Game Week Preparations Big for Tigers

Auburn practiced for just over two hours on Wednesday evening in preparation for the Florida game on Saturday. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. CDT on ESPN.

Auburn, Ala.--As the Tigers prepare for the No. 4-ranked Florida Gators, game week preparations have been as important as ever against a team with a lot of diversity.

"There's so much you have to do to go over their offense and their defense," head coach Tommy Tuberville says. "We've actually had to put a little more time in practice than we normally have to (simulate)."

Both walk-on safety/quarterback Jonathan Vickers and Kodi Burns have posed as #15 Tim Tebow this week.

"We've got Vickers playing scout team quarterback and he's big, tall and strong and we put Kodi over there. Some of the plays he runs is the same thing. That helps in some areas, but it's hard to do."

The Florida offense may be without receiver Andre Caldwell, and Percy Harvin has been slowed with a hip pointer suffered against Ole Miss. Even so, the Gators still have plenty of weapons with Tebow leading the charge.

"I think the thing with Florida is they are a spread-em-out team," says defensive end Quentin Groves. "We've faced two of them. South Florida and New Mexico State, they try to spread you out and do all the little things that they do. The thing with Florida is that if you come out and play ball and play physical defense and physical offense, that's how you maintain and play with Florida. It's going to be kind of hard to beat Florida because they have so many weapons. We're just going to have to contain them."

Tray Blackmon's return to the lineup could give the Tigers a boost trying to slow down the powerful Gator attack. Tuberville says he expects Blackmon to play on Saturday, but it may be in a reserve role behind Chris Evans, who is also slowed with injuries.

"Tray is out (at practice) and he's looking pretty good," Tuberville notes. "He's still got a little limp, but he's going to have to work through."

Blackmon has missed the last three and a half games with an ankle injury.

Tristan Davis may also be available in a limited role against Florida. He broke a bone in his big toe during preseason and has yet to play this year.

"Tristan is practicing well, still a little sore, and I think we'll be able to get a little out of him this week," Tuberville explains. "We don't want to push him too much.

"He hasn't done a whole lot," he adds. "He's working at running back and of course he's working at kickoff return. He needs to come a little ways before Saturday. Pat Lee is faster than he is right now, and you don't want to put him out there just because he used to do it. You want to put the best one out there. I'd like to start using him soon because Pat Lee needs to rest a little more. He's playing a lot on special teams and playing about 70 plays a game on defense. He's not Tristan Davis yet. He's not the flash that we normally see."

Tuberville says weight and conditioning may be an issue, but Davis maintains that he's dropped five pounds from 215 to 210 since the injury.

The news is not so good for Merrill Johnson, who is recovering from a shoulder injury. "Merrill Johnson is not even going to travel with us," Tuberville said.

Along with Burns and Brandon Cox, Blake Field is expected to travel as the third quarterback for the Tigers' first road game of the season.

Burns was the starter against New Mexico State, but Cox took most of the snaps. Both are expected to play against the Gators.

"We've actually gotten a little better each week," Tuberville says of the offense. "The turnover situation was just killing us. I think the Kodi situation is going to help us to have a change up and it'll help Brandon. We've got to be a little more diverse and adding Kodi is going to help us."

As for the Florida defense, Tuberville sees similarities in some of his old units pre-Will Muschamp. "They're not a multiple defense," he says. "They're a little bit like we used to be with more base stuff. They do a lot of movement up front, but don't run a lot of coverages. They rely on their speed and quickness, do a good job and they're well coached. They're a real schooled fundamental team."

Offensive line coach Hugh Nall went with three true freshmen against the Aggies and that is the likely lineup once again. Ryan Pugh has replaced King Dunlap (elbow) and Chaz Ramsey is playing ahead of Mike Berry (shoulder).

"Mike has come back quicker than King," Tuberville notes. "King hasn't done a whole lot this week. I don't know whether Coach Nall is going to take him or not. We'll have to wait and see on that one. Mike has gotten a lot better, his shoulder is better and he's practiced some."

Punter Patrick Tatum has missed the last two practices because of a death in the family, but Tuberville expects him to travel along with the other punter, Ryan Shoemaker. As many as 10 true freshmen may travel and play in The Swamp out of the allotted 70 including Burns, Pugh, Ramsey, Tatum, Lee Ziemba, Chris Slaughter, Wes Byrum, Antoine Carter, Bo Harris and Michael McNeil.

"That's by far the most since I've been around coaching college ball," Tuberville says. "That's a lot."


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