Leaders Step Up In Thursday Practice

Auburn coaches Tommy Tuberville, Don Dunn and Greg Knox talk about Thursday's practice and getting ready for Louisiana-Monroe.

Auburn, Ala.--After three long weeks of practice time the Auburn Tigers will take it easy this weekend according to coach Tommy Tuberville. With just a short walk through scheduled for Friday with an off day on Saturday, the team got after it on Thursday with a physical practice in full pads. Tuberville said now is the time for the leaders to step up as the Tigers get ready for Louisiana-Monroe.

"This has been a tough two-a-days in terms of trying to be a leader out there," Tuberville said. "Everybody has been trying to survive including the seniors. The last few days they start smelling Saturday coming up. They are all excited. Today was a good day for good leadership. In the beginning it looked like a lot of guys were going to feel sorry for themselves but it got cooler and the seniors started stepping up. We don't have a lot but what we've got is pretty good."

As is the tradition with Tuberville, Thursday night is the time when he opens his home to the senior class to feed them and give them a chance to talk about the upcoming season. He noted it's always good to hear what they have to say.

"I do that every year," Tuberville said. "It's always good. I let each one of them talk about their three or four or five years and what they expect and what they've seen and how good of a shape we're in. I let them kind of vent tonight. It's always good to find out the pulse of the team."

Taking out the special team work on Thursday to shorten the practice a little and take some of the load off the players, Tuberville said he was pleased with how the day went. From an injury standpoint defensive tackle Jake Ricks was practicing and looked good according to position coach Don Dunn. Fellow interior lineman Zach Clayton missed the practice with a strained neck. Dunn said the sophomore was held out for precautionary measures.

On the offensive side of the ball lineman Bart Eddins is still bothered by a sore shoulder. Tuberville said it's probably going to be three or four days before he returns even though Eddins says he's ready now. Running back Tristan Davis was again held out of practice and Tuberville said they're determined not to play him unless he's 100 percent. That won't be determined until next week. Fellow back Brad Lester again practiced in a limited role but Tuberville said he should be good to go next week.

Up front on defense freshman Jomarcus Savage was in action but didn't have any contact according to Tuberville. That meant extra work for new defensive end Gabe McKenzie. Dunn said it's easy to see that McKenzie has the talent to help them down the road at the position.

"He's doing well," Dunn said. "He's a good athlete. He's kind of lost and spinning but with his athletic ability he's going to be fine. He wants to do it. That was his choice. That's even better when they want to move."

Savage is just one of a group of true freshmen that have a chance to see action for the Tigers in 2008. Tuberville said while players such as Neiko Thorpe, D'Antoine Hood and Eric Smith are pretty sure bets to play, many of the decisions are still to be made.

"We'll make our mind up over the weekend," Tuberville said. "I haven't even thought about it in terms of numbers. It will probably be 10. Last year we played 18 if I'm not mistaken. That's the most I've ever played but we needed to do that because we were short in some areas.

"Every year the better and better your recruiting is the more players are going to have the ability to come in and play like a Neiko Thorpe. He doesn't have a clue what he's doing yet but he's got the ability to make up for mistakes."

A player that is a sure bet to play unless something changes is wide receiver Philip Pierre-Louis. Currently working at both outside receiver spots behind starters Rod Smith and James Swinton, position coach Greg Knox said Pierre-Louis is in the next group of players along with Chris Slaughter, Montez Billings, Mario Fannin, and Quindarius Carr that are in line for playing time. Thursday Knox said the team got some extra work on getting ready for Louisiana-Monroe during a different type of practice.

"It was more game week situations," Knox said. "We're practicing situations. We're still practicing at a fast pace. We want to maintain the basic concepts of the offense. It's more game week preparation to make sure we know our assignments and details and fundamentals.

"The young guys are kind of learning," he added. "They realize it's a different week than last week. They're noticing that something is different. We're changing the schedule a little bit because it's game week. They realize that now we've got scout teams. They've got figure out how to do this and how to work there. They are adjusting to it."

The team will have a short walk through on Friday afternoon and Tuberville said they hope to get the players out before it's dark so they can have the option to head home for two nights before the season begins. They will resume practices on Sunday afternoon in preparation for Louisiana-Monroe on Aug. 30.

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