Lester to Return for Game Six

News on the status of running back Brad Lester is featured in this report.

Auburn, Ala.—Suspended junior Brad Lester, who was projected to be the starting tailback this season for Auburn, has been cleared to play again for the football Tigers.

Inside the Auburn Tigers was told on Friday that Lester will be allowed to play in game six this year, an Oct. 6th home date vs. the Vanderbilt Commodores. That means he is serving a six-game suspension.

Lester will miss this week's game vs. New Mexico State and next week's first road game, a trip to Florida Field to play the defending national champion Florida Gators.

Lester was suspended for the trip to the Cotton Bowl due to an academic issue, which wasn't resolved until this week when AU academic officials made a ruling and the university got word from the NCAA, which has oversight on clearing suspended athletes to resume intercollegiate competition.

Head coach Tommy Tuberville said in August he expected to have the junior back in the lineup on opening night vs. Kansas State, but the situation did not get resolved in time for the first team tailback to play that night or in games two and three.

"I'm happy to have this behind me," Lester said on Friday. "I'm looking forward to moving on and playing in the Vanderbilt game."

Tuberville noted that it will be a boost to the team when he returns. "I'm proud of Brad's patience and how he's handled this throughout the process," Tuberville said. "We're excited that we'll have him back on the playing field in the near future."

Lester has been a key part of Auburn's offense the last two seasons after redshirting in 2004. As a freshman he carried the ball 52 times for 339 yards and scored five touchdowns. He was Auburn's starting tailback for the Arkansas game until being injured, opening the door for Kenny Irons.

As the backup to Irons last season, Lester rushed for 510 yards on 104 carries and added nine touchdowns while starting two games. In his career, Lester has 17 total touchdowns, including one on a kickoff return and two on receptions.

For his career, the 5-11, 194 Lester is averaging 5.2 yards per carry and has caught nine passes for 139 yards (15.4 yards per catch). In 2005 he became the first Auburn player since Tim Carter in 2000 to return a kickoff for a touchdown when he brought a kick back 93 yards for a score against Ball State.

Because of an academic issue, Lester was suspended from Auburn's Cotton Bowl victory over Nebraska in January. He did not make the trip to Dallas. He returned to the team in the spring and has practiced with the Tigers this fall while waiting word on his status with the team. He got rotations with the first offense in practice this week in case he was cleared to play on Saturday night.

Without Lester in the lineup the first three games, Auburn has struggled in the running game. The situation has been compounded by an injury to fellow tailback Tristan Davis, who is not expected back for several weeks with a broken bone in his foot.

The Tigers, who are 1-2, will kick off without Lester at 6 p.m. Saturday vs. the 2-1 New Mexico State Aggies of the Western Athletic Conference at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

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