Auburn, Ala.--Continuing a trend for the week Coach Tommy Tuberville says the Tigers had another good practice as they prepare to face the Ole Miss Rebels this Saturday in Oxford. Working on all phases of the game including an extra-long special teams session, Tuberville says the two-hour practice was very lively.
"The guys were really into it," Tuberville says. "This has been our best week of practice so far. I'm excited to see what happens Saturday especially offensively with our guys a little bit fresh.
"It was a good practice defensively," he adds. "We're going to have to stop the run and a scrambling quarterback, we know that. We did a lot of things where we're chasing guys down and trying to contain and obviously playing the run hard. We've gone against each other quite a bit with our running game going first team against first team against our defense trying to work on fundamentals and the speed of the game."
Tuberville singled out kicker Matt Clark and punter Kody Bliss for their work in practice on Wednesday. Although the Tigers are having one of their all-time best years in the kicking game Tuberville says they are constantly working on ways to improve things as they head down the home stretch of the season.
"We had an excellent practice on special teams," Tuberville says. "We feel like we can just get more out of our special teams. We made a few changes in some of the teams and personnel and techniques in what we are doing. We haven't done a lot on special teams and we're going to be a little bit more open on what we're doing and try some things that may give us a little bit better field position and things like that.
"I'm really impressed by Matt Clark and how he's kicking," he adds. "If I'm not mistaken of all the kicks he's had this year only six have been returned. That's phenomenal. We were concerned about a colder ball but he was booming them today. I don't think that's going to be a problem. He's really doing well."
Tuberville talks with Matt Clark during Wednesday's practice.
On the injury front the Tigers will be without senior linebacker Kevin Sears because of a sore hamstring. With the cooler temperatures Tuberville says they want to make sure he's completely healthy before putting him back on the field. Fellow linebacker Tray Blackmon was hospitalized on Tuesday because of swollen tonsils but one day later was back running. While he didn't practice Tuberville says he should be ready to practice Thursday and play on Saturday after feeling much better during the day Wednesday.
At safety redshirt freshman Aairon Savage was back practicing and Tuberville says that he should be completely healthy by Saturday. A mainstay this season in the defensive backfield, Savage's return is a big boost for the Auburn defense.
"Aairon looked real good," Tuberville says. "He was full speed. He didn't have any contact yesterday but we made him hit today. He's fine. He just needed a little bit of rest."
Offensively the Tigers are getting healthy at just the right time. Centers Jason Bosley and Joe Cope both practiced on Wednesday. Tuberville says Bosley will get the start but he didn't rule out the possibility of Cope seeing some action against the Rebels because of his impressive recovery from a knee injury suffered against South Carolina.
In the backfield tailbacks Kenny Irons and Brad Lester as well as fullback Carl Stewart all practiced and are full speed. Tuberville says that's exciting for an offense that is looking for its breakout game of the season after a solid performance last week against Tulane.
With the team closer to full speed than it has been since the beginning of the season, Tuberville says that he's beginning to see some fun back on the field once again. A team that still has plenty to play for, the Tigers begin their late season stretch run this week against Ole Miss at 11:30 a.m. in a game that can be seen on Lincoln Financial Sports. Tuberville says if the game Saturday plays out like this week has been on the practice field then he's looking forward to seeing his team in action.
"In the past few weeks there hasn't been a lot of joking around," Tuberville says. "Everybody has been serious for some reason trying to do more than what they should do. It has been a lot more jovial out there this week. The guys are more relaxed and into the game plan and laughing and joking with coaches. It should be like that. It shouldn't be a strain each week.
"I think we got into a middle of the season stretch where we felt like the world was on our shoulders especially after we lost that game. I didn't feel good about the Florida week of practice because we felt uptight and that might have been one of the reasons we didn't play worth a crap in the first half. You always have a chance to play better when your better players and experienced players are out there and they're back out there."