Tuberville Likes Defense at AU Practice

Tray Blackmon

A report on Auburn's football preparations for Vanderbilt is featured.

Auburn, Ala.--Auburn returned to the football practice field Wednesday evening to continue preparations for Saturday's SEC showdown at Vanderbilt and head coach Tommy Tuberville had praise for his team's defense.

"The defense continues to amaze me," Tuberville said. "They come to work every day and practice with a purpose. The way they have been playing, they have been practicing."

The Tigers, who are ranked 13th and 14th this week, will face the 19th-ranked Commodores at 5 p.m. CDT at Vanderbilt Stadium. Vandy is coming off a weekend off from football while Auburn edged Tennessee 14-12.

"I think we are in a lot better mental shape this week than we were at this time last week," said Tuberville, whose team was still trying to get past the hangover of a home loss vs. LSU the previous week. "That is what a win will do for you. We bounced around good. We worked a lot on the kicking game. Obviously, they have got a great returner (D.J. Moore).

"We have changed a few things up trying to get a little edge," the Auburn coach pointed out. "They have had a week off so there is no telling what they are going to do."

A part of the kicking game the Tigers have struggled in recently is field goal kicking. Tuberville said that Wes Byrum didn't miss a kick for a second straight practice.

"He has done real well," the coach noted. "He looks better in his form and technique. He just has to keep it going in the game. Kickers battle like you do in golf putting. Sometimes the hole looks big and you make that putt. Sometimes it looks real small. Right now the goal posts look real narrow.

"He has nailed them this week--hit the ball solid," Tuberville added. "I expect a good game out of him."

The goal posts have literally looked narrower for Byrum this week because he has been practicing on narrower Arena Ball style goal posts and said he believes that has helped.

A bigger problem than the field goal kicking has been the offense, which hasn't been consistent in any game this year.

"The offense, I think, is really coming around, if we can just get a little bit more consistent," Tuberville said. "We are doing a few things different in terms of trying to correct the penalties that we have had. If we can just do that, I think we will look a lot sharper and more consistent."

In other news:

*Linebacker Tray Blackmon is doing better at practice this week drilling with a cast on his wrist to protect a cracked bone. He did not play vs. Tennessee, but could see action this week.

*Senior running backs Brad Lester and Tristan Davis had a good day of practice, Tuberville said. He noted both should be ready for action vs. Vandy.

*Saturday's game in Nashville will be televised by ESPN with Brent Musberger, Kirk Herbstreit and sideline reporter Lisa Salters calling the action.

*The Auburn radio network's call of the game will be on XM channel 201.

*Tuberville has been liberal in his praise of the Commodores and head coach Bobby Johnson this week. "Everybody knows that Vanderbilt is for real since he has been there," Tuberville said. "He has really done a nice job."

*Redshirt sophomore Darrell Roseman has been shut down for the season for a third straight year. The first two seasons he was sidelined due to leg injuries. This year, after moving from the defensive line to the offensive line, he had shoulder surgery. He should be ready to participate in spring drills, Tuberville said.

*Four other Tigers who have had surgery, cornerback Aairon Savage, wide receiver Philip Pierre-Louis, defensive end Jomarcus Savage and safety Marcus Jemison, are healing well and should be ready for spring drills. Jemison is expected back sooner than that. He could practice later this fall after suffering a broken bone in his leg. However, he still has a pin in his leg, but that should be removed sometime this month.

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