Auburn, Ala.--It was pretty obvious watching Saturday's loss to Arkansas that the offensive line didn't have one of its better games of the season. Giving up five sacks and rushing for just 60 yards, Auburn couldn't sustain drives and wound up on the wrong end of a 27-10 score.
Tuesday the Tigers continued to work on fixing the problems up front as the team had a physical two-hour practice in full pads. Senior offensive lineman Timmy Duckworth says the unit wasn't happy about its performance against the Razorbacks and is determined to do something about it beginning with this week's practices.
That has caused some shake-up up front in terms of the players backing up positions this week. While the first unit remains the same several players are getting looks to see if they can help the team. Among those players is sophomore Andrew McCain. While still a little undersized, Duckworth says that McCain is giving effort and he's challenging for playing time.
"It was the same five guys," Duckworth says. "(Andrew McCain) I guess he's basically like a sixth man just in case we need him. He could be the sixth man. I guess it depends on how everybody else is doing. He's been working at left tackle but more than likely things are going to stay the way they are. (Leon Hart) could be the sixth man also. We've got a lot of sixth men. J.P. is still the fifth man. He's still the starter but it all depends on what Coach (Hugh) Nall wants to do."
Guard Tim Duckworth and the offensive line is looking for a positive outing after last week's performance.
The offensive line must play well this week to be able to run the football against a Florida defense that leads the league in rushing defense. With starting tailback Kenny Irons slowed with a turf toe for the last few weeks there was excellent news on Tuesday as sophomore Brad Lester practice and he says he'll be ready this weekend after being bothered by a strained groin in last week's game.
"I ran pretty full speed at practice," Lester says. "It didn't give me too many problems at all. It's just soreness but that's expected. All day I ran in practice and it was fine. Today was the day I wanted to make sure I could run full speed since it's our only day in full pads."
Coach Tommy Tuberville says that after a slight hangover on Sunday after the poor performance the team came back with a high energy practice on Tuesday. That is good news defensively as the Tigers continue to prepare for a Florida offense that is very multiple and shows a defense a variety of formations.
Because of that look for the Tigers to scale back the defense somewhat in an effort to ensure the players don't have alignment problems against the Gators that cause busts once the ball is snapped.
Redshirt freshman Tray Blackmon continues to get re-acquainted with the defense in his first game back after a suspension. Blackmon is currently splitting time with Merrill Johnson as the first team weak side linebacker while Karibi Dede has moved inside to the middle.
One injury to report is sophomore defensive end Octavious Balkcom is wearing a soft cast to protect his right hand during practice. A reserve, Balkcom is currently third team behind Marquies Gunn and Christopher Browder on the strong side. The injury doesn't look serious.
The Tigers will practice Wednesday afternoon and again Thursday morning before heading out of town on Friday afternoon. Kickoff for Saturday's contest against Florida is scheduled for 6:45 p.m. and can be seen nationally on ESPN. College Gameday will also be on the Auburn campus Saturday as part of ESPN's coverage of the game. The show will originate from just behind the right field wall of Plainsman Park beginning at 9 a.m.