Auburn, Ala.--The second-ranked Auburn Tigers (3-0) got back to work Tuesday morning with a two-hour practice in full pads as they get ready for Buffalo this weekend at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Following a very physical game against LSU Saturday the Tigers practiced without quarterback Brandon Cox and running back Kenny Irons as their back-ups worked with the first team.
At quarterback Blake Field took the reps with the first team as he gets ready for what should be some extended playing time this weekend against the Bulls. While Cox is expected back for Wednesday's practice after throwing some on the side Tuesday it's still unsure how much he will play this weekend because of a sprained knee and ankle.
The running back situation is a similar story. Already bothered by a strained groin during the Mississippi State week, Irons was beat up against LSU Saturday. Because of that he has missed both Sunday and Tuesday practices and is doubtful to be back on Wednesday. His back-up Brad Lester says that because of that he and the other backs are getting ready to carry the load this weekend.
"He's kind of beat up," Lester says of Irons. "He told me I needed to take over for him this week. He's pretty beat up. I think he's looking forward to sitting out this week. Especially with South Carolina next and what happened over there. I'm pretty sure he wants to rest up this week so he'll be ready to go next week."
If Irons is unable to go this weekend the load of the running game would fall to Lester, Tre Smith and Carl Stewart. Lester says you could also see more out of Auburn's freshmen Benjamin Tate and Mario Fannin this weekend.
"I remember my freshman year when we played The Citadel I knew I was going to get reps," Lester says. "It's fun for guys like me and Kenny to sit back and watch Ben and Mario and all them run. We're looking forward to it. I think Ben is going to get a lot of reps this week because he's been getting a lot of reps in practice. He usually doesn't that many."
Ben Tate is expected to see some action this weekend against Buffalo.
Offensively the Tigers are coming off a game against LSU when they didn't perform up to expectations. Scoring just seven points in the victory with less than 200 yards of total offense, Lester says they are determined to get the ship going in the right direction beginning this week against Buffalo.
"Coach (Al Borges) congratulated us first in the meeting and then started yelling at us about production and how many yards we didn't get and how many points we didn't score and how much we left out on the field," Lester says. "He pretty much said we've got to work harder and it wasn't good enough."
That begins up front where Auburn had problems with LSU's defensive front for much of the game. The most outspoken critic of the offense was senior guard Timmy Duckworth. Not happy at all with the play of the offensive line, Lester says Duckworth has been a voice of inspiration this week in practice.
"They said it was their fault that it happened and that we didn't have that many yards," Lester says. "I feel like there wasn't too much they could do about it because they had a lot of linebackers and safeties all in the box. They are taking the fault for it but I think it's a team effort."
Defensively the Tigers continue to work on correcting mistakes from Saturday's game while also getting some of the younger players more reps with the first unit. With cornerback Jonathan Wilhite doubtful for this weekend's game and fellow corner Patrick Lee back after suffering from a virus, players such as Jerraud Powers and Walter McFadden are expected to again be a big part of Auburn's defense this weekend against Buffalo.
"Patrick Lee practice full speed today," Coach Tommy Tuberville says. "Everybody will be back. Jonathan Wilhite did not practice but will by the end of the week. It's a hamstring but it didn't swell a whole lot. We hope that it's not one of those that's not going to be five or six weeks. Hopefully it's just a matter of a few days. He's spent a lot of time in the training room."
Another player out for the practice was linebacker Karibi Dede. Beat up from Saturday's game, Dede should return on Wednesday. Without him the Tigers worked a familiar face back into practice as sophomore Steve Gandy practiced on the weak side. Tuberville says that the depth at linebacker looks better this week.
"It's good to get Steve Gandy back. He should be on all the special teams and will play a lot at linebacker this week. Kevin Sears is doing well playing middle linebacker and outside at sam (strong side). He's on most of our special teams. It's good to have a little more depth back there."
Kickoff for Saturday's game with Buffalo is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. and there is no television for the contest.