Auburn, Ala.--Beaten and bruised following eight consecutive weeks of football, the seventh-ranked Auburn Tigers (7-1) finally got some good news on the injury front as two key offensive performers practiced Tuesday with one saying he'll definitely play this weekend. Back close to full strength on offense coach Tommy Tuberville says the team responded with its best practice of the year.
"Our guys are excited," Tuberville says. "We had a great practice today. It was probably the best practice we've had in a long time. I think for several reasons, number one it was a cool practice. Our guys were really into the practice. That was the best offensive practice we've had all year."
With starting center Joe Cope out with a sprained knee Auburn got a scare last Saturday when his replacement Jason Bosley also injured a knee in a win over Tulane. Fearful the injury might be severe the Tigers began working senior Jonathan Palmer at center just in case he was needed against Ole Miss. That still might be an option but things are looking better as Bosley practiced on Tuesday and guard Tim Duckworth was back at full speed. Bosley says he feels pretty good despite being a little sore and Tuberville says he expects Bosley to start this week.
"I was out there running around," Bosley says. "I did all the scout work today. It felt pretty good. It was a little sore because it's my first time getting out there because I didn't practice Sunday. It was about what I expected. Me and Arnold (trainer Arnold Gamber) have been working. I have been up here all the time getting treatment trying to get ready to go for Saturday. Hopefully I can get it right and start. That's my game plan."
The injury came as a scare to Bosley because it happened to the same knee he injured his freshman year that required ACL surgery. This time around the injury is just a bruise and didn't require an MRI just rehab. Bosley says that when it first happened he thought the worst but he's happy it's not serious.
"It was the same knee I had my ACL on my freshman year so it's a little scary when you hurt that knee," Bosley says. "It happened in the first quarter and then somebody landed on it again in the first quarter. It was scary at first but luckily it was just a bruise, nothing too serious. There was a lot of swelling I had to get out of there."
Bosley is now looking to try to get back this week for Auburn's road test against Ole Miss. Now a veteran of sorts after three games starting at center for the Tigers, Bosley says he's getting more comfortable with each game and feels like he's starting to settle in at the position.
"It kind of slows down," Bosley says. "From the Arkansas to the Florida game was a big difference. From Florida to Tulane was another big difference. It just kind of slows down for you after you get experience."
A player that continues to make a speedy recovery is Cope. Hobbled just two weeks ago, Cope got on the practice field for the first time Tuesday and took some reps at center in between stints on the exercise bike. Cope is hoping to return against Arkansas State next week and will be the third-team emergency center this week against Ole Miss with Jonathan Palmer the back-up while starting at tackle. Freshmen Mike Berry will not make the trip.
The backfield also has good news as running back Kenny Irons practiced at close to full speed on Tuesday and says he's ready to go this week. Struggling much of the year with ankle and toe problems, Irons says his latest problem of a sprained right ankle is close to being well and that's a big relief to him.
"I'm about 95 percent," Irons says. "It's not too bad. It was kind of hurting last week but I'm getting a lot better. I'm ready to play against Ole Miss in the SEC. I'll play."
Brad Lester practiced and should be close to full speed for Saturday.
Backfield mates Carl Stewart and Brad Lester both practiced on Tuesday as well and looked good says Tuberville. Both should be ready to go this weekend. Defensively linebackers Kevin Sears (hamstring) and Tray Blackmon (hip flexor, tonsillitis) remain questionable for the weekend and neither practiced Tuesday but Tuberville says both could practice on Wednesday. Safety Aairon Savage again practiced and should be ready to go against the Rebels after being bothered by a stinger suffered against Florida.
Auburn will practice Wednesday afternoon and again Thursday morning before leaving for Mississippi on Friday. The kickoff for Saturday's game is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. and it can be seen live on Lincoln Financial Sports stations.