Weekend Rest Good For Tigers

Head coach Tommy Tuberville, offensive coordinator Bobby Petrino and defensive tackle Spencer Johnson talk about Sunday's practice and the Syracuse Orangemen.

Auburn, Ala.--After taking two much-needed days off following Thursday's 42-14 win over Mississippi State, the Auburn Tigers returned to the practice field Sunday in full pads for a two-hour practice session in preparation for Saturday's game against Syracuse.

Because of the days off, the team got a head start on game planning for the Orangemen and did some scout team work instead of the normal laid back Sunday schedule.

"Any time you get a little break it's good," offensive coordinator Bobby Petrino said following Sunday's practice. "I thought they came back and were willing to work hard. It was a quick go-around those first four games so we just need to get back Tuesday and get into a good routine from here on out."

Expecting a tough, physical game Saturday night, Petrino said that this is an important week of practice for his offense after facing an unorthodox Mississippi State defense. With the Orangemen more basic in their approach, but also very aggressive, the offense may have to take less chances down the field and take what the defense gives them.

"They blitz a lot," Petrino noted. "They give you just about every blitz that you could possibly draw up on a piece of paper. They change all kinds of fronts and coverages and they ask their guys to do a lot as far as different schemes. They play good defense. I think they make plays and it will be a good challenge for us...these guys are a little bit more of a zone blitz scheme as opposed to Mississippi State, which was all-out blitz and straight man coverage, which allowed us to get some big plays. They'll be a little bit more zone."

Missing from practice was defensive end Spencer Johnson, who sprained an ankle against the Bulldogs but is expected back Tuesday. In his absence end Dexter Murphy moved inside to tackle, his former position, and he is expected to split his time between end and tackle with the improved health of ends Reggie Torbor, Jay Ratliff, Bret Eddins and Kyle Derozan.

Defensive ends Kyle Derozan (95) and Dexter Murphy (91) take a break during Sunday's practice. Murphy is expected to see some time at tackle this week.

"They say he (Johnson) could probably be back Tuesday," head coach Tommy Tuberville said. "We're probably going to look at moving Dexter down inside and playing him some now that we do have all those guys back. But he'll still play both positions. Dexter has really played well for us."

"It's getting better," Johnson said of his ankle. "The swelling went down a lot. I'm walking a lot better. I'm hoping that I can go out there (Tuesday) and get a little work in, maybe run or do some take-offs or something like that just to get my strength back. I'm making a lot of progress. Hopefully, I can get out there soon.

One of the goals the coaching staff is shooting for, beginning with Sunday's practice, is to find a number two tailback and stick with him. Splitting practice time between the trio of Ronnie Brown, Chris Butler and Tre Smith the first four weeks of the season, Tuberville said they need to get down to just one main man behind Carnell Williams. The extra practice time devoted to just two players would help them get where they need to be as an offense this season.

"I think the biggest improvement we've made at running back are the three guys behind him (Williams)," Tuberville said. "I think all three of those guys have made significant impacts on what we've done the first four games. The biggest thing Eddie Gran is going to have to do the next few weeks is to find the one guy that we're going to put in the game. I don't like playing four tailbacks. Putting four different tailbacks in makes it hard to work on the timing. We're going to go into each game really looking at two tailbacks to play. The only reason somebody else would play is if the score was out of reach one way or the other."

The Tigers will take Monday off in their normal weekly routine before going back to work Tuesday. They will practice Wednesday, Thursday and have a short walk-through on Friday before heading out of town for the night. Saturday's kickoff against Syracuse is scheduled for 8 p.m. and can be seen on ESPN2.

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