"They're all excited about going home, which they should be," head coach Tommy Tuberville says. "It's been a long time since August 3rd. They're going home for a few days and I think we'll have a good time in Atlanta."
The team will regroup in Atlanta at 7 p.m. Eastern time on Christmas day.
Auburn played well in last year's 17-14 Cotton Bowl victory over Nebraska in Dallas. The previous year the team played arguably its worst game of the season in a 24-10 loss to Wisconsin in the Capital One Bowl. This year in preparation for Clemson in the Chick-fil-A, Tuberville decided to go with a similar routine as last season.
"It went good," he says of the pre-Christmas practices. "There was a lot of contact and we did it in a short period of time. We did it pretty much like two-a-days. These guys aren't burnt out, but it's been good though.
"There are several ways to do it," Tuberville adds. "I think Clemson is going until Friday. We just tried to condense it. We did it like this last year. We did it in a short period of time and we played better. We felt like we were a lot fresher when we got to the bowl site. It gives them a lot more time with their families. This should be fun--it shouldn't be something they don't look forward to.
King Dunlap, Chaz Ramsey, Aairon Savage and Tray Blackmon are among those who are dinged up. "We've got some guys beat up. We'll see how they come back to the bowl site," Tuberville says. Walk-on special teams player Josh Hebert will miss the bowl game after suffering a knee injury in the Iron Bowl.
Another player who won't be available is offensive tackle Oscar Gonzalez. "Oscar Gonzalez has transferred," Tuberville says. "We have given a release."
Senior noseguard Josh Thompson gets a ride off the field after his final AU practice. Junior Pat Sims is carrying Thompson.
Two new players have joined the Auburn football in some capacity. Deshaun Barnes signed with Tennessee in February 2007 but never enrolled while finishing the Florida high school exit exam. He will be a true freshman at Auburn in 2008.
"He cleared his physical," Tuberville says of Barnes. "We didn't put pads on him, but he's been out here running around and doing those kinds of things. He's cleared everything."
Raven Gray is also on campus, but on crutches after suffering a knee injury at Copiah-Lincoln Junior College.
"Raven Gray is here," Tuberville notes. "He's rehabbing. These guys can't go to the bowl game. He's just been here and been looked at to make sure we get him on the right rehab schedule.
"(In the spring) he'll be running, but he won't be with pads on," Tuberville adds. Gray will have three years to play two at Auburn.
Senior defensive end Quentin Groves gets a ride off the field after his final team practice at Auburn from Antoine Carter (45) and Sen'Derrick Marks (94).
Ticket Ticket Notes
None of the NFL draft-eligible underclassmen from Auburn put their name in to get an NFL evaluation, says Tuberville. "I don't think anybody filled out the forms. I usually get them. I talked to several guys and I don't think we've got anybody that's looking." Junior defensive tackle Pat Sims would have been one of the more likely candidates, but Tuberville expects him back for his senior season in 2008. "He and I sat down, and he wants to come back and finish up," Tuberville explains. Juniors and redshirt sophomores eligible to leave early.