Auburn, Ala.--Now just over one week away from the opening game of the 2007 season, the Auburn Tigers put the wraps on preseason camp with a short practice Friday night that focused on special teams and situational work on both offense and defense. Coach Tommy Tuberville says it's been a long camp but his team came through it pretty well.
"After 21 days we felt like these guys had just about hit the wall physically so we needed to start on the gameplan and finish up on it Sunday," Tuberville says. "We wanted to get them mentally fresh as well as physically fresh. They'll get tomorrow off and get away from it a little bit but we'll come back Sunday and start our regular Sunday routine."
Friday the Tigers spent the first 30 minutes of practice working on special teams with the next half hour spent going over part of the gameplan on both offense and defense. Tuberville says that the extra time spent on special teams is something his team needed with not much time left to work on that part of things before next Saturday's game.
"We worked on everything in the kicking game today and all of our scouting report on Kansas State plus a lot of technique stuff," Tuberville says. "We worked about an hour on specialty stuff, we worked on short yardage on both sides of the field. We didn't work against each other. It was mostly scout team stuff. Then we worked two-minute and tried to do as much situational thing as we possibly could without pads on.
"The guys were excited obviously," he adds. "They haven't had a day off in a while. They are getting ready to have two free nights with no meetings and no practice and no weightlifting. They are looking forward to it. We're getting ready for 11 in a row and it's going to be a grind…it's been a good three weeks but now it's time to go."
With players from around the SEC and the country getting in trouble in recent weeks, there could be some concern about giving his team two nights off the week before the opening game but Tuberville says that's not something he's worried about.
"I don't caution them I threaten them," Tuberville says. "Anybody that gets their name in the paper these two days won't be there next week and playing. They know that. It's one of those deals where sometimes you don't understand the urgency. I told them that it's got to be important to you and if it's not important to you then go out and act a fool. We're not going to do that. We're not going to do it and be playing."
Auburn's injury situation looks to be getting better although senior left tackle King Dunlap missed Friday's short practice after suffering what Tuberville says is a slightly sprained ankle on Thursday. He notes that Dunlap should be back on Wednesday and he's hoping to have several more offensive players ready to go at that time.
"Carl (Carl Stewart) was out there," Tuberville says. "Montez Billings. King Dunlap tweaked his ankle but he's all right. We just kept him inside. Leon Hart was out there running around. Hopefully he'll be back Sunday. I don't foresee anybody that can't go by Sunday or Tuesday other than Tristan (Tristan Davis)."
Tuberville says he doubts Stewart and Billings could have gone full speed on Friday but he's looking for them to be close on Sunday. The same is true of Dunlap. Without the big tackle on the field the Tigers looked at both Antwoin Daniels and Andrew McCain on the left side according to Coach Hugh Nall.
Coach Hugh Nall says that Mike Berry has done a good job at right guard and Leon Hart has a lot of ground to make up once he returns to the practice field.
Auburn's work on special teams throughout preseason camp has been long and tough for guys like true freshmen Wes Byrum and Graham Sutter. One and two on the depth chart at kicker, they have put themselves in a good position heading into the season. Byrum is also number one on the depth chart as the kickoff man but Tuberville says one player has made a run at Byrum and will be someone to watch in the next week.
"A kid named Morgan Hull," Tuberville says. "He's from Decatur's Austin High School. We had tryouts and they came out. We can only have 120 on the team so we only had a few slots open. He came out and impressed the coaches on the early one Monday. I don't even think he's had pads on yet. He's got a strong leg but next week will tell the story on that. Wesley is booming them and we're going to kick the guy that is the most consistent.
"Sunday and Tuesday will be his big days," he adds. "He's only kickoffs and I would love for somebody else to kick the ball off and let Wesley and Graham be just the field goal guys and let them focus on that. He's got a lot of potential. Is he going to do it? We'll wait and see."
The Tigers will take Saturday off before returning back to the practice field Sunday at 4:15 to begin game week in preparation for Kansas State. Kickoff for the opening contest against the Wildcats is set for 6:45 on ESPN.