Special Teams The Focus On Wednesday

With the special teams struggling, Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville said the Tigers spent more time on that part of the game in Wednesday's practice.

Auburn, Ala.--The Auburn Tigers took advantage of a perfect football day Wednesday with what head coach Tommy Tuberville called a "spirited" two hour practice in full pads.

Focusing on the kicking game and short yardage situations as well as continuing to put in the game plan for Saturday's showdown with the Florida Gators, he noted that the kicking game got special attention on the day.

"It was a good spirited practice today," Tuberville said. "We continue to have good practices and we hope they carry over. The spirits are high. We worked a lot on the kicking game again today trying to work out some of our problems. Damon (Duval) is kicking well and punting well. Philip Yost is also kicking well. We'll watch both of them and hopefully Damon gets a little bit more consistent because we're going to need some field goals down the stretch."

Fullback Brandon Johnson (45) and running back Ronnie Brown (23) listen intently to special teams coach Eddie Gran during Wednesday's practice.

The coaching staff continues to watch linebacker Dontarrious Thomas (knee) and defensive tackle Spencer Johnson (ankle) carefully in practice this week to see how their injuries are progressing. Tuberville said both did some light work in practice Wednesday and will be evaluated throughout the week to see on their availability for Saturday. The same is true of wide receiver Silas Daniels, who tweaked his groin again in practice Tuesday and is not 100 percent. Tuberville said he would likely play Saturday, but would be limited the remainder of the week.

One focus of the Tigers this week is going to be ball security. That is securing the ball on offense and taking it away from Florida. The old saying goes that the team with the fewest turnovers wins and that has never been more apparent than this season for the Tigers. In Auburn's four wins the Tigers have caused 15 turnovers while giving the ball away just six times. In two losses they have turned the ball over five times while getting four from the opposition. Tuberville said that will be a big key Saturday.

"When you are playing on the road you need to create turnovers to win," he noted. "You have to have more than the other team. That's what we talked about when we played Mississippi State, our last road game, and we made them turn the ball over and won the game. I'm sure Arkansas talked about it when they came here and we turned it over three times in the first half. Turnovers are the biggest part of any football game. It is hard to overcome them. You have to be a real good football team to overcome turnovers and we're not that good yet. We have to eliminate turnovers and cause more, especially on the road."

Another thing that is imperative to do on the road is getting off to a good start. That is something an Auburn team hasn't done in Gainesville since its last victory there in 1994. With a Florida team searching for confidence and support from the home crowd, getting up on the Gators early could be the difference in winning and losing Saturday night.

"It's always important to start strong on the road," Tuberville said. "You have to build your confidence and obviously you want to take the other crowd out of it. The thing that we want to do is play our game, don't worry about Florida. That's what we did last year. We came in when they played here and we tried to play our game. We ran the football and we were very patient and tried to take what they gave us as the game went on. We'll play the same game this year. We'll run the football and we'll throw some, but the whole thing comes down to you have to play better defense than the other team."

Tuberville said he expects Florida starter Rex Grossman to play and doesn't doubt for a second that they'll get his best shot even with the senior missing some practice time this week. "He has to be one of the toughest quarterbacks I've seen," Tuberville said. "He's really taken some licks and come back and played strong. I don't think he's missed any plays. He'll be there. Not to practice for him doesn't mean that much because he's got a great arm and is real accurate."

The Tigers will practice Thursday and leave for Florida on Friday afternoon. They will have a short workout at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium Friday evening before going back to the hotel for their normal pre-game meetings. Kickoff is scheduled for 5:45 p.m. Central time and can be seen on ESPN.

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