Rod Smith, a senior wide receiver from South Gwinnett High School in Georgia, says he likes what he saw. "The guys are excited about the challenge we have this weekend," he says. "It started with Sunday. We had a really good practice that day. Everybody came out focused ready to go and that carried over to Tuesday. If we continue to practice like this, I think we will have a good game on Saturday."
Some of the recent Tuesday practices have featured a lot of hitting with the first offense squaring off against the first defense and the two defense facing the two offense. "Today there wasn't too much physical stuff going on," Smith says. "We spent most of the time going up against the scout team.
"We did a little bit of stuff against the first defense--skelly (passing drills) and some one-on-ones. I guess with the injuries and stuff, we can't be real physical in practice right now. We need to keep everybody healthy for this game."
The Tigers and Bulldogs will meet at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday for a renewal of the SEC's oldest rivalry, a series that was first played in 1892.
"The coaches have a great game plan for us," Smith says. "It is going to be up to us to go out there and lay it on the line to win the game. We know we have a great challenge this week. We have to get it done anyway we can. That is the bottom line."
Smith says he is doing everything he can to make sure his teammates are ready to give a maximum effort to try to knock off the 8-2 Bulldogs.
"This is like my Iron Bowl since I am from Georgia," he says. "This is definitely a big game. People always say they remember what you do in November."
This week's game will be Smith's final contest in Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Smith played last week despite being questionable for the Homecoming game with a deep thigh bruise. "It is a very painful injury," he says. "I have never experienced pain like this. I didn't think I would be able to play Saturday. It is still really sore right now, but I think I will be ready to play close to 100 percent this Saturday."
Head coach Tommy Tuberville agrees with his senior receiver that Tuesday's workout was a productive one. "You can tell the intensity of the players really changes when you get to the last two games of the year here," Tuberville says. "It is important not just for the fans, the alumni and the coaches, but it is really important for the players because they really get into it. They know a lot of guys on each team and this week it is the guys from Georgia's turn. They always look forward to it."
A pair of starters, wide receiver Montez Billings (broken nose) and linebacker Merrill Johnson (broken bone in his hand), may not be able to play on Saturday, Tuberville says. However, three other defensive starters who missed last week's game were back at practice and are expected to play vs. Georgia. That group includes noseguard Tez Doolittle, tackle Sen'Derrick Marks and end Antonio Coleman.
Cornerback Walt McFadden says his fellow starter at cornerback, Jerraud Powers, looked like he was full speed at Tuesday's practice. Powers has been recovering from a hamstring problem.
McFadden says that Georgia has the best offense the Tigers have seen this year featuring the most talented passer they have seen in junior quarterback Matt Stafford. McFadden says that he is encouraged that the Tigers will go into the game a healthier team on defense than they have been in a while.
"Today was a great practice with everybody running full speed to the ball," he says. "It is a big game and everybody is getting ready for it."
The Tigers are trying to break a two-game losing streak to the Bulldogs. Last year the Tigers lost in Athens for UGA's "blackout" game with fans dressed in black and the music of rapper Soulja Boy playing on the loudspeakers with the Georgia players dancing on the sidelines in the fourth quarter after coming from behind to take the lead.
"There won't be any more Soulja Boy, that's all I can tell you," McFadden says, noting that he and his teammates are sick of the song after having it played all day in the training room on a continuous loop by trainer Arnold Gamber, who has been doing the Soulja Boy dance, too. "We are trying to get past that now," McFadden says.
"They came out last year and played a great game," McFadden says of the Bulldogs. "Their fans got into our heads, everybody doing the Soulja Boy dance. We were feeling down for ourselves. By our trainer player, and doesn't really have any athletic ability, he is there dancing around it is making us upset. When out there today today it was stuck in our heads."
The Tigers will return to practice on Wednesday evening.