Strong Tempo For Tigers In Tuesday Practice

Auburn defensive coordinator David Gibbs talks about Tuesday's practice and the Tigers' style of defense this season.

Auburn, Ala.-–Practicing in a steady rain for just over two hours, the 17th-ranked Auburn Tigers began preparations for the Kentucky Wildcats on Tuesday. Working on all phases of the gameplan for Saturday's noon kickoff, defensive coordinator David Gibbs says the day was a good one for the team.

"I thought it was good tempo, I really did," Gibbs says. "I say that almost every Tuesday after practice, but we go out there on Tuesdays and get after it pretty dang good. The kids flew around. I think the weather was a change for them and anytime this time of the season you get a change is good. They might not like it going out there, but anytime you give somebody a little something different then the excitement jumps up."

On the injury front the Tigers are a pretty healthy team with only running backs Brad Lester (groin) and Carl Stewart (knee) definitely out of Saturday's game. Guard Timmy Duckworth has been bothered by a strained groin for much of the last three weeks and didn't practice on Tuesday, but is expected to be ready to go against the Wildcats.

This week the Tigers will face an offense that has the potential to put up some numbers because of quarterback Andre Woodson. A big, physical player that has the speed to get outside the pocket, Woodson has thrown for 1,040 yards and five touchdowns this season with four interceptions. With all-purpose back Rafael Little a threat running and catching the ball, Gibbs says Auburn's defense has some work to do this Saturday in Lexington.

"He's a good young quarterback that continues to get better," Gibbs says. "When they protect for him he's pretty dang good. Their problem is that they've been beat-up up front. They keep rotating guys up front and that's the problem.

"I see a team that gives you so many different formations and sets," he adds. "I coached with their offensive coordinator (Joker Phillips) before so I know he's a good football coach. They're going to give us some problems and some things we haven't seen, things that we haven't practiced against. They've got the ability to run some option, just the thing you don't like. They'll give you some bunch, a little option, a little reverse game. We've got to go up there with our motors turned on and play hard and do what we've been doing. We can't go up there and have a letdown."

Defensive end Stanley McClover is finally getting healthy for the Auburn defense.

Something that should help Auburn's defense against the Wildcats is an improving push by the front four led by senior Tommy Jackson in the middle. Despite the lack of sacks this season because of a different style of defense employed at times by the Tigers, Gibbs says he sees an increase in play from the front four with Stanley McClover becoming more of a force now that he's healthy.

"Against LSU if we would have rushed four or five then I think the pressure would have been there," Gibbs says. "We chose a different approach. I think Stanley started getting healthy against LSU and he was healthy last week. The sacks will come. If he's not getting them then there's pressure being put somewhere. They're not going to be standing back there. That obviously helps the pass defense. Hopefully the sacks will come and they work hard. He played hard last week. I'll give Stanley credit. He played hard against LSU."

Defensively this season the Tigers have been more zone-based on defense than in past seasons under Gibbs. Much of the reason for that is the inexperience in the secondary with three new starters. While Gibbs says they have improved each week in assignments and technique, the Tigers have kept the pressure off at times by playing zone, something Gibbs says is unusual for him.

"I try to, game-by-game, mix up the down and distance you play and the personnel you play against so they (opposing offenses) really can't get a bead on you," Gibbs says. "I don't think we're playing as much man as I'm used to playing, but we're playing a lot of man on typical man downs, third downs.

"It depends on the players and who you're playing against (if he will play more man defense in the future)," he adds. "It depends on the offense and the tempo of the game. Do you need to play man-to-man? Can you give up some yards? There are variables to everything you do. I just feel like when you play man-to-man there's less room for mental mistakes because everybody knows who you've got, but there's more room for the big play. Maybe that's why we're not giving up as many big plays, because we're playing more zone."

The Tigers will practice Wednesday and Thursday in Auburn before heading to Lexington Friday afternoon. Kickoff for Saturday's game is scheduled for noon and there is no television for the game. Auburn leads the series 23-5-1 and the Tigers haven't lost to Kentucky since 1966, a streak of 14 games.


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