Auburn, Ala.--Looking for answers after a humbling 27-10 defeat at the hands of the Arkansas Razorbacks on Saturday, the Auburn Tigers (5-1) got back to work on Sunday with a hour and a half practice in shorts and shoulder pads. Offensive coordinator Al Borges says the day went very well and he was happy with the attitude of the team coming off the loss.
"It went great," Borges says. "I said it after the game and then I reiterated it a little bit before we watched the tape. We have learned everything now. We've learned how to play in tight games, we've learned how to win by a large margin, and for the first time unfortunately we've learned how to lose. Now we have to find out what we're all about. It all starts with practice and today we came out and practiced pretty good."
The day was good and bad for Auburn's linebackers as redshirt freshman Tray Blackmon returned to the practice field after missing the first six games because of a suspension. He got right into the thick of things in his first practice back as he joined the young players in a physical full pad session following the practice.
"It's good to have him back," linebacker coach James Willis says. "We just have to ease him into it and get him back into football playing shape because it's a little different than going out and running around. You really have to get in shape to play football and he's been doing that. This week will be very important and it's a good week to get him back. We're excited to have him back."
Blackmon's return is big for the team with senior Kevin Sears missing the practice because of a sprained knee suffered early in Saturday's contest. While the injury isn't thought to be serious it did keep him off the field on Sunday. He's expected back for Tuesday's practice and should be fine for this week.
It wasn't the only linebacker news of the day for the Tigers though as Saturday's loss to Arkansas showed the coaching staff some changes needed to be made. The biggest is moving senior Karibi Dede back to the middle from his weak side spot. Merrill Johnson will move to the weak side putting both players back in their original spots to open the season. Dede says this move is one he's happy to make for the team and hopefully it will work out for the best.
"It's just an adjustment," Dede says. "Today was challenging because it's brand new. In the old defense I was a little more comfortable doing it. This year I have been so focused on will (weak side) and doing everything 100 percent. Last year I knew my role was to swing and change. This year I thought I would settle at the will. Whatever it takes to win we're going to make adjustments and do what we've got to do."
The injury to Sears isn't the only one for the Tigers as sophomore running back Brad Lester missed Sunday's practice with a strained muscle in his leg. Coach Tommy Tuberville says that Lester could be out for this week's game because of the injury but Lester said on Sunday that he feels better and could return as early as Tuesday's practice. Because of the uncertainty both Tre Smith and Carl Stewart could see a bigger role for the Tigers this week in the offensive game plan. It could also change up Auburn's kickoff return teams with cornerback Patrick Lee expected to join Tristan Davis back deep this Saturday against Florida.
Tristan Davis could be the guy to give Auburn's offense a jump start but right now he hasn't been included in the plans.
One of Auburn's most explosive players, Davis has become a forgotten man for the Tigers this season after moving back to safety. With just six tackles this season in limited duty behind Aairon Savage, Davis' work has been mostly on special teams where he is second in the SEC averaging 27 yards per return on eight attempts.
With an offense looking for playmakers and Lester possibly out this week it could be the perfect time to get Davis some action on offense once again. Last season the sophomore split time between running back and safety and in his little time in the backfield showed what he could do.
Carrying the ball just 11 times Davis rushed for 209 yards. That included touchdown runs of 75 and 52 yards. This season Auburn has just one run over 52 yards on 220 rushing attempts. Tuberville says that Davis may be a guy they look at to get some big play potential back in the offense.
"We've looked at that," Tuberville says. "We've looked at several scenarios, maybe putting him back on offense some. It's just hard to learn that…we're just looking for the right combination. We'll put it together. We've got to have some things happen for us to make things a little easier. Everything for us right now is kind of like pulling teeth."
Kickoff for Saturday's game against the undefeated Gators is scheduled for 6:45 p.m. and can be seen on ESPN. In addition ESPN's Gameday college football show will originate from the Auburn campus beginning at 9 a.m. Saturday morning. The location is expected to be either in front of Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum or between Sewell Hall and Plainsman Park.