Tigers Have Rusty First Day Back To Work

Auburn got back to work on Sunday morning with a practice at the University of Tampa.

Tampa, Ala.--Football In Paradise is the theme for the 2010 Outback Bowl between Auburn and Northwestern, but for the Tigers Sunday's first practice at Pepin/Rood Stadium at the University of Tampa was anything but paradise. With temperatures in the low 50s and a steady wind blowing Coach Gene Chizik said his team had a good first day on the practice field as it spent two hours in full pads.

"The first day was a little rusty," Chizik said. "You could tell they got four days off. The effort was good, but I thought we were a little bit sloppy and rusty. We obviously need the next four days. We'll get back to work tomorrow and try to get some of these things shored up."

Kodi Burns and Philip Lutzenkirchen wait to get in on the action.

One of the things that had to get shored up when the Tigers began working towards the bowl game was at the H-Back position because of Eric Smith's academic issues. With freshman Philip Lutzenkirchen working there now Chizik said they've got a better feel for the plan for Northwestern and he's seen a lot of improvement from the Marietta native in that time.

"I think Philip has done a nice job," Chizik said. "When we left practice in Auburn four days ago I think he had made some significant strides, strides you expect a freshman to make…he's more familiar with what we're doing and more familiar with how to do it. I think he's made some strides. We'll know more obviously when we play the game."

With several days off around Christmas it has given Auburn's walking wounded an even better chance to get healthy and closer to full speed for New Year's Day. That includes key players on both offense and defense including running back Onterio McCalebb and linebacker Eltoro Freeman.

Onterio McCalebb

McCalebb looked especially good on Sunday as he showed the burst that made him a big weapon for the Tigers early in the season. Chizik said it's nice to see the freshman moving around that way again, but the team is still not quite where it needs to be from a health standpoint.

"We're still a little banged up believe it or not," Chizik said. "We've got to overcome some of those injury issues. Time off for the team in general was really good. What comes with time off is healing, but what also comes with time off is a little bit of out of synch-ness…we've got to get back to work. The kids know it. They see it. Overall the rest was good for our team."

One of the players happiest to see Freeman back on the field is linebacker Craig Stevens. Playing the bulk of the season with depth problems at the position, the junior said having Freeman back can do nothing but help the Tigers.

"We got a little break and everybody got their legs back," Stevens said. "It feels good to get back out there and get after it to get ready for the game.

"It will help a lot," Stevens said of getting Freeman back. "It will give somebody a chance to rest. He looks good coming back out there. He's full speed running around. I think he'll be ready for the game."

Photo of the new Under Armour white shoes that some of the Auburn players were wearing during Sunday's practice. It says "War Eagle" just above the orange striping.

Auburn will join Northwestern Sunday afternoon as both teams visit the local Children's Hospital. The Tigers will return to the practice field Monday morning at the University of Tampa before heading to Busch Gardens for an afternoon at the amusement park.

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