Auburn, Ala.--With the game plan in and just needing to put the finishing touches on things in advance of Saturday's game with Alabama, the Auburn Tigers (7-4) practiced for an hour and a half in perfect conditions Wednesday. Coach Tommy Tuberville says he is pleased with how his team has worked the last two weeks and he's looking forward to Saturday's game.
"It was a beautiful day to practice," Tuberville says. "It has been two good weeks. The guys have really done a good job. I just bragged on them. They've done a good job on and off the field and knowing what this game means. They've had a lot of good preparation, not just out here, but in the film room.
"Tomorrow we'll have just a little bit of walk-through, but I'm going to get them out here," he adds. "Then we'll have Thanksgiving and be thankful for what we've got and get ready for Saturday. It has been a good week. Everybody practiced. There wasn't really anybody that wasn't able to practice. Everybody has done a good job of kind of going through the motions the last couple of days and trying to stay mentally sharp and not get bored with what we're doing."
Thanksgiving, combined with having last week off, has changed up Auburn's practice routine this week. With the game plan already in the Tigers will have just a short practice on Thursday morning. Following that, the players that wish to can eat together at Sewell Hall if they don't already have Thanksgiving plans. Tuberville says that's not the only change for the team this week.
"Lunch is as 12 o'clock," Tuberville says. "We'll go pretty early at 8:30 or 9. It's just a walk-through. They're not dressing out. It's mostly watching the practice film from today and then they'll come out. It's not a practice, it's kind of a mental walk-through.
"There are so many people in town that we felt like after our normal Thursday meeting, instead of sending them home we'll take them to LaGrange and get a good night's sleep. We'll get up the next day and have our meetings and stuff up there. There are just so many people and the traffic will be congested with so many roads blocked off."
One concern this week is the tendency of this Auburn defense in the last game to give up big plays, both in the run game and against the pass. Facing an Alabama offense that lives off big plays, sophomore defensive end Antonio Coleman says the Tigers have moved on from the last game and are focusing squarely on Alabama this week and their first order of business is to make the Crimson Tide one dimensional if possible.
"Basically it was a couple of mis-fits during the Georgia game," Coleman says. "That's in the past. We are working on the Bama now. Everybody is looking forward to that. Everybody is hyped up and energetic. We're just focusing on stopping the run against Bama."
If the Tigers are able to make Alabama beat them only throwing the ball, that should free up Coleman to do what he does best and that is make plays in the opponent's backfield. This season he has 34 tackles with an incredible 17 of them made behind the line of scrimmage. Adding in a team-high seven sacks, Coleman says it's just an attitude for him that allows him to be such a disruptive force on defense.
"It's just a mindset," Coleman says. "I want to help this team win. I just go out there and do what I have to do, play physical. That's what Coach (Will) Muschamp stresses. I'm a physical guy. I like contact. I have no problem with that. I just go out there and do the best I can do to help the football team."
If Auburn is able to make Alabama one-dimensional, it would play right into the Tigers' hands just like it has done the last three years. In those games Auburn has been able to put pressure on the quarterback seemingly at will. Tuberville says in the past they've been able to get to Alabama without blitzing, but this year that hasn't been the formula for this team.
"You don't change a whole for this game," Tuberville says. "You just kind of do what is best for you that you have done all year long. We have worked very hard with this defense this year trying to be able to put pressure on the quarterbacks. At times we have done that, at times we haven't. We have moved people around--Quentin Groves, Sen'Derrick Marks--doing those sorts of things.
"In the past we didn't blitz a whole lot," he adds. "We used a four-man rush. I thought our guys did a good job of putting pressure on the quarterback whether it was a sack or whether it was just getting back in the quarterback's face. Getting to anybody's quarterback is going effect maybe not the outcome of the game, but the direction of the game and how it is going to be played. You go into every game knowing the quarterback is the guy who is going to handle the ball most of the time. If they are going to be successful, they have to give the quarterback time to get the ball down the field on the passing game and you have got to be able to pressure the quarterback."
The Tigers will have another short walk-through style practice on Thanksgiving before having a chance to get away and spend time with family members that are in town for Saturday's game. Players that won't have any family members or friends to eat with will eat together Thursday afternoon on campus. Kickoff for Saturday's game is scheduled for 7 p.m. and can be seen nationally on ESPN.
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Auburn will have a huge recruiting weekend with 12 official visitors expected in as well as over 400 unofficial visitors on campus for the Iron Bowl. Tuberville says that always makes for a big time not only for this weekend, but for future Iron Bowl's as well.
"We've got a lot of official visits," Tuberville says. "If it's the Georgia home game then we do it then. If it's Alabama we do it. We don't have enough tickets. We actually have a lottery for high school coaches. We'll have 400-500 recruits come in, some juniors and sophomores. This is a big event for future years, not just for this game. It's a big deal for down the road."