Walker and his teammates worked out on the practice field on Thursday before moving into Jordan-Hare Stadium for a rehearsal of game night procedures. The Tigers open the season on Monday at 7 p.m. CDT vs. Southern Cal at the Los Angeles Coliseum.
Walker says that on defense he and his teammates are confident that the Tigers are solid across the board. He also says the defense has more depth than at any time since he has at Auburn. Because of that, he says if one of the starters is shaken up or needs a break, the coaches don't have to worry. "There won't be any need to worry about it," Walker says. "The coaches can just put in the backup and we will be fine."
Walker says he and the other seniors are doing what they can to get their team ready for the tough opener and a challenging 2002 schedule. He says the attitude is excellent on this team, something he and the other seniors discussed with head coach Tommy Tuberville over dinner on Monday night at the coach's house. "That meeting went very well," Walker says. "We talked about the great bond we feel that we have this year. Everybody is coming together as a team."
Walker says he truly believes his final AU team will be a national power this season despite opening the season not ranked in the Top 25 in either in the major polls. "This senior class has some vocal leaders and a lot of guys who lead by example. That is important."
The fifth-year cornerback says that is quite a change from his first season at Auburn, 1998, on a team that had friction between offensive and defensive players and friction between different members of the coaching staff. "Oh, man, we had a lot of turmoil going that year," Walker remembers. "It is nothing like that anymore. Now when you have a team meeting everybody is listening and everybody has the same goal of wanting to win and compete for a national championship."
Walker says the leadership on this team has come from underclassmen, too. "We have better senior leadership, but we have guys like Junior Rosegreen and Carlos Rogers who are real strong leaders, too."
Offensively, there are more questions about the 2002 Tigers than there are on defense. Auburn will make the trip West without two of its four scholarship fullbacks. Senior Michael Owens and sophomore Victor Horn are staying behind because they have not been able to overcome nagging ankle problems. Owens' has been bothered with his problem all summer.
In their place, walk-on senior fullback Marshall Thornton is making the trip. He will also be a backup on special teams.
"Marshall is a player the players really enjoy being around," Tuberville says of the walk-on fullback. "He has been around here a while and knows what is going on. He is a real physical player and is a senior. I hope he can get some playing time."
Thornton, who is in his third season at Auburn including a redshirt year after transferring from Albany State College in Georgia, says, "I guess the coaches have rewarded me for working hard. Coach (Bobby) Petrino and Coach (Eddie) Gran really harp on getting things right. Learning the playbook is just like learning your assignments in school. You have to get things right."
The management information major adds that the team is excited about the trip. "The coaches told us that it is going to be a great experience. It is a great opportunity for us to show how good we are." Thornton says he would like to play, but the most important thing is "to win the game," he adds.
The 5-11, 230-pounder is originally from Mount Zion High in DeKalb, Ga., where he was a four-year starter who rushed for 1,600 yards as a senior. After playing on as a blocking back at Albany State, he transferred to Auburn in 2000 and redshirted that year. He played on the scout team last year and gave the coaches a good look as a running back.
Thornton and the rest of the Tigers have added another practice before the Monday evening opener at Southern Cal. The Tigers will have a workout on Saturday morning in Auburn before boarding their charter Delta 767 flight from Montgomery to Los Angeles. They will work out that night in the Los Angeles Coliseum, the site of their opening game that will kick off shortly after 7 p.m. on Monday. The Tigers will also have a walk through on Sunday in Los Angeles.
The Tigers had a light workout on Thursday and will have a similar session on Friday. The contact work is finished. On Thursday, the team practiced at Jordan-Hare Stadium and worked on game day procedures. On offense, coaches Greg Knox and Steve Dennis watched the session from the press box, where they will be spotting the game on Monday night. Defensive coaches Chizik and Terry Price did the same thing.
The following is the travel squad for the USC game:
1 Devin Aromashodu, WR, 6-2, 189, Fr. Miami Springs, Fla.
2 Ben Obomanu, WR, 6-1, 184, Fr., Selma, Ala.,
3 Roshard Gilyard, SS, 5-10, 202, Jr., Jacksonville, Fla.
4 Junior Rosegreen, DB, 6-0, 185, So., Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.
5 Travaris Robinson, FS, 5-10, 193, Sr., Miami, Fla.
6 Horace Willis, DB, 6-0, 198, Sr., Douglasville, Ga.
8 Cooper Wallace, TE, 6-4, 249, RFr., Nashville, Tenn.
10 Donnay Young, FS, 6-0, 198, So., College Park, Ga.
11 Karlos Dansby, LB, 6-5, 221, Jr. Birmingham, ALA.,
13 Josh Sullivan, QB, 6-4, 205, Fr. Little Rock, Ark.
14 Carlos Rogers, DB, 6-1, 191, So., Augusta, Ga.
16 Daniel Cobb, QB, 6-4, 224, Sr., Marietta, Ga.
17 Jason Campbell, QB, 6-4, 220, So., Taylorsville, Miss.
18 Philip Yost, K/P, 6-2, 187, So., Auburn, Ala.
19 Montae Pitts, WR, 6-1, 194, Fr., Loachapoka, Ala.
20 Damon Duval P/K, 6-1, 192, Sr. Chattanooga, Tenn.
22 Tre Smith, RB, 5-10, 190, Fr., Venice, Fla.
23 Ronnie Brown, RB 6-1, 217, So., Cartersville, Ga.
24 Carnell Williams, RB, 5-11, 202, So., Attalla, Ala.
26 Lamel Ages, DB, 5-9, 187, So. Columbus, Ga.
27 Dee Durham, DB, 5-11, 190, RFr., Atlanta, Ga.
28 Justin Fetsko, WR/Holder, 5-9, 167, Jr., Pensacola,, Fla.
29 Derrick Graves, LB, 6-1, 201, So., Holt, Ala.
31 Antarrious Williams, LB, 5-11, 205, RFr., Columbus, Ga.
35 Will Herring, S, 6-4, 199, Fr., Opelika, Ala.
36 Roderick Hood, DB, 5-11, 196, Sr. Columbus, GA
37 Rashaud Walker, CB, 5-10, 202, Sr., Decatur, Ga.
38 Chris Butler, RB, 6-0, 216, Jr. Hoover, Ala.
39 Marshall Thornton, FB, 5-11, 230, Sr., DeKalb, Ga.
42 Bret Holliman, FS, 5-10, 186, So., Marion Jct., Ala.
44 Jake Slaughter, FB, 6-2, 234, RFr., Brentwood, Tenn.
45 Brandon Johnson, FB, 6-1, 234, Jr., Bayou La Batre, Ala.
48 Tyrone Martin, LB, 6-1, 205, Fr., Alexander City, Ala.
49 Lorenzo Diamond, TE, 6-3, 258, Sr., Biloxi, Miss.
50 Michael Lindsey, DS, 6-4, 237, Sr., Atlanta, Ga.
51 Travis Williams, LB, 6-1, 208, RFr., Columbia, S.C.
52 Mark Brown, LB, 6-2, 240, Sr., Germantown, Tenn.
53 Spencer Johnson, DT/DE, 6-3, 283, Jr., Silas, Ala.
54 Dontarrious Thomas, LB, 6-4, 233, Jr., Perry, Ga.
55 Ben Nowland, C, 6-3, 294, Sr., Ponte Vedra, FLa.
56 Lemarcus Rowell, LB, 6-3, 229, Fr., Opelika, Ala.
57 Mayo Sowell, LB, 6-1, 223, So., Birmingham, Ala.
58 TJ Jackson, NG, 6-1, 304, Fr., Opelika, Ala.
59 Jeremy Wells, DS, 6-1, 242, Jr., Mobile, Ala.
60 Ryan Broome, OT, 6-6, 300, So., Marietta, Ga.
62 Antwarn Franklin, NG, 6-4, 328, Fr., Birmingham, Ala.
63 William Ward, C, 6-2, 260, Fr., Prattville, Ala.
64 Rhett Autrey, OL, 6-4, 283, RFr., Jay, Fla.
65 Monreko Crittenden, OG, 6-5, 338, Jr., Montgomery, Ala.
66 Troy Reddick, OT, 6-5, 297, Fr., Albany, Ga.
67 Jeremy Ingle, C, 6-2, 270, So., Montgomery, Ala.
68 Danny Lindsey, C, 6-2, 294, So., Douglas, Ga.
69 Mark Pera, OT, 6-6, 309, Jr., Memphis, Tenn.
70 Nate French, OG, 6-2, 305, So., Moultrie, Ga.
72 Taylor Bourgeois, OL, 6-5, 311, RFr., Brentwood, Tenn.
73 Marcus McNeill, OG/OT, 6-9, 347, Fr., Ellenwood, Ga.
74 Steven Ross, OT, 6-6, 282, RFr., Nashville, Tenn.
76 Ryan Hockett, OG, 6-3, 290, Sr., Jacksonville, Fla.
78 Rich Trucks, OT, 6-8, 317, So., Hoover, Ala.
79 Jonathan Palmer, OG, 6-5, 320, Fr., Ellenwood, Ga.
80 Marcel Willis, WR, 6-1, 180, Sr., Jacksonville, Fla.
81 Jeris McIntyre, WR, 6-0, 204, Jr., Tampa, Fla.
82 Reggie Torbor, DE, 6-3, 242, Jr., Baton Rouge, La.
83 Jay Ratliff, DE, 6-5, 253, So., Valdosta, Ga.
84 Todd Bradford, WR, 6-3, 182, RFr., Selma, Ala.
85 Silas Daniels, WR, 6-0, 187, So., Jacksonville, Fla.
86 Courtney Taylor, WR, 6-2, 185, Fr., Carrollton, Ala.
87 Robert Johnson, TE, 6-6, 270, Jr., Montgomery, Ala.
89 Anthony Mix, WR, 6-5, 234, Fr. Bay Minette, Ala.
90 Ben Grubbs, DE, 6-3, 252, Fr., Eclectic, Ala.
91 Dexter Murphy, DE/DT, 6-2, 272, Jr., LaGrange, Ga.
92 DeMarco McNeil, NG, 6-2, 297, Jr., Prichard,, Ala.
94, Bret Eddins, DE, 6-5, 261, So., Montgomery, Ala.
96 Wayne Dickens, NG, 6-2, 290, RFr., Lakeland, Fla.
97 Dante Booker, NG, 6-4, 277, Sr., Akron, Ohio