Auburn, Ala.--With temperatures back in the 80's and the sun shining once again the Auburn Tigers (6-1) got back to work Wednesday afternoon with a two-hour practice in shorts and shoulder pads. Coach Tommy Tuberville says the day was a good one for his team because they got back to basics and worked on some of the things they haven't been able to focus on in recent weeks.
"It was good to have a dry practice," Tuberville says. "It was a little hot but the guys bounced around good. It was very physical today. We did a few things that we normally don't do during the week. We got after it pretty good running the ball while working on technique and fundamentals on defense. We had to get back to using our hands, just little things we had gotten away from. We've got to get better on both sides. We're still not a very good team consistently."
Injury wise the Tigers are a little beat up in the backfield as Tuberville says Carl Stewart didn't practice on Wednesday and is questionable for the Tulane game. Without him sophomore Michael McLaughlin will get the bulk of the work after having another impressive outing against Florida in a limited duty role.
At tailback Kenny Irons continues to be bothered by a turf toe injury that he suffered the week of the South Carolina game. While he practiced on Wednesday and will play this weekend, Tuberville says they are getting true freshman Benjamin Tate ready to go against the Green Wave if needed.
"He's practicing good," Tuberville says. "We're getting to the point with five games left that we've got to make sure we've got enough for the last run here. We're kind of beat up. He's practiced hard and we've got plans to play him."
Tuberville says that with Tate getting ready to play he'll likely be the only true freshman to see action from this point forward other than defensive lineman Jermarcus Ricks. While many of the other players are physically capable of helping the team, Tuberville says he feels like the best case scenario remains to redshirt as many of the freshmen as possible to help them ease into life in the SEC but he's not against playing guys that will help him win games.
"I have noticed a lot of my cohorts across the country aren't redshirting any more," Tuberville says. "Everybody is playing because some athletes they don't think are going to stay four years. That's a concern on a lot of guys but it's just hard to play as a freshman. There's so much mental. We found out that guys do a pretty good job in the classroom when they know there is no pressure on them especially that first year. I think it helps all the way around.
"We'll play them if they are good enough," he adds. "It's not my decision. They can pretty much tell early what kind of opportunity they'll have mentally and physically. What has really helped the guys being able to play is them paying their way during the summer and getting them on all campus where they can learn a little bit about the offense and the defense. That gives them a chance to get on the field."
In the secondary redshirt freshman safety Aairon Savage practiced on Wednesday but was held out of the contact portion of the work after suffering a stinger during Saturday's game. He should be ready by the weekend Tuberville says but just in case both Tristan Davis and Lorenzo Ferguson are working at the position.
Punter Kody Bliss prepares to put a foot into the ball during Wednesday's practice.
After a solid game against Florida last week Tuberville says they focused a portion of the practice to working on special teams Wednesday. With the heavy rains in the area on Tuesday Auburn's kickers and punters essentially got an extra day off which Tuberville says proved to be good for the unit.
"On special teams we had a good day today," Tuberville says. "I feel a lot better about our special teams. All of our punters and kickers are getting a little bit better. I think they kind of lost their legs about mid-season. We've rested them a little bit. Yesterday was a good day for them because we left them inside during the rain and it kind of got the jump back in their legs."
During non-conference game weeks the Auburn practice field is usually full of NFL scouts as they watch and take notes on the Tigers that will be draft eligible this season. Among the teams on hand for Wednesday's practice were the Chicago Bears, Cleveland Browns, Dallas Cowboys, Detroit Lions, Minnesota Vikings, New England Patriots and the New York Giants. Among the players getting the most attention were senior guards Tim Duckworth and Ben Grubbs, wide receiver Courtney Taylor, running back Kenny Irons and defensive back David Irons.
The Tigers will practice again on Thursday morning as they put the finishing touches on the game plan for Tulane. Saturday's kickoff is scheduled for 1:30 as homecoming 2006 takes place on the Plains.