AU Back Won't Miss Ole Miss Linebacker

Tiger tailback Brad Lester discusses his return to action and this week's Auburn football game vs. Ole Miss.

Auburn, Ala.--Although he still needs to improve to get back to his average from his previous two seasons, junior Brad Lester says he is feeling good about the way he is running the football for the Auburn Tigers.

Lester missed the first five games of the season due to a suspension for academic reasons. He has played three games this year starting with a 13-carry day vs. Vanderbilt in which he gained 77 yards and rushed for two touchdowns in AU's 35-7 win.

A week later he carried the ball 21 times for 89 yards in Auburn's 9-7 road win at Arkansas.

Last Saturday night at LSU he was a bright spot for the Auburn offense by rushing for 68 yards on 16 carries and catching five passes for 56 yards as Coach Tommy Tuberville's Tigers lost 30-24.

"Last Saturday I felt the best running the football that I have felt in a long time," Lester says. "Coach (running backs coach Eddie Gran) told me it was probably going to take a couple of games to get back to where I used to be. I just felt real comfortable running the ball and am looking forward to playing some more."

Lester is averaging 4.7 yards per carry, which is below average of 4.9 yards per rush last year and 6.5 in 2005. He will look to improve on his numbers this Saturday vs. the Ole Miss Rebels as the 5-3 Tigers, who are 3-2 in the SEC, look for a fourth straight victory in the series they lead 23-8.

Despite Ole Miss struggling to a 2-6 record, including an 0-5 mark in the SEC, Lester remembers that the Rebels played Auburn a tough game last year and has respect for AU's next opponent. "They are real athletic although they are not as big as most defenses," says the tailback, whose team won 23-17 last October in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium as he netted 49 yards and a six-yard touchdown run on 14 carries.

"Because Ole Miss is athletic, if we don't start out fast they are the type of defense that can shut us down," Lester says. "If we don't come out and play like we are supposed to play this week, they can give us problems."

As is certainly the case with other running backs who play the Rebels this year, Lester says he is pleased that star linebacker Patrick Willis has moved on to the National Football League. "We watched film from last year and it seems like Willis and their other linebacker, number 48 (Rory Johnson), made every tackle against us. It is probably a good thing those guys are not back this season."

Willis was the most honored defensive player in Ole Miss history before moving on the the NFL's San Francisco '49ers this season. Winner of the Butkus and Lambert awards presented to the nation's top linebacker, he averaged an SEC-leading 11.4 tackles per game in 2006. He had 15 stops vs. Auburn last year in Oxford while Johnson added 12.

Auburn will be trying to bounce back from its last-second loss at LSU, something Lester says he is certain will happen, pointing out the Tigers won four straight prior to the LSU game after dropping early season games that went down to the final play vs. South Florida and Mississippi State.

On offense he will likely be joined this week by fellow junior Robert Dunn, who is practicing this week after being suspended for the LSU trip. Head coach Tommy Tuberville notes that it will be the call of wide receivers coach, Greg Knox, on when Dunn will play again and how much he will play.

"He's a good player," Lester says of Dunn. "We could use him, especially on special teams and stuff like that. He came back and apologized. Everybody makes mistakes. We accepted that and moved on. He is real good friends with a lot of people on the team and we understand that some stuff happens and he just made a bad decision. He bounced back and made the right decision."

Lester has 1,104 career rushing yards, which is 28th in Auburn history. He is just 41 yards away from moving past Tom Bryan (1964-66) to climb into 27th place on AU's all-time rushing list. Number 26 on the list, All-American fullback/kicker Ed Dyas (1958-60) rushed for 1,298 yards.

After missing six straight games including last season's Cotton Bowl, Lester says it is important to gain the trust of offensive coordinator Al Borges, running backs coach Eddie Gran and head coach Tommy Tuberville and prove they can count on him to be the main man at the tailback spot.

Lester also says after having success catching passes from Brandon Cox last week vs. LSU, that is something he is looking forward to seeing more of during Auburn's last four regular season games. "He (Gran) said they plan on doing it a lot more the rest of the season," the junior tailback points out.

After back-to-back road games at Arkansas and LSU, the Tigers will play at home the next two weeks vs. Ole Miss and Tennessee Tech, Auburn's homecoming opponent. Kickoff time for this week's game vs. the Rebels is 5 p.m. with the only TV coverage on pay per view with Andy Burcham, Cole Cubelic and Walker Jones covering the action. The telecast is available in the states of Alabama and Mississippi on local cable systems, DirecTV or the Dish Network. Other home satellite dish owners can call 1-800-TV-STARS to order the telecast.


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