Auburn, Ala.--It wasn't the normal Wednesday practice for the Auburn Tigers during a game week as the team practiced for nearly two hours in full pads as they get ready for the SEC opener this Saturday at Mississippi State. Coach Tommy Tuberville says that they're preparing for a physical battle against the Bulldogs this weekend by working hard in practice.
"It was a good physical practice," Tuberville says. "We probably went harder today than we intended to at the beginning of the week but this is going to be a physical game. We kept going pretty hard for about two hours. Everybody is healthy. We worked a lot on the kicking game today. We also worked on a fast quarterback. We don't really know what they're going to do at quarterback but we'll probably see both of them."
Injuries to Mississippi State's starting quarterback Michael Henig and expected starter at running back Anthony Dixon have put Auburn's defensive coaches' plans a little up in the air about what to expect from the Bulldogs on Saturday. Because of that the gameplans have been altered somewhat to prepare more for the movement out of quarterbacks Tray Rutland and Omar Conner.
Tuberville says they haven't changed much defensively but the Tigers are preparing to see those two mobile quarterbacks trying to make plays out of the pocket by using players such as Anthony Campbell and Neil Caudle playing quarterback on the scout team.
"They run the same offense we run and there's a lot of carry over," Tuberville says. "We used Caudle because he knows is pretty good. It's hard to run a scout team quarterback when we don't run the option. We feel like they'll do that this week so we ran quite a bit of that. We don't run the sprint-out and you have to get a guy that can do that and get on the corner. We do run nakeds and boots so that's really not hard to play actor with. The biggest thing is just the speed getting outside."
Michael McLaughlin is expected to see some action in Saturday's game in his first game back from knee surgery.
Some good news for the offense is the return of fullback Michael McLaughlin to contact work. Out all of two-a-days after injuring a knee in the spring, the redshirt sophomore will travel with the team this weekend to his home state of Mississippi to face the Bulldogs. Tuberville says so far he's looked good in practice and could get some playing time on Saturday.
McLaughlin is just one of a group of players from Mississippi that will be going home this weekend to play in front of friends and family. Timmy Duckworth, Quentin Groves, Steve Gandy and Hendrick Leverette join McLaughlin as players from the Magnolia State. Tuberville says this week is about those guys getting their teammates fired up to play.
"We have a lot of guys from the state of Mississippi," Tuberville says. "They get fired up. They get their teammates fired up. There's a lot of carry over for that, a lot of loyalty playing in their home state."
Preparing for the noise expected at Mississippi State Saturday with the cowbells now back in the stadium, Auburn had almost a dozen managers and equipment personnel equipped with cowbells during Wednesday's practice. They put them to good use during the practice to help the Tigers get at least somewhat used to the noise they'll face in the first road game of the season.
The Tigers will practice Thursday morning at 9:20 and will have a short walk-through on Friday before departing for their team hotel in Columbus, Miss. Kickoff for Saturday's game on Lincoln Financial Sports is scheduled for 11:30 a.m.