Former Tigers Check Out AU Football Practice

Auburn, Ala.--Coach Tommy Tuberville welcomed a group of approximately 100 former Auburn football lettermen to Thursday's practice as the Tigers finished on the field preparations for Saturday's SEC West showdown against the Arkansas Razorbacks.

"I have known several people since I have been here who have tried to make this letterman's club grow and rightly so," Tuberville says. "We are the type of university in which we need our lettermen involved.

"There is nobody who has attended this school or been in this athletic department that this university means more to than the lettermen," Tuberville adds. "When that happens, and you know that, you are going to get a good response out of people that know what they have done. They have sweated and paid the price. It is always good to see them come back and be involved. It is also good to see them come back and be supportive of the athletic department and the university."

Among the former Tigers attending practice and a lunch at the football complex were two-time All-Americans Jackie Burkett and Zeke Smith.

Among the other former Tigers taking in practice were Phil Gargis, George Rose, Mac Champion, Liston Eddins, Bret Eddins, Lucky Cope, Andy Steele, David Jordan, Bucky Ayers, Bucky Waid, Al Parks, Marvin Trott, Bobby Morgan, Richard Guthrie, Ben Leard, Chris Knapp, Tom Bryan and John McAffee.

Tuberville says the Tigers had an overall good week of practice. "The guys were bouncing around good today. We worked a lot on special teams. Their minds are into it. The concentration is good. It should be a good ball game."

Offensive coordinator Al Borges agrees with the head coach that the Tigers had a good day on the practice field. "It was excellent," he says. It was very up-tempo, very productive. The kids responded. Those couple of days off really helped us, I think."

Jonathan Wilhite is expected to start at cornerback this week, defensive coordinator Will Muschamp says. He will take over the spot Patrick Lee has started at the past two weeks. Lee is expected to see action as a nickel back for the Tigers.

Running back Kenny Irons, who had his breakout game last season in Auburn's 34-17 victory over Arkansas, says he expects to run into a hard-hitting defense on Saturday. "Their cornerbacks are real physical," he says. "Their linebackers pursue the ball real well. They stay in their gaps and do a good job of getting to the ball. They also do a great job of man coverage. That is very impressive. That is what I like about them."

Linebacker Merrill Johnson says he is getting ready for a hard-hitting Saturday, also. "We love to play a physical game and that is what we are expecting," the sophomore says. "They have a good running game and we are going to do our best to stop it." Arkansas leads the SEC in rushing. Auburn is ranked second.

In other news:

*Arkansas has given up just four sacks through four games this season, which is the 16th best total nationally. In contrast, Auburn has allowed 13 sacks through five games. AU has sacked opponents 17 times while the Arkansas defense has eight sacks.

*Arkansas coach Houston Nutt has a 4-4 record vs. the Tigers. He is 60-41 in his ninth season in charge of the Razorbacks and is tied for second place in school history with Lou Holtz for number of coaching victories. Nutt's team lost 38-20 in 2004 at its last game at Jordan-Hare Stadium on a day in which the Tigers racked up 522 yards of total offense to 337 for the Razorbacks who were led by star QB Matt Jones.

*Arkansas has won its last two SEC games while Auburn has won seven straight conference games and 20 of its last 21 SEC games.

*CBS game analyst Steve Buerlein attended Thursday's practice. He will be calling Saturday's game along with Craig Bolerjack. Coverage begins at 11 a.m.

*Tuberville says the early kickoff shouldn't be a factor on Saturday. "We practice in the morning, which helps," he says. "When you are on the road you like to play early so you can get up and go play and get back at a decent time. I think it is good. I would like for every one of them to start about 11 o'clock. Unfortunately, that doesn't happen."

*Tuberville says the team is in good shape physically with the exception of missing starters Cole Bennett at tight end and Joe Cope at center. The coach says that cornerback Jonathan Wilhite will play. "He will start. He had a good week of practice."

Tuberville says a key matchup will be which team is most successful running the football. "I would say their running game vs. our running game with two of the best backs in the country, not just in this league. Games, when you have good running games, usually come down to field position and special teams. They have got good special teams and ours are playing well."

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