Sunday Practice Notes

Notes from Sunday's practice for the Auburn Tigers as they get ready for this Saturday's season opener.

Left tackle King Dunlap got some light work in during Sunday's practice but didn't go through team drills according to Coach Tommy Tuberville. He said the big senior should be back on Tuesday after rolling his ankle last week in practice. Offensive line Coach Hugh Nall said both Andrew McCain and Antwoin Daniels worked at left tackle with Daniels also a possibility to back up Lee Ziemba at right tackle and also Mike Berry at right guard. Leon Hart did some snapping in 7-on-7 work but is still held out of contact work at the moment.

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Tuberville said a depth chart will be released on Tuesday and when it is one of the most intriguing positions will be at wide receiver. There is little doubt that Rod Smith, Prechae Rodriguez and Robert Dunn are the first three guys on the list but after that it's still up in the air according to position Coach Greg Knox. Offensive coordinator Al Borges said he believes it will be James Swinton backing up Smith with a battle between Montez Billings and Chris Slaughter behind Rodriguez. Behind Dunn it appears Tim Hawthorne has stepped up his game to get into the playing rotation.

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Safety Zac Etheridge said on Sunday that he's excited about the opportunity to possibly be the starter on opening night but knows he's still got work to do in order to hold off Eric Brock. Etheridge complimented Brock on his play and said the senior is a big reason why he's become a better player at the position this fall.

Etheridge is a more physical player since gaining almost 15 pounds to his 2006 playing weight. He's now around the 205 mark.

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Defensive coordinator Will Muschamp has an intense personality to begin with, but he says he's getting even more excited now that it's game week and kickoff is just six days away. The players are excited as well and cornerback Jonathan Wilhite said he's ready to get the season going and he's thankful he's made it to this point healthy and ready to go.

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Linebackers coach James Willis also says he's really eager to get things started but with just three practices remaining before kickoff to the 2007 season, he says his biggest area of concern is in communication. Look for all of the linebackers to be making the calls on the field with junior Merrill Johnson one of the leaders because of his experience and his knowledge of the defense.

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Many of the players enjoyed Saturday's off day from a mental standpoint as much as physically. Robert Dunn and Montez Billings had a competition to see who could sleep longer. Dunn said Billings won because he sleeps like a polar bear.

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After backing up Kenny Irons and Brad Lester last season, Ben Tate sounds excited about an increased opportunity as a sophomore. He's the number one at the ‘F' back (Ronnie Brown role) with Carl Stewart easing back into the position, and should get some carries from the tailback spot as well.

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Tray Blackmon said he's been carrying around his playbook with him everywhere he goes and he joked about actually playing a full season this time around. Blackmon will be making calls in the middle along with Johnson as he eases into his role as the starting middle linebacker.

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At the wide receiver position Coach Greg Knox said that the still banged up Montez Billings is still a question mark for the depth chart depending on how quickly he can get back to full speed and also how much knowledge he's maintained from early in preseason camp. "It shouldn't take him long to pick back up on where we're at with everything," Knox noted. Also banged up, redshirt freshman Tim Hawthorne is back practicing and Knox said he's helping his stock. "He's doing a little better. He's still not 100 percent yet but Tim is a smart enough kid that he picks everything up pretty easily. He's still not running the way we need him to run but he's working."


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