Kicking Game Emphasized at Final Practice

Auburn, Ala.--Auburn wrapped up on-the-field preparations for Saturday night's football season opener with a heavy emphasis on kicking game at Thursday's practice.

The Tigers spent about 40 minutes on punting, kicking and coverage followed by 45 minutes of team work and then closed the session with work on the two-minute drill.

One of Tuberville's major concerns going into preseason was the kicking game. He said on Thursday that group looked "good" as the Tigers head into Saturday night's home game vs. Kansas State.

"We have a lot of younger guys, new faces, and obviously I am not talking just about the kicking and punting part," he noted. "I am talking about guys on the line of scrimmage. We are going to try to get as many of the backups in there as we can.

"We are going to play starters in the kicking game," Tuberville added. "We have done that before, but we are going to do it even more this year in the first game with new guys kicking and punting."

True freshman Wes Byrum is scheduled to handle field goals and kickoffs and redshirt freshman Ryan Shoemaker is the punter.

Kansas State has had success in the kicking game, something that Tuberville is well aware of going into the opener. "They do a lot of things. They run a lot of trick things, fake punts and all of that. It is good we had to work on that a lot. There will be a lot of carry over after this game.

"They are going to come in to win the game," the coach added. "We have to expect anything to happen. First game last year what helped us win the game was the fake punt."

Brandon Cox switched jerseys at Thursday's practice with tailback Brad Lester. Cox wore No. 1 while Lester was in Cox's No. 12. It is a Thursday practice traditon that goes back to 2004 when Ronnie Brown and Carnell Williams would swap jerseys for a day.

Tuberville had praise on Thursday for a junior wide receiver. "I am really proud of Robert Dunn," the coach said. "He has matured and grown up. I think he is going to be a difference for us. Your inside receiver has a lot of responsibility in terms of reading coverages and blitzes and things. Then we have Prechae (senior Prechae Rodriguez) on the other side and Rod (Rodgeriqus Smith). They are all doing good." Dunn is also getting reps at the outside receivers.

In other news:

*Senior Leon Hart has made major improvement with his ankle injury in recent days and he has a chance to seeing significant action in the opener. Offensive line coach Hugh Nall said that Hart will have a shot to win the starting right guard spot taken over by redshirt freshman Mike Berry. "Leon Hart looked good," Tuberville said.

*Tuberville said there is nothing new on the status of tailback Brad Lester, whose availability for the opener is uncertain due to an academic question. Lester joined his teammates at Thursday's practice. "I haven't heard anything else," Tuberville said. "He is raring to go." Tuberville said if Lester plays, "his scenario would be to get about 12 to 15 carries."

*The Tigers will have a team meeting with Tuberville at 8 p.m. after his 7 p.m. Tiger Talk radio show. The head coach goes over the schedule for the weekend and details such as the celebration rule and how he wants his players to manage the game as individuals and as a group.

ESPN's Ron Franklin and Holly Rowe talk to Tommy Tuberville at Thursday's practice. Franklin will call the game on Saturday night and Rowe will be the sideline reporter. Franklin will be a guest on Thursday's edition of Inside the Auburn Tigers Radio.

*ESPN play by play Ron Franklin attended practice along with sideline reporter Holly Rowe.

*In addition to the five prospects from the state of Florida scheduled to take official visits this weekend, Tuberville said he expects to have a lot of other prospects in town to watch the Tigers play Kansas State.

*Wide receiver coach Greg Knox says it is questionable whether freshman wide receiver Chris Slaughter gets playing time in the opener as the newcomer continues to learn the offense.

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