AU Looking for Game Two Improvement

Following Thursday's practice, Coach Tommy Tuberville discusses the health of his team and expectations for Saturday's game vs. South Florida.

Auburn, Ala.--Tommy Tuberville's Tigers put the finishing touches on their game plan on Thursday as the Tigers prepare for Saturday night's non-conference test against the South Florida Bulls.

The head coach put his team through a practice that lasted slightly more than an hour as the Tigers worked on the kicking game before fine-tuning the offensive and defensive game plans prior to concluding with work on their hurry-up offense.

Tuberville noted that several key players who were injured in the opener practiced at much closer to full speed on Thursday and said he is hopeful they will be ready for action vs. the Bulls.

"Tray (starting middle linebacker Tray Blackmon) and Aairon (starting safety Aairon Savage) took most of the snaps," Tuberville said. "Wesley (kicker Wes Byrum) kicked well so it looks like we will be close to 100 percent. We will see what happens in the next 48 hours."

Blackmon, Savage and Byrum all suffered ankle injuries in the opening night 23-13 victory vs. Kansas State. Byrum continued to kick field goals after being hurt trying to make a tackle on the opening kickoff of the season. Byrum is expected to handle the field goals again this week and may kick off, however, those duties could be handled by Zach Kutch and freshman walk-on Morgan Hull. All three kicked off vs. Kansas State.

Cornerback Jonathan Wilhite (hamstring) should be ready to go full speed this week, Tuberville noted. A player who missed the opener after rehabbing from a hamstring injury, wide receiver Montez Billings, will be available for action in game two, offensive coordinator Al Borges said on Thursday.

"The biggest thing this week is that we have to get our intensity back," Tuberville said. "I thought we played hard last week. We we just lost our concentration sometimes, but found a way to win. That is the biggest key. Sometimes you have got to win games like that, but we would like to play better on both sides of the ball and the kicking game. This will be a good test for us, a major test."

Tuberville said he believes his team understands the challenge that will be waiting on Saturday night from the 1-0 Bulls, a team that looked impressive while winning nine games last season. One of those wins was against a Top 10 West Virginia team on the road in Morgantown.

"All you have to do is show them film from last year, and the year before, and who they have played and how they have played," the Auburn coach pointed out. "A lot of the players on their team we looked at and recruited. A lot of our guys know some of the guys on their team. Now-a-days anybody can beat anybody. You have got to to go out and play."

Auburn's coach noted that South Florida didn't show a lot in its opening night win against Division I-AA Elon. "I am sure they didn't show their hand playing against Elon," he said.

"This is a game where we have got to make improvement," Tuberville said. "We are getting ready to start SEC next week. We can't be worrying about the little things like we were worried about this week after last week's game. Playing tough competition, you find out where your problems are and it gives you an opportunity to work on them. We saw them last week. We worked on them. We will see if we have improved."

In other news:

Quentin Groves

*The Master Coaches Survey announced that senior defensive end Quentin Groves has been named the national Defensive Player of the Week for his play vs. Kansas State. The senior had five tackles, three for losses with two sacks and one caused fumble that set up a touchdown scoop and score play by Antonio Coleman.

*Tailback Brad Lester is still limited to practice and has not been cleared to play in games.

*Wide receiver Terrell Zachery and safety Lorenzo Ferguson will not play this week. Tuberville said both are still in his "doghouse" as was the case last week.

*Offensive coordinator Borges said quarterback Brandon Cox had a good week of practice and bounced back nicely after being bruised and sore earlier in the week after a physical game vs. Kansas State.

*Defensive coordinator Will Muschamp said he was encouraged by the progress injured defensive players Blackmon and Savage made this week and the plan is to play them vs. South Florida.

The first-ever Auburn vs. South Florida game will be televised on ESPN2 at 8 p.m. CDT from Jordan-Hare Stadium.


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