With the upheaval surrounding the firing of offensive coordinator Tony Franklin just one of the story lines, the Tigers have used the opportunity to get back to basics on the practice field.
That has been particularly important on the offensive side of the ball where Steve Ensminger has taken over the duties as coordinator and quarterbacks coach in the last week. While it has been a trying time, sophomore wide receiver Tim Hawthorne says the team handled it well in practices during the bye week.
"It has been real good to be honest with you," Hawthorne says. "Guys are a lot more focused. We've got the bye week and it's a chance for guys to focus on the details. That's what we're doing, taking a little bit at a time and perfecting that."
Getting back on the field was the only way to try to put the week behind them, says Hawthorne. With so much going on it was like a soap opera at times on the Plains. Because of that the Homewood native says having the chance to sit back and regroup was huge for the team.
"I have never been in a situation like this before," Hawthorne says. "It's new to myself and a lot of other guys. It's just different. We've had back to back losses. That's nothing that made it better. We're just taking it a game at a time really. That's all you can do and try to get back on the winning track against West Virginia."
For the first time in the 2008 season the Tigers will be going into a game with Kodi Burns as the unquestioned leader of the offense after being put in that situation by coach Tommy Tuberville following the Arkansas loss. With Chris Todd on the shelf at the moment for a sore shoulder and on the field struggles, the duo of Neil Caudle and Barrett Trotter have been given additional work in practices during the off week as well.
thorne says while he wouldn't want to even guess who has the leg up for the second spot he's been pleased with all of the quarterbacks and Burns in particular.
"He's taking on that leadership role," Hawthorne says of Burns. "He's just doing what he needs to do. He's just taking it one practice at a time like everybody else. That's with all of them to be honest with you. All of them are maturing and that's a good thing you want to see out of all of them."
Preparing to face West Virginia on the road with the possibility of losing their third consecutive game, the Tigers spent the off week taking a long look at every facet of their play through seven games. Hawthorne says having the chance to evaluate themselves on a team and personal basis should help the Tigers the rest of the season.
"It came right on time," Hawthorne says. "It's what we needed. It's pretty much the halfway point in the season. It gives us a chance to look ourselves in the mirror and give ourselves a gut check. We really have to understand this is what we really want to do and we can still make a season out of this and go to a really good bowl game. There are a lot of big games we still have left."