AU Uses Last Chance for Contact Before Opener

A report on Auburn's Wednesday practice session is featured.

Auburn, Ala.--During Wednesday night's practice, the Auburn Tigers went through contact drills for most of the session at the practice fields in shorts and shoulder pads before moving a block over to Jordan-Hare Stadium to fine-tune preparations for the season-opener on Saturday.

"It was a good practice and the guys are fired up," said head coach Tommy Tuberville. "I think the mentality of the team is very good. They're anxious to play and they understand the fight they are in. It's going to be a tough game.

"We decided to (hit) to not have a long break from early tomorrow morning to game time Saturday night," he added. "It went good, then we took the team over to the stadium. We wanted to make sure the communication was good on the kicking game, substitutions, sideline organization and all of that."

Center Ryan Pugh is one of a handful of true freshmen who may see the field for the Tigers on Saturday. With that in mind, Auburn has been spending extra time on minor details.

Tailback Brad Lester, as he has done several times this preseason, missed the beginning portion of practice because of a late class, but went through drills and Tuberville says he is still the starter at the moment.

"Brad had a late class and got out there about 20 minutes after we started," Tuberville noted. "He did good. He's our starter, and if anything happens I'll let you know. But right now he's our starter."

If Lester is suspended for an academic issue stemming from the fall semester of 2006, Tuberville declined to comment on a timeline. "Let's wait until after this weekend," he said. "We'll know a lot more then."

Leon Hart is shown at Wednesday's practice.

Right guard Leon Hart practiced on Wednesday with a heavily taped left ankle and may be available on Saturday. "We're going to look at the (practice) film and I'll talk to Hugh (Nall) about it," Tuberville explained.

King Dunlap, who rolled an ankle on Sunday, practiced again and is the starting left tackle heading into the season.

Chris Evans is backup to Tray Blackmon at middle linebacker.

With the opener against the Wildcats getting closer and closer, everything from time management, substitutions and off the field preparation is coming together.

"I had all of the seniors over to my house last night (Tuesday)," Tuberville said. "We had a long talk about them, their preparation and getting the underclassmen prepared. This is a very talkative group. They're into it and they know this is their legacy--this team. They had a lot of common sense about the season coming up and what they felt like were our strengths and weaknesses. I let them talk and it was good to hear them say a lot of things about their fellow teammates."


Part of the reason for the move to the stadium in the second half of Wednesday's session was to get a feel for the atmosphere and the new $2.9 million jumbotron in the South end zone.

"We hooked up the jumbotron because we wanted the players to see it for the first time," Tuberville said. "We didn't want that to be Saturday night and be looking for themselves on the jumbotron. It's a really nice scoreboard and I think it's really going to add something to Jordan-Hare Stadium. Fans are going to enjoy it and it's going to be very beneficial to all of us."

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After beating Washington State 40-14 in the first game last season, Auburn improved to 5-3 under Tuberville in season openers. Kansas State has won 17 consecutive season openers.

Auburn leads the all-time series with Kansas State 2-0. The Tigers won 45-32 in Manhattan in 1978 and 26-18 in Auburn in 1979.


Auburn will have its final practice on Thursday morning before taking the traditional bus ride on Friday afternoon to spend the night in LaGrange, Ga. Kickoff on Saturday is scheduled for 6:45 p.m. on ESPN with Ron Franklin as the play-by-play, Ed Cunningham on color analysis and Holly Rowe from the sidelines.

SEC football gets underway on Thursday at 7 p.m. as the second-ranked LSU Tigers visit Mississippi State, which will also be televised on ESPN.

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