"It was a good practice," Coach Tommy Tuberville said. "Everybody practiced except for Reggie (Torbor). He went through team and he will be able to play. We're just trying to work him in pretty slowly. Everybody else is ready and practiced. We had a good practice." Torbor is trying to recover from an ankle injury suffered in the Southern Cal game.
"The guys were kind of spirited," Tuberville said. "I think a lot of it had to do with cool weather and not having to go out in the heat. This is the second conference game and we're looking forward to it."
The highlight of the day came with Joe Walkins returning a punt during the special teams session Monday. Back on the practice field at full speed for the first time since before the opener against USC, the always happy and smiling Walkins got a standing ovation from his teammates following the run. That brought smiles to the faces of the coaching staff and in particular wide receiver coach Greg Knox.
Joe Walkins catches a punt during Monday's practice.
Thursday night's game will be a big test for an Auburn offense that has shown improvements each of the last two weeks, but is still looking for the balance desired in both the running and passing games. That will be important Thursday night as the Tigers face a Mississippi State defense that will likely stack the line of scrimmage to take away Carnell Williams. Wide receiver Silas Daniels said that he thinks the offense is coming along nicely and getting closer to being where they need to be.
"We're progressing game-by-game. That first game we were struggling a little bit. But as the games go we get better and better. Everybody is getting the offense down and we haven't been making as many mistakes. I think we're coming together."
The biggest reason why the offense has continued to flourish and improve week by week is the play of the offensive line. Center Ben Nowland anchors a group that has led the Tigers to the top of the SEC rushing charts through three games. This week comes perhaps the biggest challenge for the group so far this season in the form of a blitzing and unorthodox Joe Lee Dunn defensive front.
While the middle of the line with guards Monreko Crittenden and Danny Lindsey should be solid along with weak tackle Mark Pera, the strong tackle spot is where the question marks abound. With redshirt freshman Taylor Bourgeois and true freshman Marcus McNeill both just a handful of plays into their college careers, they will handle the duties this week and Tuberville said as long as they worry about their assignments everything should be fine.
"It's going to be a lot of mental stuff because Joe Lee throws a lot of stuff at you," Tuberville said. "You just have to stay with your rules. The thing you can't do is worry about what they do on defense. If we call a protection you have to block your protection, don't worry about doing anything else that you can't handle. It's mental about following your rules and not worrying about what they are doing and just apply your technique and hope it works."
Much talk has been given to Auburn's short week as it prepares for the Bulldogs. With just four practice days between games and playing a fourth game in a span of just 17 days, quarterback Daniel Cobb said that he believes this team will be fine because it can see the light at the end of the tunnel.
"I think the guys kind of realize that this is the end of the stretch, that horrid four game in 17 day stretch," said Cobb. "I think everybody is going to be into it and push through it. Really concentrate on pushing themselves through this one. We've got 10 days between Thursday and the next game so we're going to go ahead and go full bore."
The Tigers will practice Tuesday and Wednesday in Auburn before traveling to Starkville Wednesday evening. Kickoff for Thursday's game is scheduled for 6:45 p.m. and can be seen on ESPN.