Auburn, Ala.--After having their third day off in the last four days, the second-ranked Auburn Tigers (5-0) got back to work Tuesday morning with a two-hour practice in full pads as they get ready to face the 3-1 Arkansas Razorbacks. Senior guard Tim Duckworth says that the few days off were good for the team as they prepare to face a physical team this Saturday.
"It refreshed us," Duckworth says. "We had a lot of guys nicked and bruised so we're trying to get those guys back. Getting those couple of days off really helped. We're building as well as continuing to go forward."
Senior Jonathan Palmer gets taped up during Tuesday's practice.
The Tigers continue to work a new center in the mix as sophomore Jason Bosley takes over the starting job for the injured Joe Cope, who is out up to six weeks with a sprained knee. Bosley along with Jonathan Palmer and Ben Grubbs will also get reps at center this week just in case they're needed Saturday against Arkansas.
"We know we're going to have a tough time because once you take a guy out of the rotation and put another guy in it's kind of hard and gets rocky," Duckworth says. "We feel that we're going to do real good because I trust him just like I trust Joe. We're going to roll with it."
As one of the veterans on the Auburn offense, Duckworth says that it's up to the older guys to pick up the slack this week against Arkansas on offense with Bosley getting his first start. While he's not very experienced in games, Duckworth says the sophomore really knows the offense and what he has problems with he'll get plenty of help from his supporting cast.
"He hasn't been nervous at all," Duckworth says. "I actually talked to him yesterday and asked him if he's ready to go. He's always pumped up. He's just like Joe. Bos has a good attitude. He's always willing to do what it takes to get better. I'm used to certain calls that Joe makes on certain plays and Bos does the opposite because the second-team guards are a little quicker. We're not as quick but we come off with power. We're trying to work him into getting that situated. We just have to keep our eyes open.
"It comes in handy to know what the center does and what the tackle does because when you've got a guy in there that might not make the right calls all the time or takes him a little longer to make them," Duckworth says. "Playing beside Joe I hear the calls all the time and I try to make sure I know everything. When Bos comes in I already know the calls and if he doesn't get it out quick enough I'll tell him and he'll echo it. We have to pick up the slack but I know we'll be all right."
On the injury front the Tigers are getting closer to full strength and full speed as quarterback Brandon Cox continues to improve and is throwing the ball well after struggling with a sprained knee and ankle the last two games. Defensively Jonathan Wilhite should return this weekend after practicing Tuesday morning.
Defensively the Tigers spent time on tackling drills as they prepare to face the league's top rushing attack led by backs Darren McFadden and Felix Jones. Auburn's first goal on defense is always to stop the run and that will be particularly important this week against the Hogs.
As always the team spent a great deal of time working on special teams. That has become a big part of Auburn's winning ways in recent weeks with the kicking game hitting on all cylinders. Punter Kody Bliss and kickers John Vaughn and Matt Clark are at or near the top of the SEC in their respective standings, just another reason for Auburn's undefeated start.
Matt Clark booms a kickoff during the morning workout.
Auburn will practice Wednesday afternoon and again Thursday morning before heading to the team hotel Friday. The kickoff for Saturday's game is scheduled for 11 a.m. and can be seen nationally on CBS.