Rosegreen Says Tigers Must Be Ready

All you have to do to tell it's conference time for the Auburn Tigers is look into the eyes of sophomore strong safety Junior Rosegreen.

Auburn, Ala.--Perhaps the most intense competitor on the Auburn football roster, Junior Rosegreen said things are a little different this week in practice with the Vanderbilt Commodores waiting on Saturday.

"The intensity is going to go up," Rosegreen said of the atmosphere around the football complex. "All the players on defense and on offense are going to be really excited about getting SEC play started. The conference is so tough, on any given Saturday you could lose. So, you have to come to play every Saturday."

Nashville natives Cooper Wallace, Jake Slaughter, Taylor Bourgeois and Steven Ross aren't the only players who will have a homecoming of sorts this weekend when the Commodores roll into town. Dillard High graduates Rosegreen and Joe Walkins welcome in a couple of former Panthers to Jordan-Hare Stadium in defensive end Jovan Haye and offensive guard Nigel Seaman. After being recruited by the Tigers early in the process a couple of seasons ago, both chose to head to Nashville and Rosegreen said he's happy for the pair.

Junior Rosegreen

"That's real good being that they came from Dillard," a smiling Rosegreen said. "I think Jovan is starting at end and Nigel will probably get a little playing time. We're going to get acquainted. I'm happy for them that they are doing a good job for Vandy and I'm doing a good job for Auburn. We're just going to keep the tradition alive."

Rosegreen will lead a secondary that faces one of their biggest challenges of the season because of senior wide receiver Dan Stricker. With his 132-yard, four catch, two-touchdown performance against Furman last Saturday, Stricker posted his school-record 10th 100-yard receiving game while increasing his touchdown total to 17 for his career, which is good enough for third all-time at Vanderbilt. Stopping him while also containing the option will be a challenge for the Tiger defense, but Rosegreen said it's all about doing your job.

"You have to be focused," Rosegreen said. "You have to be zoned out. You just have to play by rules, by your assignments. As long as you play your assignments everything is going to be alright. Stricker is a big target. He's 6-3,210 pounds and physical. He's not scared to catch the ball. He's just a good player so we have to come to play."

Practicing for just over two hours in full pads, the Tigers continued work on the Vanderbilt Commodores with a majority of the time spent in offensive and defensive units working against the scout team. Special teams also took a big priority on Wednesday with the kickoff return and coverage teams getting the bulk of attention from Coach Eddie Gran and head man Tommy Tuberville.

"Practice was hot, humid and miserable, but we had a good one," Tuberville said. "We didn't go as long. We went about 20 or 30 minutes shorter than we normally do. We're running out of juice here late in the week on this first long week of practice after two games and just a few days so we're trying to get our legs back. The game plan is in and we'll brush up on it again tomorrow."

One area of concern for Tuberville and his staff continues to be on the offensive line where starting strong tackle Bourgeois has had a difficult time staying healthy. After playing through a strained arch in his right foot suffered during the first quarter Saturday, the redshirt freshman from Nashville sprained his shoulder near the end of Wednesday's practice. While his status for the game is still good, Tuberville said they have both Ryan Broome and Marcus McNeill backing up Bourgeois and they could see action this Saturday if Bourgeois isn't able to go or play a complete game.

Sitting out of Wednesday's practice was defensive end Reggie Torbor. Still bothered by a sprained ankle, Torbor should see limited action against the Commodores. He won't be counted on to play a large number of plays until he's completely healthy. The good news is that Jay Ratliff has been given a clean bill of health and looked good Wednesday, which is a big boost for a defensive unit searching for some outside push. Also in good shape and expected to resume their starting roles on Saturday are center Ben Nowland and linebacker Dontarrious Thomas.

"We've still got some guys beat up a little bit but they just have to go," Tuberville said. "Some of them had last week off. Now we just have to go out there and get after our first conference game and see what happens."

The Tigers will put the finishing touches on the Vanderbilt game plan with a short Thursday practice in shorts and helmets. Friday the team will have a short walk through before leaving town, as is the normal custom. Saturday's kickoff is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. with Tiger Walk set for 9:20 a.m.

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