Wounded Tigers Return for Tuesday Practice

A practice report on the Tigers features comments from a trio of Auburn football players.

Auburn, Ala.--After taking Monday off the Auburn football Tigers put the full pads on Tuesday for an up-tempo workout preparing for Saturday's SEC opener vs. Mississippi State.

The kickers worked out in the stadium, but punter Ryan Shoemaker, who is trying to recover from a dislocated elbow suffered in the overtime loss to South Florida, wasn't able to practice and is questionable for this week's game.

If Shoemaker can't punt, freshman walk-on Patrick Tatum is expected to handle that assignment and field goal kicker Wes Byrum would be the backup punter. Tatum averaged 38.3 yards on three punts vs. USF after Shoemaker was hurt trying to make a tackle.

Byrum is dealing with an injury issue, too. "I didn't kick (kickoff or punt) at all today, I just did field goals," the freshman says. "They haven't said much to me about it, but if something happens in the game I am sure I will punt, too."

Byrum, who is getting treatment for an ankle sprain, is 6-7 on field goals. He hopes to be able to resume his kickoff duties vs. Mississippi State, but won't know until closer to game time if he will be able to run well enough to handle that assignment.

"The ankle is coming along," Byrum says. "I am still getting the treatments."

Senior safety Eric Brock says the Tigers had a typical Tuesday practice on defense. "It is usually a physical practice for us just to get our mindset right. Today was really up tempo. Guys were hitting, running to the ball and flying around."

Brock notes that fellow safety Aairon Savage, who missed the USF game with an ankle injury, practiced on Tuesday. Defensive coordinator Will Muschamp says he is hopeful that the sophomore will be able to play vs. Mississippi State.

Brock notes that another key defensive player, middle linebacker Tray Blackmon, "did pretty good" at Tuesday's practice. Blackmon missed the second half of the Kansas State game with an ankle sprain and all of the USF contest.

Another member of the secondary, cornerback Jonathan Wilhite, is sidelined with a hamstring problem he re-aggravated on Saturday night.

"We need all of our guys out there with us," Brock says. "I hope those guys get better because we are going to need them. It is a long season. We are going to need everybody to contribute to win."

A defensive teammate not expected to be joining Brock on the field this week is linebacker Merrill Johnson. He is still recovering from a shoulder injury suffered vs. USF and did not practice on Tuesday.

Both the defense and offense worked against the scout teams on Tuesday. Another fifth-year senior, tight end Cole Bennett says the Tigers got a lot accomplished.

"I think the guys are bouncing back well," he says. "The guys had a lot of enthusiasm and were moving around. The coaches are pushing us and telling us to finish and things like that. The guys definitely realize we have things to work on. We don't want to lose two in a row. I feel like it was a good day of practice."

In the Tommy Tuberville Era, the Tigers are 8-0 in SEC openers. Kickoff time for this year's first SEC game is 11:30 a.m. from Jordan-Hare Stadium with television coverage on LFS. Mississippi State, a 45-0 loser to LSU in the opener, rebounded with a 38-17 win at Tulane in game two.

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