Auburn, Ala.--Settling into a normal routine with a Sunday practice followed by a day off on Monday, the Auburn Tigers practiced for two hour in full pads Sunday afternoon in what Coach Tommy Tuberville called a "grind". With less than two weeks until opening day, Tuberville says he likes the effort and attitude of his team at the moment.
"It was a real good practice," Tuberville says. "We're starting to get a little personality on the team. I think a lot of our guys know they've made it through the long haul. There was a lot more enthusiasm in practice, especially for a three o'clock practice. We decided to start with our routine.
"It was a good day of practice yesterday and even better today," he adds. "I like the work ethic of our team. We've got some guys that are making the younger guys push. Today we started, about half of our practice was scout teams. Normally that's not a great day in terms of execution but it was a good start. It gives us a jump on Tuesday, which will be a little bit more scout team…I saw an extra step with the guys today. We looked a lot quicker and more into it. I think it might have had something to do with having tomorrow off."
On Saturday Tuberville said Sunday would be the day they named the first team kicker and punter and he did just that as Ryan Shoemaker and Wes Byrum were the big winners in preseason practice according to Tuberville. He says that at the moment they'll go into the year as his guys on special teams.
"These two will still compete in terms of who is going to punt and kick but obviously Shoemaker is number one," Tuberville says. "Patrick Tatum will be number two. I think that is going to be great competition all year long. Unless something changes Ryan will probably be our punter going into game one. We're going to monitor them every day to make sure there is competition there.
"Our number one kicker is Wesley Byrum," he adds. "He had a good day today along with Graham Sutter. Those two came out on top. They were clearly the top two through all the competition to this point. They'll be the guys that we will look at. We still have some other kickers that will kick and if we're having some problems they'll get their opportunities again. Those two guys will be our extra-point and field goal kickers. Wesley Byrum will be our kickoff guy unless that changes also."
For the first time this preseason the Tigers broke up into scout team groups to begin some introductory work on season opening opponent Kansas State. Tuberville says it's always exciting when that process begins because you know the season is just around the corner.
"We were going to wait until Tuesday but we decided to go ahead and get a good look at them today," Tuberville says. "We wanted to make sure we have all of them in the right spots so we can start running Kansas State stuff. We looked at that for about 30 minutes today. We'll continue, as we will all year long, working against each other. That's your best work. You have to look at the other team's plays and defenses. This is going to give us a good seven or eight days to work on Kansas State."
On the injury front the Tigers are getting healthier as they head into the week before game week on the Plains. Wide receivers Tim Hawthorne (ankle) and Montez Billings (hamstring) were sidelined on Sunday and riding bikes on the side. Tuberville says Billings could be back on Tuesday with Hawthorne possibly back as early as Wednesday. Also guard Byron Isom is a little banged up with a sore knee Tuberville says he should be back by the end of the week. Fellow guard Leon Hart continues to be out with a sore ankle and Tuberville says they got a MRI done on a ligament in the ankle and he's probably out longer than the rest of the other guys.
Carl Stewart was back on the practice field in a limited capacity and could return fully by the end of the week.
The good news is that fullback Carl Stewart was back in the running back group on Sunday and went through some limited work for the first time since injuring his hamstring early in preseason camp. Tuberville says Stewart is about 85 or 90 percent and could be back full time by mid-week or the end of the week. That's big because true freshman fullback John Douglas is out with a high ankle sprain that Tuberville says could keep him out from one to four weeks depending on the severity. Running back Mario Fannin missed Sunday's practice with a sore groin but Eddie Gran says he should return on Tuesday.
Defensively Bo Harris was held out of contact work but did the mental work on Sunday. Tuberville says his bruised shoulder is something they want him to get stronger so he can get ready for the first game. Tuberville says he'll be ready to go.
Redshirt freshman wide receiver Alex Rose has missed the last two weeks and Tuberville says the receiver is expected to be in school but will not be playing this fall while concentrating on academics. He says Rose is still a part of the team.
Auburn gets back to its normal routine this week as the Tigers will take Monday off before returning to the practice field Tuesday morning. Once again the Tigers plan to practice on Tuesday and Thursday mornings during the fall.