That work last week paid off as both the offensive and defensive lines showed improvement against the Florida Gators in an overtime loss. That will be necessary again this week if Auburn is to stay in the game with the powerful Tigers from LSU (6-1, 3-0) said defensive coordinator Gene Chizik.
"They're very physical," Chizik said following the practice. "They are very dominating offensive line. They have great running backs. The quarterback they have now (Marcus Randall) is a phenomenal athlete. He brings a lot of things to the table. He makes up for his lack of experience with his athletic ability because he's a big play potential guy. They'll use his ability to run a little more option and run some quarterback keep type things. He got better as the game went on throwing the football. They also have some talented receivers starting with (Michael) Clayton--he's really good."
Gene Chizik (right) watches a strip drill as Lamel Ages (26) prepares to force a fumble as Junior Rosegreen (4) carries the football and Donnay Young (10) follows the play.
A very good sign on Tuesday was a full house on the defensive line for the first time since two-a-days. All bodies were present and accounted for with defensive tackles Spencer Johnson, Tommy Jackson and Wayne Dickens all practicing although all three are still banged up. The trio is expected to be able to play in the LSU game as should ends Reggie Torbor and Kyle Derozan and that is a welcome relief for a defense searching for some muscle up front to matchup with LSU's strong running game.
"That was good to see," Chizik said with a smile. "I just hope they're all there Saturday, which I think they will be. We get Spencer back and Reggie and DeMarco (McNeil) seem to be doing OK so maybe we'll get a full one in there Saturday. Spencer practiced very little today, but was out there doing some individual stuff. This being Tuesday, provided nothing happens between now and then, we're planning on him playing."
Defensive tackle Tommy Jackson works during Tuesday's practice while position coach Don Dunn looks on in the background.
Offensively, Taylor Bourgeois didn't practice as Marcus McNeill got the majority of reps with the first team as well as Monreko Crittenden, who would be the emergency tackle on either side in case of injury. Because of LSU's strength up front on defense, the offensive line will play a major part in determining Auburn's fate Saturday.
Quarterback Jason Campbell has already lived what seems like a lifetime in the microscope known as Auburn football, yet he's just a redshirt sophomore. The heavily recruited Mississippi native has seen the ups and downs associated with both winning and losing and now he's seeing a different side of life than what he saw last season. After beginning the year as the starter, he struggled down the stretch and fans wondered whether he would be able to get the job done before he left as a senior.
Now he's the chosen one for the fans after leading the team to a comeback win over Syracuse and a near comeback against Florida on Saturday night. Still awaiting word on who the starting quarterback will be Saturday when the Tigers face LSU at Jordan-Hare Stadium, Campbell said the decision won't change what he does this or any week.
"You have to just continue to stay focused and continue to work hard everyday," Campbell said at Auburn's weekly press conference. "Not worry about everything that is going on around you. You have to keep your mind focused and in the game and listen to what coach is telling you. You just do the best that you can.
"I just go out and play hard everyday. It's not something I worry about so I just focus on what we have to do to win the game, that's all."
One thing he's not focusing on is the talk that his coach doesn't have faith in him. With critics making light of Coach Tommy Tuberville's comments following the Arkansas game, Campbell said he doesn't put much stock in those things and only uses them as motivators to get better.
"I just look at it two ways," Campbell said. "One is determination. It really has made me more determined to go out and perform. The second thing is just to show a lot of heart. Go out there and play hard and know that you've done the best you can do when you leave the field. You have to just stay focused. Sometimes people say things just to build you up and see how you are going to react to certain situations. You can look at that in a positive way sometimes."
No matter who is under center Saturday, he will be facing the top rated defense in the NCAA Division I football. Playing without tailback Carnell Williams and to stay in the race for the Western Division, Campbell noted that this team knows how important the LSU game is to its season after one home loss already this year.
"I think we feel we're in a position right now that we have to win," Campbell said. "I think it's going to take a lot of determination and a lot of hard work, but I think our guys are ready for that. I think we are a mature enough team to know what's ahead of us, we just have to get ready to play. I think we have a lot of leadership on the team, it's just a matter of us playing hard from here on out.
"We are a very confident team. Our guys played with a lot of effort last week. That's a very good sign to see when you are down 23-7 and Carnell goes down. When you see a team come up like that it's a great sign and something to build off of. We lost a great player but right now we're going to play hard for him and do our best to get victories."
Kickoff for Saturday's game is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. and can be seen on Jefferson Pilot Sports stations across the Southeast. Tiger Walk is set for 9:20 a.m. with former Auburn stars Al Del Greco and Kevin Greene the guests of honor.