The Rebels, in full pads as is the case every Tuesday during the season, had an enthusiastic practice Tuesday in an effort to get back on the winning track as a hot Auburn team awaits this Saturday at 6 p.m. in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
"They are really good," said Coach Hugh Freeze. "They have as good a defensive front as we have faced or will face this year and their running game is humming. We have our work cut out for us - they may be the hottest team in the SEC right now.
"But what else is new? You have to love the challenge. It's why we coach and play in this league."
Obviously, from an injury standpoint, the focal point will be on the offensive line, where Left Tackle Rod Taylor and Right Guard Jordan Sims are both nursing ankle issues. We've been told that Sims may have a chance for spot or emergency duty if his rehab this week goes well, but Taylor is less likely to be able to contribute. Neither were at practice Tuesday.
So where does that leave the OL as confronting an outstanding defensive line is just a few days away?
The starting lineup, most likely, will be LT Greg Little, a true freshman who has been splitting time with Taylor most of the year; Lewft Guard Javon Patterson, who has started every game and played a lot of snaps; Center Robert Conyers, as usual; Right Guard Daronte Bouldin, who played most of the snaps against LSU and has gotten substantial PT this year; and Right Tackle Sean Rawlings, who has been the starter there in every game.
That was the easy part. The more difficult assignment is figuring out the backups.
Tuesday, Alex Givens, who has been backing up Rawlings when Sean went to spell Conyers at center, was moved behind Little at LT, where he worked all of last spring and some of August practice before moving to the right side. Givens has also been tasked with working some at one of the guard slots.
It appears that Jeremy Liggins will back up Rawlings at right tackle and Center Jacob Feeley will most likely work some at one of the guard slots as well.
One thing is certain. Bouldin and Patterson will get all they want and some. In an interview Monday, Patterson said he and Bouldin are up to whatever they are asked to do. "We can handle it. Daronte is in good shape and is in good game shape and I am too," he declared.
"Daronte has been waiting his turn and now it's a next man up situation and we are lucky to have a fourth year guy ready to go against perhaps the most talented front we have faced," said OL Coach Matt Luke. "They are good against the run and good pass rushers. We will have to be ready. We like the challenge."
Defensive End Marquis Haynes had to be helped off the field against LSU, but he came back and finished the game. He practiced in pads, full speed Tuesday.
Defensive End Fadol Brown, who played 19 snaps against LSU and seemed to be "OK," did not practice Tuesday, and there is no word on whether or not he will be available for Auburn yet. The best guess is that he will be in about the same capacity as he was against the Tigers - limited.
Linebacker Terry Caldwell, who was sent to the locker room Saturday night during the game after an apparent altercation with Graduate Assistant Coach Christian Robinson, who helps with LB coaching, was not at practice Tuesday and we have been told he will not play against Auburn. His future beyond that is, at this point, uncertain as Freeze mulls over the consequences of Caldwell's insubordination.
TE Evan Engram said the team had a frank heart-to-heart Tuesday with him, Chad Kelly, Marquis Haynes and anyone who wanted to talk and he feels it has helped.
"We are not down. I think our meeting today aired things out. We are in this thing together and there is no lay down in us," he noted.