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February 27, 2006

Auburn emphasizing changes

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AUBURN, Ala. - Tommy Tuberville figures this is a fine time to make the Auburn. Tigers toughen up.

After all, the Tigers will have new starting offensive tackles and three new defensive line starters when spring practice opens on Tuesday. Tuberville said the team's worst games last season came when they lost that focus on running the ball and stopping the run, most prominently a Capital One Bowl loss to Wisconsin.

"We need to get back to being what we want to be here at Auburn, a physical, hard-nosed, mentally and physically tough football team," he said at a news conference Wednesday to discuss spring practice.

"Last year, I thought the games where we played well we were that. The thing we want to do this spring is to get that back."

The rest of the Tigers' agenda includes making several position changes and learning the defense of new coordinator Will Muschamp.

The biggest switch will be Will Herring's move from free safety to outside linebacker. Chris Browder is moving from defensive end to defensive tackle, where he's listed as the starter entering the spring.

Outside linebacker Karibi Dede is moving to the middle while end Quentin Groves is switching sides on the line.

The Tigers must replace 11 starters, mostly big men. They also lost three of their top four receivers.

"There's probably more question marks on this depth chart than we've had the last few years," Tuberville said. "We've got a lot of young guys that can play but we need to find out if they can get it done at this level."

Herring shared Tuberville's feelings that the Tigers were "outphysicalled" in the bowl game.

"What that was a result of, I don't know," Herring said. "But whatever it was, we're going to get it fixed."

How do they plan to do that?

"This is going to be a very physical spring," Tuberville said. "You have to do that on the practice field to get it through to our players. But our players understand that. We've been talking about it the last five or six weeks."

With opening day of spring practice Tuesday, he said, "we're going to start working on putting that philosophy back into our program."

Other issues facing the Tigers this spring:

-Right guard Tim Duckworth will be limited after having knee surgery following the bowl game. Defensive lineman Tez Doolittle (knee) and left guard Ben Grubbs (ankle) also haven't been able to go through full winter conditioning due to injuries.

-Tuberville said Browder has gained 10-15 pounds in the offseason in preparation for the move inside. He was listed at 247 pounds last season.

"He has the mentality to play there," Tuberville said.

-Getting used to Muschamp's defense, the second straight spring under a new coordinator. Tuberville said the system won't change much under the former LSU and Miami Dolphins coach.

"The philosophy's the same," Tuberville said. "They play a four-man front, attack the line of scrimmage, put as much speed on the field as you can. It's the same as ours, the same as ours has always been."

David Gibbs took a job with the Kansas City Chiefs after one season running the Tigers' defense.

TIGER TALES: The Tigers will hold two practices after the March 18 spring game ... Anthony Campbell is moving from cornerback to wide receiver. Danny Perry is switching from tight end to fullback.

For more coverage of the Auburn Tigers, check out AuburnSports.com.

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