Tigers Tune For First SEC Football Test

The Tigers returned to the practice field on Thursday to prepare for the Vanderbilt Commodores.

Auburn, Ala.--With the first SEC game of the season just around the corner, newcomer Tre Smith says he can tell there is extra energy around the Auburn football team.

"A lot of guys are a lot more excited," says the freshman tailback. "There are notes everywhere like on the board when you come in that says, ‘This is the SEC. You have got to love it. We have got to win this one.' We do have to win this game and everybody knows we have to win this game."

Smith got his first college action as a running back last Saturday in Auburn's 56-0 rout of Western Carolina. That same day, Vandy was also evening its record at 1-1 with a 49-18 rout of Furman. He carried the football 13 times for 73 yards and the final touchdown of the game.

"I was having so much fun out there," says Smith, who got his first college carry on the second play of the game. "I didn't know I was going to carry it that early in the game, but coach (running backs coach Eddie) Gran told me to be ready so I knew that something was up."

Smith says the focus in practice this week has been to execute smoothly. "The coaches have told us that we can't beat ourselves and they want us to be 100 percent on assignments."

Since Tommy Tuberville arrived at Auburn, the Tigers are 3-0 in conference openers and 11-3 in games played in the month of September. The Tigers are 36-27-5 all-time in SEC opening games.

Kickoff for Saturday's game is shortly after 11:30 a.m. and it will be televised regionally by Jefferson-Pilot. Auburn has won the six previous meetings with Vandy in Jordan-Hare Stadium and has not lost to the Commodores since 1955.

There is a solid chance that the Tigers will be playing in the rain on Saturday with a tropical depression in the Gulf of Mexico headed directly towards the Auburn area. Some forecasts have it hitting the Auburn area on midday on Saturday. Tuberville said he wasn't aware of the problem when the Tigers worked out on Thursday, but said he hopes the current forecast is off track because he wants a fast and dry field for his quick team on Saturday against a three-touchdown underdog group of visitors from Nashville.

The Tigers normally have a very light Thursday practice, but this one was even shorter than normal. The Tigers were out on the field for just more than an hour in shorts and helmets on a hot late summer afternoon with temperatures in the 90s.

We will cut back on all practice between now and next Thursday," says Tuberville, noting that the Tigers will be playing their second SEC game next Thursday in Starkville against Mississippi State.

On the injury front, the Tigers are still missing wide receiver Joe Walkins, who suffered a preseason thigh injury. Freshman defensive end Kyle Derozan is practicing after having his knee scoped in August, but is not expected to play in a game for several weeks.

Defensive ends Reggie Torbor (ankle) and Dexter Murphy (hamstring) have been limited in practice this week. Another defensive end, Jay Ratliff, has been moving well in practice after being held out of the WCU game to rest an ankle problem.

Marcus McNeill

Offensive tackle Taylor Bourgeois practiced with the first team on Thursday and is expected to start. If there is a change at the position, Tuberville says that true freshman Marcus McNeill, a 6-9, 347-pounder, will play ahead of redshirt sophomore Ryan Broome, who began two-a-days as the No. 1 tight tackle. However, Tuberville says that Broome has not been consistent enough to win the starting spot.

Victor Horn

Reserve fullback Victor Horn is still out of action with a high ankle sprain. "He is working hard to get back," says Tuberville, who adds that is a particularly tough injury to rehab from. "You are looking at two months, max, maybe more than that." Horn injured the ankle in preseason.


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