Visitors Abound For Saturday Practice

Several expected and unexpected visitors were on hand to check out Auburn's practice on Saturday.

Auburn, Ala.-—On a very chilly day, the Auburn Tigers practice for two and a half hours in full pads as they continue preparations for the Capital One Bowl on Jan. 2. Coach Tommy Tuberville says that the practice was physical and his team got a lot out of the final workout before taking a day off on Sunday.

"The players like this kind of weather," Tuberville says. "They enjoy it being a little bit cooler. We had a lot of enthusiasm. Guys were bouncing around and had a lot of fun. We had a lot of contact. We hit each other pretty good. We had a lot of team work, good versus good.

"We had a mock scrimmage. We didn't tackle, but everything else was live. It went well. We're trying to get our timing back. It was a good long practice. We've still got a lot of work to do. Tomorrow we'll take off because we've got a few guys beat up a little bit."

Still nursing bumps and bruises from the end of the season, running back Kenny Irons, center Joe Cope, guard Timmy Duckworth and wide receiver Ben Obomanu are less than 100 percent. Tuberville says that by Monday they should be better and should all be full speed when the team reports to Orlando on Dec. 26.

"Kenny Irons strained his leg, but he'll be fine," Tuberville says. "Ben didn't practice. He's got a bruised heel. He'll be back Monday. Duckworth has a strained knee, but practiced all the way through it. Joe Cope is still not 100 percent. He's just got to get his strength back. He doesn't have a lot of pain, he's just got to get his strength back. These practices are good for him."

Devin Aromashodu returns a kickoff during Saturday's practice.

As always the offensive line was one of the hardest working groups on the practice field Saturday. With everyone healthy and in good spirits, coach Hugh Nall says that he's been very pleased with what he's seen out of the unit through the first three practices, particularly the effort shown by the players.

"What impressed me more than anything is that I thought our movement and quickness had improved," Nall says. "I think it just shows how fatigued they get during the year, especially that stretch of late night games in November that we had…assignment-wise I thought we were still okay. Technique-wise we've got a lot of work to do still. That's what we're trying to focus on right now as well as assignment-wise with a few of the different looks they give you."

A believer in giving players time off after the final game and before the bowl game, Tuberville even outdid himself this year as the Tigers had 25 days off following the Alabama game before practicing again on Thursday. He says that he feels like the team responds better when rested and gets more out of the practices.

"I have done it both ways," Tuberville says on his choice to give the players so much time off. "We've practiced the heck out of them through finals and before finals. It doesn't make a lot of difference. The biggest thing you want to do after the season is get everybody back to full speed where you can get everybody back to full speed where you can get good practices instead of just going through the motions. A lot of that stuff is just for coaches. The players don't get anything out of it. It's just busy work. It's like being in the office when there's nothing to do. There's no reason practicing unless you're players are concentrating and trying to get better. Otherwise it's just surviving.

"That's always been my philosophy since we've been going to bowls. We've won some and we've lost some. There's no secret, but I like the way we're doing it. I think if you practice more than 10 or 12 times for one bowl game then by the time you get to that point you're going to lose them and they'll go the other way."

All seven of the scheduled official visitors made it in for the weekend, but they're not alone on the Auburn campus as several top prospects also came in for unofficial visits to check out the team and talk with potential teammates. Among those players were commitments Neil Caudle and Zaccheus Etheridge as well as offensive lineman Heath Batchelor, lineman Byron Isom, junior prospect Ryan Pugh and fullback Aram Olsen. While not allowed to talk about players by name, Tuberville says that the day was a good one for his program to showcase what it's all about.

"There were a lot of recruits, a lot of parent, a lot of guys came even on their own," Tuberville says. "A lot of guys we're recruiting came to watch practice, which is good. We had some guys that have committed to us out there watching practice, they just came on their own. It was a good day. It was a good practice for them to see. It was a typical practice and that's kind of what we want recruits to see. Basically what they would be doing if they came here. It was a little chilly, but I thought it was a good practice overall."

The Tigers will take Sunday off before returning to the practice field for three days. Finishing up practices on Wednesday, Auburn will take a break for Christmas before resuming practices in Orlando on Dec. 27. Kickoff for the Capital One Bowl on Jan. 2 is set for noon and the game can be seen on ABC.

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