Tigers Upbeat In Final On-Campus Practice

Auburn, Ala.--Getaway Wednesday was short and sweet for the Tigers on the practice field as 125 members of the Auburn football team plus the coaching staff, managers and trainers had their final on-campus workout of the year.

After meetings in the morning, the Tigers worked on kickoff returns and not much else in the session that lasted a little more than 30 minutes.

"I am really going to miss it here," senior noseguard Tommy Jackson said after the workout. "I had a lot of fun. This is a great place.

"Coach Dunn (defensive line coach Don Dunn) taught me so much," Jackson added. "He taught me a lot about being a man. I appreciate it. I am going to take a lot away from it."

Traditionally, the senior defensive linemen chase and tackle Dunn on their final practice day in Auburn, but the coach was off limits on Wednesday because he isn't 100 physically so student assistant A.J. Ruffin was chased down and tackle by Jackson.

Head coach Tommy Tuberville said, "The main thing is we had longer meetings this morning. The spirits are high and everybody is excited about going home for the first time for any length of a time in a while."

The team will meet again in Orlando the day after Christmas in the evening and begin practices the following day at Freedom High School in preparation for the Jan. 2nd Capital One Bowl game vs. Wisconsin.

Tuberville said the six practices that the Tigers had on campus were productive and upbeat. "There are few things we need to work on with special teams," he noted. "Other than that, we are ready to go."

Commenting on what the Tigers will be doing when they get to Florida, Tuberville said, "We are just going to polish up on the game plan. The starters won't do a whole lot after the first hour. We will do special teams and we will work the younger guys every day while we are down there."

Senior Jake Slaughter is carried off the practice field by fullback Mike McLaughlin and tailback Tre Smith. Wednesday's practice was the last one on the Auburn campus for the starting fullback from Brentwood, Tenn.

On Wednesday the Tigers worked on kickoff returns and redshirt freshman Brad Lester is back in the lineup handling that assignment with senior Devin Aromashodu. Lester, who was out with a groin pull, is also working as a backup punt returner to true freshman Robert Dunn, who is likely taking over for junior Tre Smith, who has had fumble problems the second half of the season.

"I haven't made up my mind 100 percent on him (Dunn)," Tuberville said. "He is going to have to improve a little bit. We have got him scheduled to do it right now. We are just going to have to wait and see."

Tuberville said the seniors who practiced at the football complex for the last time are a group he hates to see leave. He noted that 13 of 14 have already graduated and that receiver Anthony Mix is not far away from getting the degree. If cornerback David Irons is not granted an extra year of eligibility in January, the bowl game will be his last as a collegian. He is on track to receive his degree in 2006.

"You hate to see them leave but that happens and we will have a good group next year," Tuberville said.

Practice Notes: AU officials handed out mileage checks for the players to travel to Orlando from their homes following practice. Most players will car pool to the bowl site to keep expenses to a minimum and have some cash to spend while they are in Florida...Backup offensive lineman Antwoin Daniels broke a bone in his hand on Tuesday as he took a swing at defensive tackle Andrew McCain during a scuffle in a one-on-one drill. He will be able to practice and play at the bowl site...First string center Joe Cope's ankle is not 100 percent, but he should be available for starting duty vs. the Badgers after missing victory over Alabama...The Tigers had no academic problems from fall semester so everybody will be eligible for the bowl, Tuberville said.

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