Tigers Get Physical Again at Tuesday Practice

A report on Auburn's football practice features comments from players and Tommy Tuberville.

Auburn, Ala.--Auburn players who returned to the practice field on Tuesday after an extra day off say the coaching staff's decision to not practice on Sunday was a good one.

"Since we aren't going to have an off-week until after the Georgia game (Nov. 10th), it makes sense to take some time off and let us get some rest," says senior tight end Cole Bennett. "I thought we came out and had a really good Tuesday practice. They was a lot of energy and everybody was excited about getting ready for LSU."

Tommy Tuberville agrees with his fifth-year senior night end. "We needed that, we needed a day off," Tuberville says. "I noticed that last week. We talked a little bit about it. I thought about challenging them before the game, if we won the game at Arkansas...but I didn't want to put it (giving the team a day off) on that. Once we got the lead at halftime, I told them if we won that game I was going to give them Sunday off and they about ran over me out of the dressing room.

"A little motivation never hurts sometimes, but we are not as physically spent as we were mentally," Tuberville says. "These guys need a break. They didn't get into bed to about 4 o'clock (after the Arkansas game) and it is going to be worse this week. They need to be able to mentally get away from the coaches and football for 24 hours. I think that helped. They came back today fired up and ready to go and had a good practice."

Auburn will have a late night road trip to LSU this week. The kickoff will come shortly after 8 p.m. on Saturday from Tiger Stadium where the fifth-ranked Bayou Bengals will be waiting for 17th-ranked Auburn. Both teams are 3-1 in the SEC for the game that will be televised by ESPN.

"We had a good, physical practice today," fifth-year senior defensive lineman Josh Thompson notes. "I thought we got a lot accomplished. Everybody is excited about this week's game and knows how important it is."

Even though the Tigers have seven games in the books, Tuberville says he still sees a need for a lot of contact work in practice, something that his squad has done each week since starting the season 1-2.

"The reason we did this, it wasn't punishment for going back to physical practices after the first few weeks," the coach says. "It was more we knew we were playing more younger guys. You can't get your fundamentals intact unless you practice. Football is a game you have to practice, and push, and shove, and hit, and you can't just do it against the scout team.

"Our best players go against our best players on both sides of the ball. It is a lot of competition, but they enjoy it. They look forward to the beginning of practice. When you practice in the morning, sometimes you need to wake them up so we did a few drills early in Tuesday's practice where it is three on three, one on one, two on two, guys screaming and hollering, just kind of getting the blood going so we can get mentally right for the rest of practice. Coaches do a good job of waking them up. I think it has been a big factor for us."

The Tigers practiced without starting left tackle Ryan Pugh on Tuesday. He is recovering from an ankle he sprained in the 9-7 win vs. Arkansas. Tuberville says he hopes the true freshman will be back for Wednesday's workout.

In Pugh's absence, senior King Dunlap ran with the first team at left tackle. Both Pugh and Dunlap graded 93 percent overall vs. Arkansas. Pugh was in for 50 snaps vs. the Razorbacks before being carried off the field.

Linebacker Merrill Johnson, who was in for just one snap on defense vs. the Razorbacks, could play a larger role this week as he continues to make progress from a shoulder injury. The junior was able to practice at full speed on Tuesday for the first time since being injured in the first half of game two vs. South Florida.

Tuberville said that Johnson could have played more if he was needed, but noted the other linebackers were playing so well it didn't make sense to take them out of the game.

Safety Aairon Savage, who missed the Arkansas game with a knee problem, is questionable for the LSU game. "Aarion Savage played and practiced some today," Tuberville said. "He is still probably a few days away from being the player he needs to be to be to play in a game like this."

Defensive end Quentin Groves, who missed the Arkansas game with his three dislocated toes, practiced on Tuesday. Tuberville says he is not sure if Groves will play vs. LSU. "He is still a little sore," the coach says. "The guys in front of him are playing awfully well and we are not going to play a guy who is 70 or 80 percent in front of guys who are going 100 percent and playing well. There is not a lot of dropoff there in terms of making plays. When we get him back 100 percent, we know it is going to be a luxury to have him because we will have more depth and a guy who is 100 percent healthy."

LSU brings a 6-1 record into the contest while Auburn is 5-2 overall.

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