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AUBURN, Ala. -- Coach Tommy Tuberville likes to keep things loose. His two sons, Tucker, 11, and Troy, 9, were behind the wheel of a souped-up orange golf cart, racing around the perimeter of the intramural fields, while their dad made the rounds and chatted with guests at the day's practice.
"Don't take it too serious," Tuberville said of his preseason approach. "You do as much as you can to take pressure off [the players]. I like for them to see that I'm relaxed."
Auburn keeps a wide-open feel to its early practices at the intramural fields, where it will spend the first two weeks of preseason drills before moving to the practice fields full-time on Aug. 16. On Tuesday the Tigers attracted nearly 60 fans who took in practice from behind a roped-off area, some of whom stood on top of their cars to get a clear view of Heisman candidate Kenny Irons & Co. The crowd also included a few local firemen, who brought their firetruck.
1. Will Herring looks like a natural fit at linebacker. After spending the last three years at safety, he moves closer the action this season, and the switch suits him. He has great closing speed, and an Atlanta Falcons scout who was watching the team practice told me it was a smart move and noted that Herring has the frame to play linebacker at the next level.
"It was a big transition," Herring said. "As spring training went on, I felt more and more comfortable. I'm picking up where I left off."
At 6-foot-3, 225 pounds, Herring is the biggest of the Tigers' linebackers, but the group has speed to burn.
2. Kenny Irons may be even better than he was last season, when he led the SEC in rushing and became one of the nation's premier backs. He looks quicker and has added muscle -- and he's got his quarterback downright giddy about the possibilities.
"Kenny's Kenny," junior Brandon Cox said. "You just give him the ball and he's going to make something happen with it. He worked hard over the offseason and he got stronger and he's gotten faster. He does look a little smoother and there's no telling how good he'll be this year."
But don't forget about Brad Lester, who injured his groin last season. He looks healthy again and appears poised, along with Irons, to give the Tigers a Cadillac Williams/Ronnie Brown double threat in the backfield.
3. With Herring and sophomore Steve Gandy both moving from safety to linebacker, first-year defensive coordinator Will Muschamp has little experience to work with in the defensive backfield -- but you wouldn't have known it by watching these guys in action.
The first-team offense struggled against the safety quartet of junior Eric Brock, sophomores Tristan Davis and Lorenzo Ferguson and redshirt freshman Aairon Savage. Only Brock boasts significant experience at safety.
"I've been pleased, but I can't say I've been surprised [by their performance]," Herring said. "Every year, year after year, people step up. We've got three or four guys back there that I feel comfortable with. That's nice to have."
Ferguson seems to be the most raw, drawing the ire of Muschamp more than once when the team was working on passing assignments.