"This is a big one for me," a smiling Bourgeois said on Tuesday as the Tigers returned to football practice following a day off. "They have a lot of guys that have done nothing but beat me all through high school and it's just a chance for me and the team to do our best to get them back."
Three defensive players for the Commodores (linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer, linebacker Moses Osemwegie and cornerback Dominique Morris), all from Montgomery Bell Academy in Nashville, are the players that Bourgeois mentions when talking about getting a shot at redemption. Winning back-to-back state titles with MBA while knocking Bourgeois' Brentwood Academy team off each year, the trio has definitely given Bourgeois a desire to play well this weekend when they meet again.
"They played for our rival school and they beat us twice," Bourgeois said. "Once by one point and once by two points. I've had payback in me since they did that. I knew sometime along the way that I would get that chance."
Taylor Bourgeois works against a member of the scout team during Tuesday's practice.
To get that payback that he desperately wants, the offensive line must continue to develop in the second game with Bourgeois as a starting tackle onone tackle with junior Mark Pera on the other side. On the interior Danny Lindsey and Monreko Crittenden man the guard spots, but Bourgeois said the most important player is in the middle for this unit.
"I think we're starting to gel pretty good," he said. "It all starts with Ben (Nowland, the starting center). He's a real good leader and he takes charge out there. I think we're going to be a pretty good offensive line."
Working on the game plan and alignments that they will face against the Commodores this week, the Tigers practiced in full pads for just over two hours Tuesday. A healthy team heading into the conference opener, Auburn welcomed back defensive end Kyle Derozan to practice and although he won't play this week nor against Mississippi State. The Auburn coaches are shooting to have him ready for the Syracuse game, defensive coordinator Gene Chizik said Tuesday after practice.
The return of Derozan to practice is a good sign for a position searching for depth and a playmaker. Derozan may have been the best pass rusher of any of the defensive ends in two-a-days before going down with a knee injury that required surgery.
In addition to Derozan, defensive ends Jay Ratliff and Reggie Torbor also practiced on Tuesday after sitting out Saturday's win over Western Carolina to let ankle injuries heal. Both are expected to be 100 percent by the 11:30 a.m. kickoff against the Commodores. One end that is might not be full speed for the game is junior Dexter Murphy, who strained a hamstring and is touch-and-go at the moment for Saturday.
"Today went well," Chizik said of Tuesday's practice. "We're trying to do a lot of preparation right now for a lot of their option game and a lot of their play-action game. It's the first SEC week so they are very in tune to working to get better. Today was a good day."
Offensively, the Tigers continue to add to the play book under the direction of coordinator Bobby Petrino. Nashville native Cooper Wallace, whose brother, David, played both baseball and football at Vanderbilt, said that the offense has really gotten better since the opener at USC. It is no coincidence that Wallace, along with Lorenzo Diamond and Robert, keyed that offensive explosion on Saturday by getting more involved in the game plan for Western Carolina.
"It seemed like we weren't getting as many balls as we wanted during two-a-days because our receivers were getting better," Wallace said. "The offense is gelling a lot better. We're kind of starting to move back in a little bit. The quarterbacks are starting to distribute the ball everywhere now, which is real good."
The Tigers will continue practicing for the Commodores with workouts scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday evening on the practice fields. Friday the team will have a short walk through before leaving town in their normal game routine. Kickoff for Vanderbilt is set for 11:30 a.m. and can be seen regionally on Jefferson-Pilot Television.