Looming Weather Makes It Big Tuesday For Tigers

With the threat of heavy rains moving into the Southeast the next two days because of tropical storm Isidore, the Auburn Tigers took advantage of a dry day with a longer than normal practice Tuesday in full pads.

Auburn, Ala.--Working on the game plan for the Syracuse Orangemen, defensive coordinator Gene Chizik said the team had a good day of work in what may be the last day to go outside this week. Working against scout teams and in team situations, the offense and defense continued preparations for Saturday.

"Absolutely," Chizik said when asked if Tuesday was an important day of practice this week. "Today was big on getting the tempo. When you prepare for an option team the hardest thing to prepare for is the speed of what it's really going to be like when you get out there. Today we got to go against the offense and look at that. That was huge for us. Plus, it's always critical on that first day that you get all your base looks in there against what you are going to see. This was a very critical day for us, especially since we don't know what Wednesday and Thursday are going to hold for us."

The Tigers practiced for nearly nearly three hours in full pads. The defense spent a lot of time doing tackling drills while the offense working on its timing.

Defensive tackle Spencer Johnson, still nursing an ankle injury suffered against Mississippi State, was limited in practice on Tuesday, but Chizik said the junior would be ready to play for Saturday's game. Even though Johnson is scheduled to play on Saturday night, the coaching staff went ahead with the plans to move Dexter Murphy back inside to tackle to help with depth at the position behind Dante Booker. Murphy will also be available for duty at end.

Wide receiver Joe Walkins could see his first action of the season this week against Syracuse.

Also back on the practice field and cleared for play was wide receiver Joe Walkins. Missing since the opening week of the season after having surgery to remove a mass of blood from his thigh, the speedy sophomore will be back in the rotation at the slot receiver and could give starting punt returner Roderick Hood a break if needed.

Currently second in the nation with a turnover margin of +11 (+2.75 per game) through four games, the Auburn Tigers have been a stingy team this season when it comes to giving opponents opportunities. While the offense has done its part with an average of just one turnover per contest, the defense has been taking the ball away at an alarming rate. That was a key for Auburn on Thursday night when the Tigers forced six MSU turnovers on the way to an easy 42-14 victory in Starkville. Defensive end Mayo Sowell said that it is something this unit takes very seriously.

Mayo Sowell

"We pride in helping the offense and helping the team and helping ourselves get in a better position by taking the ball. I think it's a goal anytime somebody carries the ball we try to get it out of their hands. We try to tackle them as well, but we want that ball. We try to strip it--whatever it takes to try to get the ball."

Sowell did his part in helping to force turnovers Thursday night by punching the ball out of Mississippi State quarterback Kevin Fant's hands as he scrambled for yardage against the Tigers. A developing force at defensive end because of his speed, the former linebacker should continue to see more action despite the end position getting deeper by the minute. With Reggie Torbor and Kyle Derozan both getting healthy and the true freshman becoming more involved in the game plan each week, the timing could be right for Sowell to move back to linebacker. However, coach Tommy Tuberville said that is not likely to happen just yet.

"The move of Mayo to defensive end has really helped us," Tuberville said. "He caused a fumble on the quarterback scramble. I don't think any of our other defensive ends could have ever caught up to him, but because of his athletic ability it gave us the opportunity to get the ball back and score some more points."

"I'm getting more comfortable there," Sowell said of playing defensive end. "I'm just getting more comfortable on the field just playing, that's the key thing. It doesn't matter where they put me. It's fun just being out there with the rest of the guys. We're real good friends, we're a real close defense."

The Tigers will practice Wednesday, Thursday and have a short walk-through before heading out of town Friday afternoon. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m. and can be seen on ESPN2. The Tiger Walk will begin at 5:50 p.m. with members of the 1957 National Championship team plus NFL players Stephen Davis, Fred Beasley and Marcus Washington all scheduled to be special guests.

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