Coach Tommy Tuberville said he is optimistic that cornerback Jerraud Powers, who has been out since the first half of the Vanderbilt game, will be able to play on Thursday night for the Mountaineers. The preseason All-SEC selection is trying to battle back from a hamstring injury. The coach said the junior has looked close to full speed the past two practices.
Fellow cornerback Walter McFadden said having Powers back on the field will be a big boost for the defense. "It has been encouraging to see him back at practice," McFadden noted. "He is a big part of our defense. His experience is so valuable."
Tuberville agreed with McFadden, noting that Powers is a guy who can get everybody in the secondary lined up properly if there is a question on how to play against a particular offensive formation.
The Tigers are not expected to have defensive end Antoine Carter (ankle) back until the Ole Miss game. Two other defensive ends, Michael Goggans (ankle) and Antonio Coleman (hamstring) are expected to be better shape physically than they were vs. Arkansas. The same is true of defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks, who is suffered an ankle sprain vs. Vandy.
Gabe McKenzie, who made the move from tight end to defense in August, is expected to be a busy junior vs. the Mountaineers. He could see action at both the strongside and weakside defensive spots.
McKenzie, who played against WVU star quarterback Pat White in high school, noted that he will have to play smart and physical football to try to contain White.
The Tigers rehearsed the game plan and spent 40 minutes on the kicking game at their Tuesday workout. On Tuesday night they will have a team travel meeting before making the trip to play the 4-2 Mountaineers, who were also off last weekend.
News and Notes: The Tigers will take a charter flight to Pittsburgh on Wednesday and spend the night south of that city before taking a bus trip into Morgantown for the 6:45 p.m. CDT kickoff on Thursday that will be televised by ESPN. The players will fly back immediately after the game so they can attend Friday classes...Tuberville had praise for the scout team's work the past two weeks preparing the Tigers for West Virginia. He noted that redshirting freshman T'Sharvan Bell, who played quarterback at Osceloa High in Florida, played the role of WVU star Pat White in practice and did a good job. Bell broke a bone in his lower leg over the summer. He will play defensive back for the Tigers next season. "He gave us a good look," Tuberville said. "It really helped us defensively."
White is a strong runner and one of the primary reasons the Mountaineers are ranked 14th nationally in rushing yards per game at 224.8 per contest. WVU is 112th in passing at 117.3 yards per contest...Tuberville said after Tuesday's practice that he is encouraged by the "chemistry" as his team tries to break a two-game losing streak...This week's game is just the eighth Thursday night contest in Auburn history. The Tigers are 6-1 in those contests...Morgantown is the most northern venue for an outdoor football game since the Tigers opened the 1984 season in the Kickoff Classic, losing to Miami at East Rutherford, N.J.