season and held Alabama to just 13 points two weeks ago. Taylor says that having a running game led by Kenny Irons to fall back on should help take the pressure off the passing game this week.

"That's great for our offense," Taylor says. "Kenny came out the past two games and the guy has been unbelievable, breaking tackles and breaking runs and running hard throughout the game from beginning to end. That's the thing about Kenny. He gets stronger throughout the game. That's going to take a lot of pressure off Brandon."

Kickoff for Saturday's game is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. and it can be seen regionally on Jefferson Pilot Television. Auburn holds a 21-8 advantage all-time against the Rebels and has won 19 of the last 22 in the series.

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