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Auburn Football Practice Report; Tommy Tuberville Previews The West Virginia Game

Oct. 20, 2008

AUBURN - The Auburn football team continued to prepare for Thursday night's game at West Virginia with a workout that lasted an hour and forty-five minutes Monday afternoon at the practice fields behind the Athletics Complex. The Tigers worked out in shells under sunny skies and cooler temperatures.

Just prior to practice during his weekly press conference, head coach Tommy Tuberville said that the Tigers will have their hands full trying to stop the explosive West Virginia offense.

"It's going to be a tremendous challenge for us on the road, trying to improve on how we've played and how we've handled certain situations," said Tuberville. "It's going to be a tough assignment, especially for us on defense playing against a Heisman Trophy candidate in Pat White, a young man from the state of Alabama that's had a tremendous career and won a lot of football games.

"I feel good about our game plan. Our guys have really practiced hard, they've done a good job and I'm proud for them for that. It has been a tough time. We're looking forward to the trip and going up to West Virginia."

Auburn (4-3) and West Virginia (4-2) will meet for the first time next Thursday, Oct. 23, in Morgantown, W.V. The game kicks off at 6:30 p.m. CT and will be nationally televised by ESPN.

The Tiger defense, ranked ninth nationally in scoring defense (13.1) and 14th in total defense (272.7) will attempt to slow down the West Virginia offensive unit that is ranked 14th nationally in rushing offense (224.8).

It will be Auburn's first Thursday night game since a trip to South Carolina in 2006 that produced a 24-17 Auburn victory. Auburn is 6-1 in Thursday night games with three straight wins.

Auburn returns to the practice fields Tuesday morning before departing for Morgantown Wednesday.

Tommy Tuberville Press Conference quotes
Oct. 20, 2008



Opening Statement
"We've got a short week this week. We're looking forward to going to a different environment. Our players are excited about getting back on the field. It will be a different trip for us number one going to West Virginia for the first time I think ever. I've been there a couple of times when I was at the University of Miami, it's a unique place it's a great place for college football. It'll be a tremendous atmosphere, Thursday night, ESPN even makes it that much more special. We've had a week to prepare along with about a half a week this week, we really needed that to get some guys back healthy and so did West Virginia. It's been a tough year for both of us, in terms of getting guys beat up, but that's part of football, and we're looking for the challenge.

"It's going to be a tremendous challenge for us on the road, trying to improve on how we've played and how we've handled certain situations. It's going to be a tough assignment especially for us on defense playing against a Heisman Trophy candidate in Pat White, a young man from the state of Alabama that's had a tremendous career and won a lot of football games. And one thing about this football team up there, for years they've had a winning tradition and they've continued that, and I know they've had a coaching change, but Coach (Bill Stewart) has done a good job of keeping it going and doing about the same things. But they've got some outstanding athletes on offense, a lot of speed, quickness. Their offense is built around a running game, a running back and a quarterback, and a very physical offensive line. Their defense is a little different than what we normally have seen in terms of the alignments, but they have built their team on speed and quickness and guys can run around and make plays, and it's going to be tough. So we're going to try to get ourselves together, pick up a few of the pieces as we did last week, put them together and try to get more guys back out on the field healthy.

"I feel good about our game plan. Our guys have really practiced hard, they've done a good job and I'm proud for them for that. It has been a tough time. We're looking forward to the trip and going up to West Virginia.

"One thing I want to talk about, and I don't talk about rumors that much, but over the last week or so, obviously there has been a lot of things said in the papers or magazines. I get people that email me that. I just want to let everybody know that everything is going well. I did not have a stroke. I am completely healthy. As a matter of fact about three months ago I had a full physical. I'm not tired of coaching, I'm as fired up as ever. I've been here ten years as the head coach and this is my 30th year to coach, and I feel as good right now as I ever have about coaching football, and I still have that drive. You pretty much have to with 14-, 18-hour days this time of year. But I read that my drive was gone. No we did not negotiate a contract last week - that's another one that came out. I don't like recruiting anymore - well I went 2500 miles last Thursday and Friday. And I covered a lot of high schools and talked to a lot of coaches and I love every minute of it, and our recruiting is going great.

"It's just amazing the rumors that go around when things are not going as good as you had hoped, and no matter what happens anywhere you're going to have years that things are not going to go perfect. And that's my job to get it straightened out. And the one thing that I will tell you about our football team, is with all these distractions from the outside, I can tell more about our football team when things go like this than I do at any other time, because a good football team is made from within. not from without. And we've got some great kids on this team that have busted their tails, and they have hurt immensely and as much time and effort as they've put into it, and every fan out there, you can put them together and they really love their football. And I'm proud of that, but you can put every fan together and it wouldn't come near the hurt that it hurts one of these kids to lose a football game - the effort and time they put into it.

"I'm proud of them, but I just wanted to let you know that I've been here ten years, I plan on being here ten more and I'm looking forward to it. And all these rumors get started, and I'm ten years an Auburn man and I'm ten years more of an Auburn man than most, because I've put my heart and soul in this thing and we ain't gonna stop now. We're going to keep working and striving to get better because we do have a good football team. We're not playing well right now and this is a transition year, but we're going to get better. I don't know whether we'll win any of these last five games, but I can tell you one thing, all you have to do is look back at the first seven. We led every game at halftime. Some things didn't work out in the second half but we fought hard in every game. We played well. We haven't been beat by thirty points. There are times when you'd think we lost that game by three or four touchdowns and it came down to basically the last play or so - that's this football team. I'm proud of how they've worked, of how they've put it together, the coaches, how they've done it. Again, good football teams don't win every game and I'm looking forward to the next few weeks and seeing how much we improve.

"We've put in seven principles of what we want to do for the next five games in terms of winning, and we're going to base this football team on that, but your football is based more a lot on just how they play on Saturday. I base them on a lot more things: around the program, how they handle themselves, how they do things, the classes and all those things together, and we're going to have some guys get in trouble and we're not perfect, but we take care of those problems.

"So we got a great program here that's going to get stronger. It's going to get better. All the detractors from outside that keep throwing stones at us, that's fine. I love it. It makes us work harder, so we're looking forward to this Thursday, coming back this weekend, getting ready for the next conference game, the next week and on and on. So, again I appreciate the sympathy cards for my illnesses and all that, but please don't send any flowers. Save your money until Christmas because it looks like the way the economy is, we're all going to need it. So that's a paid political announcement by Tommy Tuberville, by the way, so now we can get on with it, after dispelling all those things. Any questions?

On if the West Virginia game is a must win...
"No, we can't do that. If you look at our team and how we've played and start putting that type of pressure on our guys that are practicing hard and are trying to get better, there is no way you can do that. Of course we're going to go to play the best game that we've played, but West Virginia is going to do the same thing. They're 4-2. They've played one game less than we have. It's two teams that are trying to get back on track. I think they have won two or three games in a row, so they're playing better than we are. That's football and we have got to regroup. I love this team because they disregard everything outside. They understand what we have got to do. I would never tell them that we must go to West Virginia and win this game, that's not what it is about. It's about getting better and understanding your problems and not worrying about rumors, and instead, working those problems out and making yourself better. We have a lot of room for improvement in every area."

On discussions with Jay Jacobs and your future...
"No. He has been very supportive. Dr. Gogue is the guy who makes all of the decisions and at the end of the year. We sit down and visit and talk about how things have gone and very little of it, honestly, was about winning or losing. It's about everything else and that's the way it should be. I'm a football coach and everything else that goes along with it. I know more about this program than most people combined with what I have put into it in the last ten years. The good thing is that Jay Jacobs does too. He's been around and knows the tough points and all of the things that go along with it, but everybody has been very supportive."

On making the statement to dispel rumors...
"During the off week I've received emails and calls asking whether I am sick or not and the internet being a good source of rumors. I get call after call with people asking, `Are you going to quit?' I'm not a quitter. I don't know where stuff like that gets started, but it's just part of it. But I felt after all that that the rumors are getting out of hand. I just wanted to get things straight."

On Chris Todd...
"He will be making the trip to West Virginia. I want him to get 100% healthy. I saw what he could do at 80-85 percent, but it's just not good enough. I told him that he's had his chance, but right now it's time for Kodi Burns to have his opportunity and let him play, along maybe with someone else. I don't have any doubts that if Chris Todd got 100% healthy that he could be the quarterback here, but it's not fair to him to keep going out there throwing 150-200 balls during practice and not making any headway in terms of his arm getting stronger. We've sat down and talked and he understands it. I want him to get 100 percent healthy. In couple of weeks you never know, you'll have to wait and see if he makes any improvements. He will make the trip, he is a part of the team. He obviously would love to be the quarterback, but he understands the situation."

On the players making the trip...
"We're only taking 70 players. We're flying out of a smaller town, so we can't take a big plane, therefore we can't take the entire team. I would love to take everybody, but it's not feasible. Plus we have school, so a lot of these guys need to go to school Thursday and Friday."

On Barrett Trotter...
"Barrett Trotter and Neil Caudle are still practicing behind Kodi Burns. We go through the week, watching the film every night. We grade every throw they make, the decisions they make. Kodi Burns is going to be in there, but he could come out due to a turned ankle or something. We have to have somebody that you feel the best about. I really like how Neil Caudle has been playing. He has competed, and we've sat down and talked. Neil wants to be a player and we have given him that opportunity along with Barrett Trotter. I'm not going to put somebody in there just to put them in there; if I think they can will help us win, I'll put them in there, but if not they won't play."

On concerns with finishing games...
"All of the games have pretty much come down to the end. We've started out earlier in the season having a better chance on defense because we had a lot more depth, but we started getting people hurt. That's what happens. A lot of teams this time of year start losing players and losing their depth. You may not lose your starters, but lose players on second and third teams that do normally play 30-40 percent of the time, and then your starters will be out there longer and it takes a toll. It has taken a toll on us the last couple of games. After going back and looking at film, we were definitely faster coming out the first few games than the last couple. We haven't given them a lot of time off, but we have given them some. We have to practice. Everybody needs to practice to get better. Just looking at our team, we didn't play near as sharp on defense or kicking game and that is one area that has got to pick up, too. The difference between last year and this year is that we gave up a few more points this year and our kicking game has not been as strong. We just have to keep working at it and try to keep our depth."

On recruiting...
"We're going to continue to run the spread. We've always run the spread. It just depends on how much of it we're going to run. I like it and it's something that is going to continue to grow. If you look at all of the teams, most of the teams that are in the top ten or fifteen run some version of the spread. You have to use the players that you have in terms of what is going to help make first downs and score points, but recruits have been fine. When you go out, you can't talk to recruits. What I did is just make a visual appearance at a lot of them. I will continue to do that. I go out most Friday nights without the team and go in the stadium and shake the coach's hand and sell Auburn by just being there. That's what I did last week. I saw some good football players that are fired up about Auburn."

On West Virginia's quarterback Pat White...
"We all remember Dameyune Craig and there isn't a whole lot of difference between Pat White and Dameyune Craig; both are phenomenal football players. They play great with their athletic ability, their feet accelerate, make good decisions. Pat White has won a bunch of games and been in a lot of big games and has been very successful. He's got a good surrounding. One guy can't do it. They're sold on what they're doing and they've done it for years. They have a good scheme. They run option plays, draws, screens, they throw the ball down the field, they run a different version of the spread. They have a tailback that runs the ball effectively, but their quarterback runs also. They're a passing team, but they want to be a running team first and who wouldn't want to be with the type of players that they have. It's going to be a challenge tackling Pat White in the open field and the running back, but it always is. I remember being at Ole Miss when Dameyune Craig was here; it was a headache. It's a huge challenge for Paul Rhoads and all of the defensive coaches. It will be a fun one to watch. I just hope we can execute."

On recruiting Pat White...
"Everybody looked at him. He's a good baseball player too. Everybody knew that he is a great person, and West Virginia did a great job. We weren't running this type of offense at the time and I'm sure he got a lot of offers, but he also looked at Rich Rodriquez and what they were doing and made a very wise decision."

On the off week...
"We needed to mentally rest, just as much as physical. It's hard when every game we've been through has gone down to the last quarter, even the ones we won. After the Tennessee game, we felt like we had been run through a ringer. So mentally, everything that we went through with the players and the situation during the Arkansas week takes a toll. It was good to get away from everybody. Coaches get away and just get refreshed. It sets up pretty good now with the next five games. We have a little time between most games and I like the situation. Bottom line is that we have got to get better at what we're doing. We do have an identity now on offense, an offense we're going to run each week and every day in practice. We're going to rep and rep and rep, and we're going to get better at it. We have to help the defense out, that's the bottom line. If we can get to the level that the defense played early in the season, we'll be fine."

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