Tigers Polish Game Plan For USC

The Auburn Tigers tried a different tactic during Wednesday's practice to help the offense get a better feel for USC's defensive schemes.

Auburn, Ala.--The Auburn football Tigers polished the game plan for the USC Trojans on Wednesday with a two-hour practice in full pads.

Instead of the normal scout team work the coaches decided to use the second-team offenses and defenses to give the starters a better look heading into the game. Coach Tommy Tuberville said following the workout that his team is ready to play a game now.

"We worked our game plan almost entirely," Tuberville said. "We made a little change, we're working against each other with our second and first team on defense running things that USC will run against our offense. It gives us more of a look from our upperclassmen. We kind of combined today's practice and worked against each other more than we normally would."

Running the same basic schemes with just minor adjustments, the Auburn and USC defenses are similar and that is what allows the coaching staff the freedom to employ this unusual technique during game week. Working against more experienced players during the practice, the offense and defense both had work on short yardage and goal line situations Wednesday.

"We've had a lot of scout team guys that have been hurt and we wanted to get a good look," Tuberville said of the decision to use veterans to simulate the Trojans. "Today we just combined them and got a better look. What we basically did was use our second team guys as our scout team. A lot of it is carryover, but we ran them off cards so they'll get exactly the look we want."

Defensive lineman Wayne Dickens intercepts a pass during a drill Wednesday.

As per their usual routine, the coaching staff also spent almost the first 30 minutes of the practice on special teams with the punt coverage and punt return teams getting the majority of attention. Senior Roderick Hood continues to be the deep man on punt returns with Marcel Willis, Tre Smith and Ben Obomanu also in the picture as backups.

The player that Auburn's special teams centers around is senior kicker and punter Damon Duval. One of the top specialists in the country heading into 2002, Duval has already established himself as one of the best kickers in Auburn history, but Tuberville predicts that his best work is ahead of him after surviving a serious run for his job this fall from Philip Yost

"Damon Duval continues to surprise me," Tuberville said. "He gets better and better. He and Philip Yost have both had a great camp. I'm real excited about both of their punting and kicking. Philip will be the backup kicker and punter for this season. His punting has really improved. Damon's punting has really been outstanding. His field goals today were outstanding."

A sight for sore eyes on the Auburn practice field Wednesday was number 82 running around again and riding an exercise bike on the sidelines. After suffering a strained patella tendon in his knee last Friday, Torbor said that he's much better after having a few days of rest and is ready to get back in action Monday night.

"Compared to Friday how it felt, it's unexplainable," Torbor said with a smile. "It feels so much better. I can walk around. It's still swollen, but I can move around on it pretty good. It will probably be Thursday before I get back out there. They just don't want me to rush back into it and make things worse than they should be. We're just going to take our time with it."

Also back practicing full speed were several key wide receivers in Marcel Willis and Silas Daniels. Willis returned to practice on Tuesday, but Tuberville said Wednesday he really looked like his old self. Bret Eddins continues to be bothered by a groin pull, but is expected to be ready for Monday night's game.

"We're in pretty good shape," Tuberville noted. "I'm amazed with all the contact we've had how few injuries we've had. But we're going to need them with this stretch coming up."

The Tigers continue working towards Monday with practices scheduled for Thursday and Friday evening in Auburn before they leave for Los Angeles on Saturday. Thursday's practice will be a walk-through of sorts for the team as they head to Jordan-Hare Stadium for about an hour to work on substitutions, pre-game activities and game situations. The team will practice Saturday night in the Los Angeles Coliseum and have a walk-through on Sunday evening before taking the field for Monday's 7 p.m. CDT kickoff against USC.

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