Tuberville Doesn't Dodge Issues At Media Days

Coach Tommy Tuberville talks about suspensions, the N.Y. Times and being picked to win the SEC.

Hoover, Ala.--Coach Tommy Tuberville talks the talk about discipline in his program and Friday he continued to walk the walk as he announced tougher than expected punishments for two potential defensive starters during his turn in front of the cameras at SEC Media Days. In the wake of off the field problems for both Kevin Sears and Tray Blackmon, Tuberville said the Tigers will be without both for an undetermined amount of time to open the season.

"Kevin Sears will miss some more playing time," Tuberville said. "We don't get in trouble with the law. He'll miss some playing time. Tray Blackmon will miss a considerable amount of playing time. I won't give you the games, but there's going to be quite a few games for both of them. Our guys need to learn there are no distractions and you've got to pay the price like the rest of your teammates. If you don't, you'll pay the price in my house.

"It will be several games," he added. "I won't give you the number of games. We won't talk about them for a while during the season. They're going to have to earn their way back in."

While he didn't speak directly about the ongoing investigation into academic problems in the Sociology Department and the current mess stirred up by the New York Times, Tuberville did address the concerns he had about the situation. While football players were only a small portion of the total number of students in question, Tuberville said that goes with the territory and he understands that's something they have to deal with.

"You know as much as I know about it because the investigation is ongoing," Tuberville said. "As I told somebody sometimes you might need to evaluate what you are doing. We've been looking from top to bottom and if we need to make any adjustments we will and if we don't we won't. I have felt good about our academic success up to this point. We'll see what happens in the next few weeks and what our president finds out. We'll all get together with him and see if there needs to be any adjustments in our area because we're only a small part of this.

"That's college football and if one of our guys is involved in it then I'm disappointed," Tuberville added. "That's the way focus would be anyway. Whether it's one or 120 of them then I want to know about it and what's wrong and what we can do to fix them. I think we've gotten a little bit more of the publicity than we should have but that's fine and we accept that in all areas. This is football season and when you're picked to win the league and have off the field issues then you're going to have that notoriety."

An overwhelming choice to win the SEC Championship this season by the writers, Auburn garned 73 first-place votes with the next highest total being 11. While that's not normally good news, Tuberville said he would rather be picked at the top because it means his program is consistently good.

"I would hope every year we would be picked first because our program is pretty good and I think we all recognize that," Tuberville said. "We've been in the hunt almost every year the last five or six years. To me predictions are really based on what you've done not what you do because nobody really knows what kind of team we're going to have.

"I don't see how anybody can pick over LSU," he added. "Their toughest decision is going to be which All-American quarterback to play but we've been able to hang in there with them. Arkansas is going to be a heck of a team. I think somebody said they were seventh or eighth. It's going to be interesting to see them if they get a quarterback playing well.

"Obviously those of you that voted didn't have a lot of choices. It really doesn't make any difference because you've got to do it anyway. We weren't going to take any body by surprise going into the season. We knew we had a good team and now we've got to play like it."

Tuberville said Kenny Irons will be the man but the Tigers will play several tailbacks this season.

Winning the SEC title is something Auburn did in 2004. It's not the only goal for the Tigers this season as every year Tuberville shoots for the big prize. It almost happened in 2004 with an undefeated season, but in 2003 the Tigers were picked to win it all only to fall flat on their faces to open the season. Tuberville said he's determined not to suffer that same fate this time around.

"I want to play good early," Tuberville said. "We put emphasis on that in the spring and all through the summer. I want to play as a contender early. I don't want to come out slow. We've done that a couple of times but some teams have had something to say about that. I want us to understand that if you're going to be picked up there you don't come out swinging in the middle of the season. We're going to do everything we can to be ready for that first game and then we go to Starkville and then we have LSU."

Going into the start of fall camp the Tigers are in good shape with much of the team healthy after a lengthy and tough summer workout regimen under Strength and Conditioning Coach Kevin Yoxall. One injury that occurred in the spring though could make for some interesting decisions on the offensive side of the ball.

Mike McLaughlin won't practice during two-a-days and likely won't be on the 105-man roster to open the season. He's only 60-70 percent at the moment Tuberville said. Because of that expect Andrew Turman and Stephen Gowland to get extra work at fullback during two-a-days along with players such as Carl Stewart, Tre Smith and possibly Ben Tate.

Two players also not a lock to be on the 105-man list are signees Greg Smith and Alex Rose. While fellow signees Chris Slaughter and Bo Harris were expected to head to prep school early in the process, both Smith and Rose were thought to be qualified. Now that is not the case. Smith still has work to finish at junior college and must be cleared by Auburn University and the SEC Commissioner before he's allowed to practice. Rose is currently in the NCAA Clearinghouse and the timetable for the decision isn't known.

Another player, redshirt freshman wide receiver Ulysses Alexander, plans to transfer to another college, Tuberville noted. He was not expected to see playing time.

Having everyone possible at full strength going into the season is particularly important this year as Auburn plays 12-straight weeks before having its only open date of the season. Because of that the Tigers will do things a little differently during two-a-days to keep guys fresh for the season.

"I think our guys are in great physical shape so we're not going to go out in the heat and think we're going to run them and get them in better shape. We've got 12 straight games and we need to get to that game week knowing that we're as fresh as we can be but also as prepared as we can be from top to bottom. There are a lot of guys on this team that are going to need a lot of mental work. We're going to need about 70 players to play. We do have a good group of leaders that have done a good job but we're not to that point yet where we're just going to roll out there and say we're the same team we were last year.

"We're going to have one full scrimmage and probably one-half scrimmage," Tuberville added. "We do a lot of team work in practice and when you've got a quarterback with experience you're not really concerned about him. You're concerned, more for us this year, defensively of putting a group out there that can work together as a unit."

Another change this season will be in Auburn's weekly practice schedules. Last season several players missed practice time for labs and afternoon classes. Tuberville said this year they're doing some things to help out academically as well as with the football team in general.

"We always take Mondays off and we'll treat every week the same," Tuberville said. "We might cut back practices a little shorter and we are going to practice on Tuesday mornings and Thursday mornings. It will start around 9 o'clock. Wednesday afternoon practices will be the same (afternoon). We have been looking at different scenarios at how to get our football team out there and give them a better opportunity to get their study hall hours at night and get with tutors."

With experienced depth on both sides of the ball returning the chances are limited for freshmen to contribute for Auburn in 2006. One position that isn't true of though is at wide receiver where the Tigers lose three seniors off last year's team. Because of that Tuberville said that two newcomers are definitely among the group that will have a chance to help as freshmen this fall.

"Tim Hawthorne I think is going to have a big opportunity," Tuberville said. "Bart Eddins, Michael Goggans (also could play early. It's very hard for offensive linemen because of the mental part of it. (Terrell) Zachery being a receiver because we're shorthanded there."


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