Tuberville Talks Lester, Freshmen

News and notes from Tommy Tuberville's Tuesday Press Conference are featured.

Auburn, Ala.--The rumors have been running rampant on the Internet that tailback Brad Lester, who was suspended for the Cotton Bowl at the end of last season, would be suspended for the 2007 opener against Kansas State. Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville briefly commented on the situation when asked at Tuesday's weekly press conference.

"To this point he is playing," Tuberville said of Lester. "That's all I know. We'll talk about it as we go along (this week). Brad is our starter. The running back position is going to be running back by committee again like it has been over the years. With Carl Stewart coming back we feel real good about our running back situation. With Tristan (Davis) hurt it really put us in a bind. With Tristan hurt and Carl hurt we were down to three. We think that Brad, Mario (Fannin) and Ben Tate, whoever starts at that position from those three guys, that Carl Stewart is going to be a big factor in how this football team is going to move the ball on the ground."

Could the Lester situation change before Saturday?

"It could," Tuberville noted. "Anything could change."

The door was left open by Tuberville because a change could come after a meeting on Thursday when Lester's status could be decided but that's not a sure thing and it could be Saturday before it's known.. It concerns the academic situation that kept Lester out of last year's Cotton Bowl game in Dallas. Auburn won't know until then whether the junior will be available for Saturday's game or not.

All running backs were off limits to the media on Tuesday.

Lester has been practicing with the team and is listed as the No. 1 tailback on the depth chart released on Tuesday.

Wide receiver Montez Billings (hamstring) and right guard Leon Hart (ankle) were noticeably absent from the depth chart.

"Montez has been hurt the last few weeks," Tuberville explained. "He has not practiced, will not play in this game and might not dress out." Billings may be available against South Florida on Sept. 8, Tuberville added.

"Leon went today--not full speed all the time but went today. He could play. I'll know more tomorrow (Wednesday)."

The Tigers are expected to play a larger number of freshmen than normal. Redshirt freshmen right guard Mike Berry and linebacker Craig Stevens are listed as starters and Zac Etheridge is listed as a co-starter at safety with Eric Brock. True freshman Lee Ziemba is expected to get the start at right tackle and there are many others from the 2007 signing class that could have an impact on Saturday. Tuberville addressed those candidates at the press conference.

Tuberville on center Ryan Pugh: "We'll wait and see how Jason Bosley plays, but there is a lot of competition at that position."

Receiver Chris Slaughter: "Chris Slaughter hasn't been with us but a couple of weeks, but it a natural at wide receiver. Obviously we would like for him to be a little bigger. He'll gain weight as we go and get bigger and stronger. He has great natural ability to play wide receiver. Coach (Greg) Knox has spent a lot of time with him in the short period of time he's been here, so it'll be interesting to see how well he plays. He's not well-versed in everything we're doing and he will make some mistakes, but we feel like as we go through the year he's really going to be an addition to the offense."

Safety Michael McNeil: "Michael McNeil is exactly what we thought and he'll be an outstanding football player here at Auburn, in this conference and in college football for the next four years. We'll ease him into the lineup as we go through the season."

Linebacker Brent Slusher: "We do have him scheduled to play, but it will depend a lot on how he reacts to his jammed wrist in the next few practices. Hopefully he'll overcome that because we think he has the ability to play this year."

Kickers Wes Byrum and Morgan Hull: "Wes Byrum will be our field goal man and he could be our kickoff guy. We'll wait to see who will do the kickoff duties this weekend. We'll see as we go through the week who has the hot hand. It really doesn't make any difference. Wes has kicked well. Morgan has kicked well. Wes has obviously been with us longer and it's whoever is going to be the more consistent. We'll watch them even up to warm-ups."

Linebacker Bo Harris: "He will play. He's really looked well in practice and will play. I think he's got a chance to push somebody for a starting position as we go through the year."

Antoine Carter: "He is probably the most natural defensive end we've brought in here in a while. He's fast, he's quick, he's got a lot of speed and he's a very disciplined player to only be 17 or 18 years old and he will play. He will give us an opportunity to maybe play Sen'Derrick Marks back inside some."

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