"We're at the midway point of practicing here," Tuberville said. "We have three more practices. Today was not quite as good as yesterday's enthusiasm. It's going to be very important that our seniors keep this group going strong for the next few practices so we can go home and know exactly what we're supposed to do and come back practicing hard for the five or six practices we have at the bowl practice."
For the second-straight day a new player suited up for the Tigers. This time it was defensive end Tony McClain. A 6-3, 250 junior college transfer from Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College and teammate of Jacobs, McClain got some work in during a team portion of Monday's practice and looked to be very quick off the corner as well as in pursuit of the ball carrier.
"Tony McClain practiced for the first time and looked pretty good," Tuberville said. "Obviously he and Brandon's heads are swimming a little bit. It's going to take a little while for them to get going a little bit. It's good to have them out there practicing along with Kevin Sears."
A different tactic than last season for Auburn has been the implementation of much of the game plan for the bowl game already. Spending a great deal of time working on Penn State during the practices while also getting some of the young players into the mix, Tuberville said the practices have run smoothly thanks to the hard work of the coaching staff.
"The coaches have done a good job of managing their time between recruiting and putting the game plan together," Tuberville said. "They have spent a lot of late hours and their looking forward to having a few days off and spend a little time with their families before Christmas. Right now we have to grind three more days out of them."
Tailback Ronnie Brown Practicing in full pads for just over two hours, the Tigers continued their emphasis on the fundamentals with tackling and blocking drills as well as the basics such as stance and footwork. Tailback Ronnie Brown was running better on Monday after struggling some the first two days of practice. His counterpart in the backfield, fullback Brandon Johnson, was dressed out and ran on the sides with the trainers but didn't participate in the practice. He won't have any contact until the team arrives in Orlando but will play against the Nittany Lions.
In addition to putting in the game plan the coaches have also used the three practices so far to get a look at some of the younger players on the roster that should become factors next season. Free safety Karibi Dede has been impressive on the scout team and could challenge another freshman Will Herring for the starting job next season. On offense center Will Ward had a good day blocking in pass rushing drills and should be a solid backup to Danny Lindsey next season. Tuberville said a few other players caught his eye as well.
"Mike Sherrill is going to be a good football player," Tuberville said of the linebacker. "He's still playing scout team but you can just tell by the way he's running around. Ben Grubbs has gained 35 or 40 pounds since he's been here. He's really looking quick. Kyle Derozan, there are just too many to point out. It's going to be a fun offseason and spring practice. It's going to be a lot of fun."
The Tigers will practice Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday morning at 10:15 before breaking for Christmas. They report to Orlando Christmas night to begin game week preparations for Penn State. All practices are scheduled to be open to the public.
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Several former Tigers were in attendance for Monday's practice or around the Athletic Complex. Linebacker Alex Lincoln, defensive end James Callier and offensive lineman Kendall Simmons were all seen and in good spirits while talking with former teammates and coaches.