Tigers Tune Up for Vandy Road Trip

Michael Goggans

A report on Auburn's final practice of the week as the Tigers look to improve their record to 5-1 in an SEC matchup in Nashville.

Auburn, Ala.--Auburn wrapped up on the field preparations on Thursday for their second road test of the season with a light workout in shorts rehearsing the offensive and defensive game plans.

The Tigers will fly from Columbus, Ga., to Nashville on Friday to take on the 4-0 and 19th-ranked Vanderbilt Commodores.

"It was a beautiful day to practice," Auburn head football coach Tommy Tuberville said. "This has been, I think, one of our better weeks of focus and intensity in preparation. Guys were flying around today. We have a good game plan in. We have made a lot of changes so I think all of the guys are excited on both sides of the ball and special teams.

"It has been fun to watch us bounce back and win a big game like we won last week and then have little positive things happening in practice," he added.

Tuberville pointed out that the Tigers are "still a work in progress" on both sides of the football. "We want to play fast on both sides," he said. "We want to play faster on offense. We have to get that tempo and speed back on offense. We have to quit worrying about making mistakes and go attack and get it done."

Tuberville said he believes his team will go to Nashville with plenty of respect for the unbeaten Commodores. Defensive end Michael Goggans agrees with his coach. "Vanderbilt is a program on the rise," he said. "We are not going to go in there and underestimate them or take them lightly.

"It is an advantage for them to have an extra week to prepare for us," Goggans said, noting the Commodores were off last weekend. "They have extra time for film study and on the field preparation."

The Tigers have had plenty of success on the road in recent years. Auburn is 14-3 in true road games the past five seasons, which is the fifth best record of any team in the country.

"I don't know why we have played so well on the road," Goggans said. "You know that you have to step up your game. You just have to look at it like the crowd is cheering for you."

Michael Goggans

Tuberville said he has been pleased with what he has seen from Goggans. "He has played injured the last couple of weeks. I didn't know whether he would play last week. He started and played three-fourths of the time. He has really grown up. He has become a good player and he is going to be even better. This is really first year he has played much.

"He has been not a surprise, but a pleasant surprise this early in terms of being a factor in what we are doing," Tuberville added. "He plays with a lot of intensity. You have to do that on defense. I think that is one reason our defense is playing so well.

"They come to practice every day to get better. They work at it, they coach each other up and then they take it there to Saturday and look to have fun."

Tuberville said consistency-wise the 2008 defense is playing as well as any one he has coached at Auburn. "This group is really performing," he noted.

Commenting on the offense, Tuberville said the Tigers will continue to do what they did in the LSU and Tennessee games. In those two contests, in addition to running the base offense (shotgun with one back) the Tigers lined up at times with the quarterback under center and one or two backs.

Commenting on the non-shotgun plays, Tuberville said, "We did some good things and it will get better each week. Again we will look depending on what the other team does on defense whether we think two-back we will be better for us 30-40 percent of the time, 10 percent time or will we run 90 percent spread. It just depends on what they do and personnel.

"You need it in this league, obviously," Tuberville added. "I thought it really helped us against LSU on the goal line. Even coming out, I think the first play of the LSU game, we were two-back under the center and threw a screen pass so you can use it as much of a decoy in terms of, ‘hey, they are going to run the ball,' as you can running it. It is good.

"I think what we are doing, putting a little two-back, one-back under the center with two tight ends, helps the spread. It makes them work on something else. It takes the working time away from the meat and potatoes of what we really want to do."

In other news:

*Kickoff for Saturday's game is set for 5 p.m. from soldout Vanderbilt Stadium. Tickets in the Nashville area are difficult to find to the stadium that seats just 39,773. Even Tuberville noted he is trying to find tickets to the game.

*Vandy is off to a 4-0 start for the fourth time since 1950. The Commodores are shooting for their first 5-0 start since 1943.

Wes Byrum

*Tuberville said that Wes Byrum, who has been in a slump this season, will kick field goals after a good week of practice. He noted that backup Morgan Hull had a solid week of practice, too. "Hopefully, he is back on track," Tuberville said of Byrum. "Now we just need to take it to the stadium and get ready to go."

*The head coach said that Tray Blackmon should be ready to play this week with a cast on to protect a cracked bone in his wrist, however, backup Josh Bynes could get the start again. Bynes led the Tigers in tackles vs. Tennessee with 11. "He ran around well," Tuberville said of Blackmon. "He is a lot better off than he was last week."

*Running backs Brad Lester and Tristan Davis, who missed last week's game, are expected to see action vs. Vandy.

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