Running Backs Not Yet Back to Full Speed

Comments from Auburn football players and coaches are featured as the Tigers begin preparations for a New Year's Day bowl test vs. Penn State.

Auburn, Ala.--Auburn's wounded running back corps is in better shape than when the Tigers were pounding cross-state rival Alabama three weeks ago, but the group is not exactly healthy.

Tailback Ronnie Brown was about three-quarters speed at Saturday's practice, Tuberville says. The Auburn coach says that he expects Brown to be full speed by the time the Tigers line up to face Penn State at the Capital One Bowl on Jan. 1st in Orlando.

Last month Tuberville said he hoped that Carnell Williams would be ready to play for the bowl game, but is now very questionable. "Carnell is going to have a pin taken out of his ankle on Monday to tighten the ankle joint up," Tuberville says. "The break (leg) is fine. He is obviously going to have a little atrophy in the leg. He has got to get that back. He might do some practice. I don't know whether he will play. We will just have to wait to see what level he gets to. Right now it is pretty doubtful, but hopefully we can get a little practice time in with him."

Tre Smith (22) runs the ball in Saturday's practice.

Williams says the screw in his ankle is to "make sure everything grows back right." The sophomore says he hasn't enjoyed watching since being injured vs. Florida, but says he is pleased that the team "is doing real good." Running backs coach Eddie Gran says that the Cadillac will resume his No. 1 spot on the depth chart whenever he is back to full speed, however, Gran notes that the battle for that top spot will be fun to watch in the spring. Williams agrees with Gran and says, "The competition is going to be intense with Ronnie (Brown) and Tre (Smith)--those guys did real good--and with Brandon (Jacobs) coming in. It is going to be fun to watch to see the outcome."

Fullback Brandon Johnson says he plans to play against Penn State. The junior missed the final game vs. Alabama, a 17-7 victory by Auburn, due to a high ankle sprain he suffered in the Georgia game. Tuberville says he hopes to have the physical fullback available to practice at close to full speed when the Tigers start bowl practices in Orlando on Dec. 26th.

News And Notes: Tuberville says he can tell the Tigers are excited about being finished with final exams and being back on the practice field. The Tigers will practice six straight days before taking a break for Christmas. "We want them to have a little bit of free time to go home and spend some time with their families."...Tuberville says it is a busy weekend for the coaching staff with practice resuming after a three-week break and three prospects (Antonio Cromartie, Eric Holcombe and Stanley McClover) in for official visits. "We are trying to practice and recruit at the same time, but we have got our game plan basically done," Tuberville says. "Both coordinators were off the road last week and they did a lot of game-planning during the week and work at nights. We are going to have to do a lot of night work this week because we are going to be out recruiting. We will practice every morning, except for Sunday morning and give (the players) the afternoons off. We will only go one time a day. Everybody is fired up about the bowl game."...Fall semester final exams ended on Friday. Tuberville says he is optimistic the Tigers are in good shape academically and is not expecting to lose any players unless somebody "bottoms out" on their finals...In Orlando, the players will practice in the morning and will have most of the afternoons off...The coaches may have several short 10-12 play scrimmages featuring the redshirted players and other reserves before breaking for the holiday...Tuberville says that Penn State will offer a very physical test for the Tigers. "We haven't seen a physical team like this team all year long--a team that is going to line it up and run it right at you and try to run it around you. You don't see much of that in this (SEC) conference any more."

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