Auburn, Ala.--There is no rest for the weary this time of year and that is especially true for the second-ranked Auburn Tigers (4-0). Coming off a methodical 38-7 victory over Buffalo Saturday the team got right back to work Sunday afternoon with a two-hour practice in full pads preparing for South Carolina.
With the quick turnaround necessary because of the Thursday night game the Tigers had a normal Tuesday practice on Sunday complete with scout team work and full pads. Wide receiver Courtney Taylor says despite playing a game just 24 hours ago the team was had to get right back to work on the Gamecocks.
"You felt it today," Taylor says. "Halfway in practice today you felt it. It all comes with the territory. We've got a football game to play."
The news on the injury front is very positive for the Tigers as running back Kenny Irons, cornerback Jonathan Wilhite and linebacker Karibi Dede all practiced and should be ready to go against the Gamecocks on Thursday night. Wide receiver Prechae Rodriguez is also back after serving a one-game academic suspension.
This week is a quick turnaround for the Tigers as they will have just three practice days to get ready for the South Carolina Gamecocks. Last season the Tigers drilled Steve Spurrier's club in Auburn with Antonio Hefner struggling at quarterback in his first start. This time around the Gamecocks will again have a running quarterback in the game with Syvelle Newton handling things.
Returning starter Blake Mitchell is also expected to see some action as well after being replaced by Newton for the Florida Atlantic game. That makes the next three days big for Auburn's defense because of so many different looks they could get this week from the Gamecocks on offense.
"The difference is the guy this year has had the opportunity to get a couple of games under his belt," Tuberville says. "Last year the quarterback that played against us was thrown in there quickly and you could tell he didn't get off to a good start. It affected the entire team. This year will be a little different. Steve has had an opportunity to work with him. He's also got his other quarterback back. I'm sure we'll see several different things from both quarterbacks. We'll probably see both quarterbacks and we'll prepare for that."
Getting Dede back on Sunday as well as having Steve Gandy and Kevin Sears on the field against Buffalo is big news for a defense that needs some rest in the coming weeks. With injuries and suspensions guys like Will Herring, Dede and Merrill Johnson have played a lot of football already. Tuberville says the Tigers need more help out of the second unit guys if they hope to get through this rugged 12-game schedule.
"Gandy played 32 snaps and played pretty well," Tuberville says. "He got tired on a four or five-play drive but that was good for him. He got gassed, had to think a little more and made some mistakes but he's going to help. We'll have him and Karibi at the willie, Merrill and Sears on the inside and Trahan (Patrick Trahan) and Will on the outside. We'll have to start playing them more. We haven't been playing as many linebackers. We've got to get a better rotation. With James (Willis) in the box we've got to be more involved in getting more guys in on long drives."
Redshirt freshman Patrick Trahan has been solid for the Tigers this season at linebacker behind Will Herring despite playing sparingly.
Offensively the Tigers will face a South Carolina defense that has played much better than most thought they would in 2006. The Gamecocks come into the game allowing just 11.0 points and 287 yards per game. It will be another big test for an Auburn offense that has struggled to get things going this season. Tuberville says they made a conscious decision to ease into things offensively this year but that has to change beginning this week.
"I think we've got to open it up a little more," Tuberville says. "We've got good receivers we just haven't had to use them. The only game we might could have thrown the ball a little more to try to help our running game could have been the LSU game. That was one of those where our defense was playing so well we decided to run the clock and leave it on the ground. First downs were as good as points.
"We've got a three-game stretch now with very good conference teams that are going to force us to throw the ball more," he adds. "We can do that. We have a good quarterback. Our offensive line is much improved. I think Brandon only threw the ball 10 times Saturday. Our young quarterback (Blake Field) came in and has been eight for eight.
"We haven't been forced to do it. As we get into this game and the games down the line we're going to be forced to get the ball down the field more. I'm sure looking at what South Carolina does and how they play, they're kind of like us. They take away the run first and defend the pass. We've got to be more balanced."
The good news for the offense is both Irons and Brandon Cox had good days on Sunday. With Irons sitting out the game and Cox only throwing 10 passes to avoid being hit as much as possible, the duo should both be close to full speed on Thursday night says offensive coordinator Al Borges.
Auburn will practice Monday night and again Tuesday morning before departing for South Carolina on Wednesday. Kickoff for Thursday night's game is scheduled for 6:30 and can be seen nationally on ESPN.