Tuberville and Media Like Tigers in '06

Hoover, Ala.--Tommy Tuberville was upbeat about his football team while speaking to sportswriters and broadcasters on Friday at the SEC Media Days.

"I like the makeup of this team," he said. "Our leadership has grown. We've had good offseason workouts.

"Talking to our seniors all through the summer, they like our new freshmen that we signed last year (February). They feel a few of these guys are going to be able to help us. We don't know yet. We have got to get out and start working with them next week. We'll find out more about that."

The media is also upbeat about Tuberville's chances of leading his team to the league title this year. His Tigers received 87 first place votes from media to win the SEC championship with Florida next with 49 and LSU fourth with 12. LSU received six first place votes, Alabama got five and Tennessee two.

Florida is picked to win the SEC East with Georgia ranked second followed by Tennessee, South Carolina, Kentucky and Vanderbilt. In the SEC West behind Auburn are LSU, Alabama, Arkansas, Ole Miss and Mississippi State.

The media also like the Tigers when picking individuals for the preseason All-SEC teams. Auburn had a dozen players selected, which is a league high. Tailback Kenny Irons and guard Tim Duckworth are first team picks on offense while linebacker Will Herring and cornerback David Irons are first team selections on defense. Kody Bliss is the first team punter.

Tim Duckworth is shown during a summer workout on the Auburn campus. He is a returning starter at guard.

Other Auburn players honored on Friday include Brandon Cox as the second team quarterback, Courtney Taylor as a second team receiver, Ben Grubbs as a second team guard, Quentin Groves and Marquies Gunn as second team defensive linemen and tight end Cole Bennett and center Joe Cope as third team selections.

Tuberville said winning the SEC title will be no walk in the park. "The conference is going to be very tough," he said. "In some leagues you might pick one or two teams that are going to win their conference. In our league, every year there is six, seven, maybe eight teams that you really say have a shot to get to Atlanta and probably win in Atlanta. That's what makes it tougher."

Other points the Auburn head coach made at media days include:

*When asked about a comment from Alabama cornerback Ramzee Robinson on Wednesday saying that he was tired of hearing about Auburn going for "one for the thumb" as the Tigers shoot for a fifth straight victory over the Tide and that he wanted to give Auburn a different finger after the game, Tuberville laughed. The coach held up four fingers last season after the Tigers' physically dominating victory over their archrival. "Well, I made a rivalry out of this game again," the coach said. Tuberville noted that raising his four fingers probably intensified the rivalry a bit and added, "That is not going to win or lose the game. The best team that plays the best is going to win."

*When asked about his opinion on the 12th regular season game being added this year, Tuberville continued his year-long criticism of the fact that the season wasn't extended for another week as part of the change. The Tigers will play 12 straight games without an off-week.

Tuberville meets the press on Friday at SEC Media Days.

*Tuberville was asked about the BCS system and whether or not his team deserved to play for the national championship in 2004. He said he believes that Auburn not only deserved to be in the championship game two years ago, he added he believes that team had the right stuff to knock off the Southern Cal team that crushed Oklahoma for the national title.

*Tuberville had praise for running back Carl Stewart, who he predicted will play a key role as a combo tailback and fullback.

*When asked why he didn't bring All-SEC tailback Kenny Irons to media days, Tuberville said that he is sure the senior will get all of the publicity he can handle in the next month as a potential Heisman Trophy candidate. "He's more a Deuce McAllister type of player," the coach said when asked to describe his style. "He runs high but can break tackles, but when he breaks the line of scrimmage you seldom see anybody catch him. He has great speed. Kenny has a great attitude when it comes to working and making himself better."

*Tuberville also mentioned true freshman tailback Ben Tate as a player to watch, but noted that Kenny Irons "is the man" this year to lead Auburn's running attack.

Ben Tate is shown carrying the football in a spring training practice.

*When asked about articles written about academics and his football team this summer, Tuberville said, "Well, I talked to our players about it. We'll address it again next week. It's an academic issue. Our president obviously gave me strict orders (not to comment on the matter). Let's complete the investigation before we make any rash judgments. If we're doing something wrong, please look at us and tell us. I promise you, we'll change it. We're going to do things right. I don't foresee anything happening. I really can't say anything about it until we get done. Hopefully, it's before the season. I am pretty sure it will be."

*Tuberville said he believes the new hires on his staff, Will Muschamp as defensive coordinator and secondary coach plus James Willis as linebacker coach, are good fits. He said it is "probably the best that we have had." He added, "Our guys work well together. He's (Muschamp) a young guy coming in, being the coordinator. Some guys that have been with me a long time are older. There is no animosity whatsoever. They love working with Will. They have done a lot hard work in the last six months to put this thing together."

*When asked about the main questions for the 2006 Tigers, Tuberville said that one of the key issues is how effective his "small" defense will be. He also said the Tigers will be adjusting to a new defensive coordinator and another issue will be how the rebuilt receiving corps performs. "When they put nine people on the line of scrimmage can our young guys make plays on second and long and third and long to keep the chains (moving) for us on offense? We're going to see a lot of people lining up on the line of scrimmage to try to stop our running game."

2006 Inside the Auburn Tigers Auburn Football Guide

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