Tuberville Praises State's Defense

Tommy Tuberville discusses Auburn's SEC opener as the Tigers prepare to travel to Mississippi State.

Auburn, Ala.--Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville says he is impressed with Mississippi State's defense as his Tigers continue preparations for Saturday's SEC football opener in Starkville.

The Tigers and Bulldogs will square off at 11:30 a.m. in a game that will be televised regionally by the Lincoln Financial Sports network.

"Defensively, it will be one of, if not the best defenses we will see in a while," Tuberville says of Mississippi State. "They are very experienced. They have three seniors on the defensive line that really make a lot of plays. They have linebackers who can run. They have defensive backs who have played a lot before."

Auburn comes into the game following a 40-14 opening night home victory over the Pac-10's Washington State. Tuberville says the Bulldogs will be stronger defensively than the Cougars.

MSU coach Sylvester Croom's Bulldogs are coming off a 3-8 2005 season.

Mississippi State opened its season two nights before Auburn, losing at home to SEC East opponent South Carolina. Neither offense got a lot done, but Steve Spurrier's team got out of Starkville with a 15-0 victory.

In addition to losing the game, the Bulldogs lost starting quarterback Michael Henig of Montgomery, who is out for approximately six weeks with a broken collarbone. That means redshirt freshman Tray Rutland is expected to make his first collegiate start. Croom moved former starting quarterback Omarr Conner back to QB this week and he could see action at quarterback or wide receiver.

"Mississippi State is a much improved team from the last couple of years," Tuberville contends. "I take my hat off to Coach (Sylvester ) Croom. He has stuck with his guns and he kept running the same things on offense and defense. He did have some bad luck offensively as we all dread and keep our fingers crossed that it doesn't happen. It happened to them last Thursday night losing their quarterback."

Tray Rutland

Because of the change at quarterback from a traditional dropback style passer to a more mobile QB, Tuberville says that MSU might do some things differently this week. "They have got a young running back (Anthony Dixon). Now we really don't know what to expect out of a scrambling quarterback other than the fact he probably doesn't know as much of the offense, but they will condense it down and probably do some things we haven't seen. We will have to prepare for that."

However, Tuberville points out he isn't looking for major changes in the Mississippi State offense. "No matter who they play at quarterback, they are going to continue to teach the same things because you have got 10 other guys they have to change things up for if you go in and change your entire offense for a quarterback," he says.

Like Auburn, the Bulldogs use a variation of the West Coast offensive system. "They are running the ball," Tuberville says. "They are running a lot of formations like us. They do what we call a bunch set--get everybody in there tight. They run sweeps, run play action and they are running a lot of crossing routes. You might change one or two things for the things quarterbacks do better such as this quarterback is a little bit more mobile to get outside to run bootlegs and sprintout passes, try to get him out of the pocket, maybe run the ball a little bit more. But, when it is all said and done, you are still going to do the things that you want the other players to understand, ‘Hey, we have been doing this for three years. Let's don't it all change at one time.'

"That is why you have backup quarterbacks and third team quarterbacks," Tuberville adds. "We did the same thing when we lost our quarterback our first year here. You just have to keep doing the same things and hope everybody gets better and the quarterback catches up."

Commenting on his team's opening game, Tuberville says, "We were very vanilla on offense. If you look at the film, we didn't do a whole lot. We had a little bit more in the game plan than what we ran in the game. Some things started working and we just kept with it. We wanted to prove to our team we could do some things that maybe we couldn't do last year on offense."

Commenting on the defense, which did a solid job against a normally high-scoring Washington State offense, Tuberville says, "We have got to get back to basics now because we are going to play a team that is going to run the ball a lot more than what we saw last weekend. I like the intensity and the way our guys flew around the football.

"In the kicking the game we made a lot of improvement from last year," the coach says. "As you probably saw and read we weren't real pleased with our punt return team. We will make some adjustments with that and try to get better there."

Auburn won last year's game vs. the Bulldogs 28-0 in Auburn. His Tigers defeated Croom's first Mississippi State 42-14 two years ago in Starkville.

Auburn, which moved up two spots to fourth in this week's coaches Top 25 poll, remains at fourth in the AP rankings. MSU is unranked, but Tuberville says the Bulldogs will be a test for his Tigers who have won 17 of their last 18 conference games.

"It will be a very good game, the opening game for us in the SEC and their second (SEC) game," Tuberville predicts. "We are looking forward to the challenge."

Other comments from Tuberville as his Tigers prepare for the Bulldogs include:

*The coach has praise for referee Rocky Goode's officiating crew that called Auburn's game Saturday night. The crew featured umpire Doug Linebarger, linesman Randall Kizer, line judge Allama Matthews, back judge Dale Keneipp, field judge Brad Freeman and side judge Chris Conley.

*For a second straight week, Auburn will wear its new navy Under Armour jerseys, Tuberville says. Mississippi State, the home team, gets to pick which color it will wear and the Bulldogs will go with their white jerseys.

*AU's coach says that he hopes AU's new practice schedule for 2006 that includes Tuesday and Thursday morning practices will help the Tigers prepare for this Saturday's 11:30 a.m. kickoff in Starkville. The Tigers will have their pre-game meal at 7:30 a.m. on Saturday.

*The head coach has praised the play of the offensive line in game one, but says he is looking for more consistency from the group in game two.


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