By Jay Coulter
Numerous media sources are reporting that starting tailback Brad Lester is questionable for Saturday’s opener with Kansas State. Tommy Tuberville took the unusual step Tuesday of making the running backs off limits to the media. That speaks volumes about the situation.
Speculation about Lester centers on academics. Auburn sources are saying that it could be late Friday or early Saturday before a decision is made on his status. Should Lester not be able to go, look for Ben Tate to lineup at tailback. Fullback Carl Stewart, who’s coming off a hamstring injury, could also see action at tailback.
Tommy Tuberville held his first regular season weekly press conference on Tuesday. Tuberville says after a long month of practice, the Tigers are ready to go. Our guys are excited. On offense and defense, this is the first time we have had this much depth top to bottom. We pretty much have a two-deep that we feel like can play in the SEC but a lot of that will be told in the next week,” said Tuberville.
“We are going to play a lot of players offensively. You will see a lot of running backs. You’ll see a lot of offensive lineman and a lot of tight ends, obviously. You’ll see eight wide receivers and one quarterback, that’s probably a common thread across the country. You’ll see a lot of offensive players. That’s what we feel like we need to do going into these first couple of non-conference games to find out where we are at and who can play. It’s a good mixture.”
Tuberville says he also feels good about his depth on defense. “The defensive side is the same way,” he continues. “We feel like we have 10 defensive linemen that can play. The secondary is the same way. The linebackers are different because we don’t have as much depth losing Steve Gandy. We feel like we are going to have to play a couple of young guys. Again, defense is like offense – you can’t play the whole game. We try to play the starters sixty to seventy percent and the backups thirty to forty percent depending on how well they play.”
Despite playing in the Big 12, Tuberville says he still knows very little about Kansas State. “Kansas State is coming in from a new conference. You would think that after six months of talking to people, looking at film and dissecting them as much as possible that you would know a lot about them, but you really don’t,” said Tuberville.
“Going into the first game you would think that you would know what to expect. They have changed some coaches. They’ve changed some philosophy on both sides of the ball. They have some players coming back they will be an experienced team probably more experienced than us. It’s a different school than we normally play and a conference that you can’t compare that much. It’s going to be a challenge.
“Ron Prince (KSU head coach) has done an excellent job after his first year taking his team to a bowl they have played very well. I think he would probably want his team to play a little bit more consistent and that was probably their motto going into two-a-days, to play more consistent through the year. It’s going to be a great challenge,” said Tuberville.
Auburn finally released its depth chart for Saturday’s game. Here’s how it looks…
FB-Carl Stewart, Danny Perry
TB-Brad Lester, Ben Tate or Mario Fannin
QB-Brandon Cox, Blake Field
WR-Rod Smith, James Swinton
LT- King Dunlap, Andrew McCain
LG- Tyronne Green, Lee Isom
C-Jason Bosley, Ryan Pugh
RG-Mike Berry, Chaz Ramsey
RT-Lee Ziemba, Antwoin Daniels
TE-Cole Bennett, Tommy Trott or Gabe McKenzie
WR-Prechae Rodriguez, Chris Slaughter
WR-Robert Dunn, Tim Hawthorne
DE-Quentin Groves, Antonio Coleman
DT-Josh Thompson, Jake Ricks
DT-Pat Sims, Mike Blanc
DE-Sen’Derrick Marks, Michael Goggans
SLB-Craig Stevens, Bo Harris
MLB-Tray Blackmon, Chris Evans
WLB-Merrill Johnson, Courtney Harden
SS-Zac Etheridge or Eric Brock
FS-Aairon Savage, Mike McNeil
CB-Jerraud Powers, Patrick Lee
CB-Jonathan Wilhite, Zach Gilbert
PK-Wes Byrum, Graham Sutter
KO-Wes Byrum P-Ryan Shoemaker, Patrick Tatum
KOR-Brad Lester/Mario Fannin, Patrick Lee/Ben Tate
PR-Robert Dunn, Chris Slaughter