Going into game three, Auburn's SEC home at home on Saturday vs. Mississippi State, Tommy Tuberville says he sees progress with the starting five of tackles Lee Ziemba and King Dunlap, guards Tyronne Greene and Mike Berry plus center Jason Bosley. Dunlap is the only player who was a full-time starter last season.
"It is much improved from the first game to the second game," Auburn's head coach said. "We played with a lot more intensity in terms of what to do. If you don't know what to do you are guessing a lot of times when you are a younger player. You can't play full speed, but the effort was really good. I thought the protection was better on Brandon Cox. We gave up one sack. I think the week before we gave up five.
"They are not near where they will be in five or six weeks," Tuberville said. "They will get better every week and we are sticking with them knowing that we have got good athletes there.
Redshirt freshman Mike Berry has started the first two games at right guard.
"Most will be back with us for the next few years, not that we are building for the future--we want to continue to win games this year--it is always good to know that the guys you are preparing are going to be with you for a while. You want to build their confidence and you want them to learn. Of course, they are learning in tough situations against good football teams. It won't be any different this week playing a very good defense in Mississippi State."
The Tigers have kicked seven field goals in two games and scored four touchdowns, but only three were by the offense. The disappointing play of senior Brandon Cox, who is starting for a third straight season, has been a subject Auburn's head football coach has been asked multiple times following Auburn's victory over Kansas State and overtime loss to South Florida.
Asked on Wednesday if he has plans to take the redshirt off of highly-regarded freshman quarterback Kodi Burns, one of Auburn's 2007 bluechip recruits, Tuberville said, "No we won't unless, of course, we continue to have problems with our offense and I am not blaming it on Brandon, but of course everything starts with your quarterback offensively.
"Blake Field is our backup quarterback. Now we have practiced Kodi with the second team and the third team since he has been here, not just trying to get him ready for possibly a game this year, but also to get him ready for having enough snaps in this fall, in terms of practice, to go into spring practice and really know what he is doing. We haven't given up on the thought of Kodi not being a player this year for us. Again, he is a couple plays away from injury of being possibly even our starter.
"We have got a good quarterback in Brandon," Tuberville added. "You normally don't play more than one quarterback in college football games. In terms of how we play, obviously we are not putting up a lot of points. Brandon is our quarterback. Blake Field is number two. When you get to number three it is either Kodi or Neil Caudle.
"We would love to redshirt him, but again we always practice him getting ready to play him in terms of you always have to have three quarterbacks that know the offense. We have worked him like he is the number three because Neil Caudle also didn't go through much of two-a-days because he got hurt in one of our scrimmages so he has had the luxury of getting a lot of practice time through two-a-days and through the last couple of weeks just because Neil Caudle, who was here last year, separated his shoulder."
The Tigers will be facing a Mississippi State team that is coming off a 38-17 road win at Tulane. In that game the MSU defense allowed Tulane only six total yards and no first downs in the second half.
Auburn is coming off a discouraging overtime loss to South Florida. Considering the Tigers are getting ready to face what is expected to be a challenging SEC schedule, Tuberville was asked how he thought the Tigers will respond to the challenge.
"You always take anything, whether you win or you lose, and you try to build on it," the coach said. "We know the schedule coming up is fixing to be brutal. It starts this week with SEC play and our players understand that. We took it on as a challenge at the beginning of the year knowing we were going to play two very tough non-conference games early and that we would know a lot about our team going into the first SEC game this weekend. We do.
"We know a lot more about our team because we played those types of teams early. Now we have to build on that. Obviously, you don't have momentum coming out of a loss, but we do have momentum in terms of, hey, we played very hard and we did get a lot better, and we can continue to improve and make this team a lot better. And, we are going to have to and our players know that."