Smith Out As Tigers Prepare For Outback

Auburn will be without fullback Eric Smith when the Tigers take on Northwestern.

Auburn, Ala.--When Auburn takes the field against Northwestern on New Year's Day, it will be without running back Eric Smith. A key player in the running game and also a capable receiver, Smith has been ruled academically ineligible for the bowl according to coach Gene Chizik.

"Eric is not going to be with us for the bowl game," Chizik said. "He's academically ineligible. We've made provisions to move on. Everybody else is in good academic standing. We fully expect him to be back in January, but for the bowl game he's academically ineligible."

Without Smith available to play for the Tigers on offense, Auburn could turn to several different options in the backfield including Mario Fannin, John Douglas and even Philip Lutzenkirchen is a possibility for an expanded role, but Chizik isn't giving any hints.

"We've made provisions to move on," Chizik said. "We feel good about the plan."

With cold and wet conditions in Auburn on Friday, the Tigers split practices to use the indoor facilities in a two-plus hour workout. Coach Gene Chizik said despite the breaking up into offensive and defensive groups, the day went well for his team.

"Practice went well," Chizik said. "Obviously weather was an issue today so we split practice up and had a good day. Hopefully we can get back out tomorrow and continue the bowl preparation."

Friday was graduation day on the Auburn campus as 23 student-athletes and seven football players walked at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum. Clayton Crofoot, John Cubelic, Zac Etheridge, Tim Hawthorne, former Auburn standout Jeno James and Montae Pitts, and Craig Stevens all received their degrees on Friday. Chizik said that it was a big day for everyone associated with the athletic department.

"I would like to congratulate six guys on our football team for graduating," Chizik said. "That's great for them and great for Auburn. It's a really neat day for those guys."

A former Chizik protégé, Pitts received his degree after some prompting from his former coach last year.

"I called Montae last summer when I got here," Chizik said. "I told him no excuses, no anything, get back into school and graduate. I'm just really excited to hear that he did that today."

Also on Friday seniors Ben Tate and Antonio Coleman were officially announced as being invited to the Senior Bowl in Mobile following the season. Chizik said it's a big honor for the two seniors that have done so much for the Tigers in their career.

"The Senior Bowl is the Cadillac of all the games and that's the one you want to be in," Chizik said. "It's a great honor for those two to be selected to play in it and it's a great honor for Auburn. They're going to have to go there and compete with the best of the best. I'm sure they'll do well and we're certainly going to wish them well."

Auburn will practice Saturday afternoon before taking Sunday off. The Tigers will then practice on Monday and Tuesday before breaking for Christmas. The team will report to Tampa on Dec. 26 to continue preparations for the Outback Bowl game against Northwestern on New Year's Day.

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