Spirits High As Tigers Get Ready For Rebels

Auburn finished its practice preparations for the Ole Miss Rebels on a cool Thursday morning.

Auburn, Ala.--Auburn (5-3, 3-2) wrapped up preparations for Ole Miss (2-6, 0-5) on a cool, brisk Thursday morning on the AU campus. Looking to rebound from a tough loss at LSU a week ago, head coach Tommy Tuberville says that his players have stayed together mentally getting ready for the Rebels.

"We had good practices this week and the guys are fired up," he says. "It's been a good week. Mentally we've gotten back into it a lot more than we expected after last week. These young guys tend to let things go over their head a little bit better than us older folks. It's been a good week and I think we're going to play good.

"It was a good-spirited (Thursday) practice, but we didn't have quite the practice mentally as we hoped or we had yesterday. It was a quick turnaround (from Wednesday night) and a little cooler."

In recent years, Auburn has played well following a loss. The Mississippi State game earlier this year being the obvious exception, but the Tigers rebounded from that game just as they did last year after losing to Georgia and Arkansas, and in 2005 after losses to Georgia Tech and LSU.

"I think everybody is coming together to play as one," says cornerback Jerraud Powers. "The offense is moving the ball now and the defense is playing up. Special teams is starting to come along, so I think everybody is just staying positive and starting to play like one, like Auburn football is supposed to be.

"We're going to have to hope for a few upsets," he adds of the Tigers' chances to get to Atlanta, "but as long as we do our part and win out now, we'll just have to let everything unfold. We're going to have to pray for a couple of teams to pull off upsets, but we've just got to worry about us now and win out."

On the injury front, the Tigers appear to be in better shape than they have been for much of the season. Brandon Cox had a "stomach virus" earlier in the week, according to Tuberville, but he is fine. Merrill Johnson and Aairon Savage are also expected to return to the line-up. Offensive lineman Ryan Pugh isn't full speed, but is expected to play against the Rebels.

"Ryan Pugh practiced," Tuberville notes. "He will not start, but will play. He'll play center and tackle some." Jason Bosley and King Dunlap are expected to start at center and tackle, respectively.

As for Robert Dunn, who didn't travel to Baton Rouge because of a violation of practice rules with his position coach Greg Knox, Tuberville says that his status is still undecided as of Thursday morning.

"I don't know yet," the head coach explains. "He's worked hard. We're going to meet today at 2:30 and evaluate a lot of situations. That'll be one of them that we talk about. He made a mistake. We've got to determine through Coach Knox how he's worked, and if he deserves to come back this week, next week or the week after."

Backup punter Patrick Tatum isn't going unnocited at practice and could again split time with Ryan Shoemaker.

Auburn has won three straight in the series against Ole Miss, but none of them were blowouts even though the Rebels haven't been very good of late. Patrick Willis was the centerpiece of the defense that kept Ole Miss in games, but now he's wearing a 49ers jersey. This year it's young defensive end Greg Hardy who has been the foundation of the unit.

"He's put on some performances," Tuberville says of Hardy. "He's quick and he's not that big. He's got good upperbody strength. He's their best defensive player. He's productive.

"They're sound," he continues. "He (Ed Orgeron) has been a defensive coach for years and years. They're going to be sound. They got a new coordinator in John Thompson and they've changed a few things. They obviously miss Patrick Willis. Anybody would miss him--the best linebacker in the country last year. He's hard to replace. They've been hot and cold, but like us they've played a lot of different offenses. They haven't had any continuity as far as playing teams."

The Ole Miss defense hasn't been as productive as in years' past, but the offense has gotten better this year with senior quarterback Seth Adams taking over for Brent Schaeffer.

"From what I've seen on film they are explosive," says Auburn defensive end Quentin Groves, whose role is expected to increase this week as he continues to come back from injury. "If you look at the games, they put up points. They almost beat Florida and they hung in there with Alabama. Against Arkansas he (Adams) threw three picks that turned into 21 points early. They were down and they kind of lost their morale from there. They've got talented players. (BenJarvus) Green-Ellis is a great player and they've got two speedy receivers on the outside. I could go on and on. Michael Oher is a great offensive lineman. They can score points if you let them, but you have to take away what they do, and that's run the ball.

Green-Ellis is on pace for his second consecutive 1,000-yard season, and Auburn linebacker Craig Stevens says the Auburn defense will have its hands full with the senior runner and a big Ole Miss O-Line.

"I've heard about them," says Stevens, playing in his first game against the Rebels. "They've got four returning starters, so they should be strong from that point. I think our D-line have will come ready for them."

Tommy Tuberville is 6-2 against his old team, but just 2-2 against the Rebels in Jordan-Hare Stadium. Kickoff for Saturday's game is set for 5 p.m. CDT and it will be televised on a pay per view basis.

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