Auburn, Ala.--With one of the games of the year in the Southeastern Conference coming up this Saturday, the third-ranked Auburn Tigers got back to work Tuesday morning with a two-hour practice in full pads as they prepare to face number six LSU this Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
There was very good news on the injury front as sophomore linebacker Steve Gandy returned to the practice field for the first time since two-a-days. After suffering a freak leg injury that required surgery to repair, Gandy has been sidelined during practices and watching the Tigers from an exercise bike. Now back on the field Gandy is hoping to be back for the Buffalo game next week but says first of all he's just glad to be back.
"I'm just happy to be back out there," Gandy says. "It seemed like it took forever and yet it was so short. I feel like I'm ready. There will still probably be some issues here or there but I feel like I'm probably 90 or 95 percent. That's close. I feel like I can do anything anybody else can do. Today running didn't bother me at all. I feel real good about it."
Several other Tigers that were banged up in the Mississippi State game Saturday practiced on Tuesday including running back Kenny Irons and defensive back Jonathan Wilhite. Irons has been bothered by a strained groin suffered against Washington State but should be close to 100 percent by Saturday. Wilhite strained a knee against the Bulldogs but should also be fine.
Facing a balanced LSU offensive attack that averages 465 yards per game and 45 points, Auburn is looking to continue a trend the first two weeks on defense that saw them change up the looks they gave Washington State and Mississippi State seemingly every few plays. That will continue this week as Auburn is expected to open up the defensive playbook to show more fronts and blitz packages designed to get pressure on LSU quarterback Jamarcus Russell.
Offensively Auburn will face a LSU defense this week that has been suffocating this season after two games. Allowing just 164 yards of total defense per contest, LSU gives up just 74 yards on the ground. That means Auburn's running game will be tested to its limits. Tight end Gabe McKenzie says that the team is preparing for anything and everything from a physical LSU defense.
"We expect a heavyweight battle this week," McKenzie says. "They are a good team. You don't underestimate people like this. We're working hard on what they do on defense. Their ends weigh 270. We've got to come out ready to go. Like Coach Tubs (Tommy Tuberville) said, nobody is going to stop us but us. We've got to keep doing what they're doing. We have to know what they are doing, what they're lined up in, it's a mental week."
The Tigers will practice Wednesday afternoon as they continue getting ready for the game against LSU. Kickoff for Saturday's contest is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. and can be seen nationally on CBS.