Tigers Wrap Up Preparations for Big Orange

Thursday's Auburn football practice report features news, notes and quotes from the Tigers.

Auburn, Ala.--The Auburn football Tigers put the finishing touches on their game plan for this week's home game vs. Tennessee with a light workout in shorts on Thursday.

Except for backup running back Tristan Davis, who is still recovering from a concussion suffered in the LSU game, Tuberville noted that his players who were hurt last Saturday should be ready for action, including tailback Brad Lester who suffered a knee sprain vs. the Bayou Bengals.

Davis, who was accidentally kicked in the head while being tackled on a kickoff return, is listed as questionable for Saturday's game that will kick off at 2:30 p.m.

This week's contest will be a special one for sixth-year senior noseguard Tez Doolittle, who is making his first collegiate start.

"Tez's comeback from a serious injury (torn Achilles tendon) is a great story and I am so proud of him," defensive tackles coach Don Dunn told Inside the Auburn Tigers. "He deserves a lot of credit for how hard he has worked to come back to get to the point where he is today."

Doolittle was injured in preseason drills in August 2007. He was coming off by far his best spring training and his best two-a-days practice session when he suffered what appeared to be a career-ending injury.

Doolittle made an appeal for a hardship ruling for a sixth-year of eligibility. After receiving good news on that front, he stepped up his rehab program in February and has played in every game and played well.

"It was really exciting to get back out on the field again," Doolittle said. "It meant a lot to me to be able to play again."

Defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads said he is impressed with how the noseguard has played. "You can telling he is playing like a guy who has gotten a second chance and wants to do everything he can do to take advantage of it."

At Thursday's practice, Tuberville said his team spent 35 minutes on the kicking game. "We have a lot of work to do on that," he noted. "We haven't had any consistency."

Clinton Durst is expected to be the punter after being held out last week with an illness. Tuberville said special teams coach Eddie Gran is considering playing some different players on the return and coverage teams.

Tuberville said defensive end Michael Goggans (ankle), Tray Blackmon (cracked bone in wrist), Zac Etheridge (shoulder) and linebacker Craig Stevens (ankle) should be ready to play vs. the Vols. The coach added that he thought that Thursday's practice was better than Wednesday's practice and Wednesday's session was better than the Tuesday practice.

"Most of that is just being tired, mentally and physical," Tuberville said. "The weather (cool morning) has helped us. You could see them bouncing around and the defensive linemen singing in their stretching drills and stuff.

"We have changed a little bit in the last few weeks," Tuberville added. "We are starting to run them in the morning before practice starts. We are running sprints to try to get them loosened up and everybody together a little bit, offense and defense, and I talk to them. Normally, you just split up (offense and defense) and just go about your way and at the end of practice you come together so we are starting practice and ending practice together. Everybody runs--it's more of a team concept."

In other news:

*Athletic department officials held a memorial service on Thursday morning for assistant trainer Cindy Wall, who died suddenly on Wednesday evening after being rushed from campus to East Alabama Medical Center.

Wall had worked in the athletic department in sports medicine since 1991. A memorial service is scheduled for 4 p.m. on Friday at Cornerstone United Methodist Church, 2123 Hamilton Road.

"We are terribly saddened by this sudden and tragic loss," said AU Athletic Director Jay Jacobs said. "Cindy touched the lives of countless individuals in her 17 years at Auburn and she will be missed dearly. Our thoughts and prayers are with Cindy's family, friends and our Auburn Family during these difficult times."

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to the Tigers Unlimited Foundation in memory of Cindy Wall. All donations will be for the benefit of graduate assistants working in Auburn's Sports Medicine Department who are working on their Master's Degree.

Mario Fannin could become a bigger part of the offense, Tuberville said on Thursday.

*Tuberville noted that Mario Fannin is making good progress after having major shoulder surgery in the spring. He noted that the redshirt sophomore is monitored closely by team physician Dr. James Andrews. Fannin, who made the move from running back to wide receiver, is expected to become a bigger part of the offense as the season progresses and could also get playing time at running back in coming weeks in addition to receiver. "He has held up well, he's a tough kid," Tuberville said.

*Saturday's game will be Auburn's first on CBS this year. Verne Lundquist will call the action on TV with Gary Danielson the analyst and Tracy Wolfson the sideline reporter.

*The game will also be on XM Radio channel 200 and the Touchdown Radio Network with Frank Frangie, Gino Toretta and sideline reporter Mike Dempsey calling the action.

Saturday's game will be Tennessee's first appearance at Jordan-Hare Stadium since the 2003 season when the Tigers won 28-21. Another victory by Auburn on Saturday would be a fourth straight vs. the Vols by the Tigers, matching the longest winning streak by either team in the series. The Tigers accomplished that from 1961-64.

*The last time the Tigers and Vols played was in the 2004 SEC Championship Game, a 38-28 victory for Auburn. The last regular season matchup was at Knoxville in 2004. Auburn jumped ahead 31-3 at halftime and won 34-10.

*After having a big turnout of recruits at last week's LSU game for official and unofficial visits, Tuberville said a large number are expected in again this week although there will be three official visits, half as many as last week. Safety Zeke Motta from Vero Beach, Fla., High, linebacker Jon Bostic from Palm Beach, Fla., Central High and defensive end Kedric Johnson from Palmetto, Fla., High are scheduled to be the official visitors.

Despite Tennessee's 1-2 start, Tuberville said his team is taking the approach that the defending SEC East champions will be tough to beat. "I have no doubt that are going to come in here and play hard," he said.


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