Auburn, Ala.--The Auburn Tigers (4-2) put the finishing touches on preparations for the Arkansas game with a hour and a half practice in shorts and shoulder pads Thursday morning. Coach Tommy Tuberville says the day continued a solid week of work for his team as it prepares to face the Razorbacks.
"It has been good practices all week," Tuberville says. "There have been real good practices. Hopefully it turn over into playing like we practiced."
The news on the injury front isn't as good as the Auburn coaches would have liked as both Quentin Groves and Aairon Savage were held out of Thursday's practice while linebackers Tray Blackmon and Merrill Johnson both saw limited action. The news may be a little better for center Jason Bosley though as he did some work with the offense. Tuberville says for all it's a waiting game at the moment.
"Bosley took a few snaps, but not many," Tuberville says. "Quentin didn't practice. He's not ready to go. Blackmon took a few snaps. He's probably about 80 percent. Savage didn't practice. We're not getting a lot of help back from the guys coming back.
"We've just got to go and do what we did last week and the guys that are going to be there are going to play hard and play with consistency. We have to play hard on the road and get our minds right."
With Bosley still very much a question mark, Tuberville says they have continued to work true freshman Ryan Pugh at center and senior King Dunlap at left tackle. Tuberville says both players have responded to their call to arms this week in practice.
"They did fine," Tuberville says. "King has moved up to number one tackle and Ryan has moved inside."
Several young players will make the trip to Arkansas in case they're needed such as Quindarius Carr at wide receiver, who isn't in the plans to play, but could in an emergency. Tuberville says another young player that will travel and likely play is linebacker Josh Bynes. After burning his redshirt last week, Bynes will likely see some action because of the injury situation at linebacker, particularly the slow recovery from both Johnson and Blackmon.
"He (Johnson) took some snaps," Tuberville says. "In this game, with a bruised shoulder, it's not the perfect game to come back in. We always wait until we get through Thursday's practice to see who can help and who we can count on. If they can't help they won't go.
"(Tray) he wasn't 100 percent ready and he tweaked it a little bit (against Florida)," he adds. "That's going to happen with an ankle. It's just not real stable. (Josh) is practicing a lot and he'll play this week. He's doing good. He just has a lot to learn."
Patrick Lee defends Quindarius Carr at an earlier practice. Tuberville says Carr will make the trip, but won't play unless needed.
This week will be a different challenge for Auburn's defense than any it has seen this season. After facing spread attacks from Kansas State, South Florida and Florida most noticeably, Auburn will take on the power ground game of Arkansas led by Darren McFadden and Felix Jones.
Auburn's defense comes into the game with a lot of confidence after shutting down Vanderbilt last week and standout wide receiver Earl Bennett. Holding him to just four catches for 31 yards, Auburn cornerback Patrick Lee says it was big for the defense, but they've got to get focused with a different mindset this week.
"It was a confidence boost, but as corners we're going down to tackle now," Lee says. "We have to buckle up for that."
Facing a team that runs the ball roughly 70 percent of the time, Auburn's defensive backs will be involved more in run support this week than at any point so far this season. Because of that it makes it a big week to watch for play-action passes down the field. Lee says the concentration on the run makes for a hard game for a defensive back because everything that is involved.
"This is real tough," Lee says. "If they run the ball outside, as a cornerback, we have to make tackles. It's going to be a tough, hard-nosed ball game. We have to get ready."
Auburn and Arkansas square off at 6:45 Saturday night in a game televised by ESPN. The Tigers lost last season to the Razorbacks 27-10, but are looking for their third consecutive win in Fayetteville.