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SATURDAY, DECEMBER 16, 2006
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AU suspends 3 players for bowl game

By Bradley Handwerger
bhandwerger@decaturdaily.com 340-2462

AUBURN — Tommy Tuberville suspended three Auburn football players indefinitely Friday for violations of team rules.

Tuberville would not say what the violations were, only that running back Brad Lester and linebackers Kevin Sears and Tray Blackmon will not participate in any Auburn games until further notice, including the Tigers' Jan. 1 Cotton Bowl game against Nebraska.

"We've got one boss here and that's me," said Tuberville, Auburn's head coach. "Everybody has to do it the same way. It doesn't make any difference if you're a starter or a walk-on."

None of the three will make the trip to Dallas.

The suspensions leave the linebacker corps shorthanded as No. 10 Auburn (10-2) prepares to face No. 22 Nebraska (9-4).

But that's nothing new, as Auburn began the season without Sears and Blackmon, who were suspended for the first three and six games, respectively.

Tuberville downplayed that, however, saying preparing for a bowl game makes this a much different situation.

"It's just your depth, special teams," he said. "It's not as big a problem going into one game as it is knowing that you have three or four games. We'll work through it.

"Somebody just has to step up like they have all year long."

Auburn linebacker Will Herring isn't exactly on the same page as his coach, though.

"Everybody knows the impact Tray had when he came back for the Florida game and Kevin had an unbelievable Alabama game," Herring said.

This suspension is the second for both Blackmon and Sears this season. Blackmon, a standout redshirt freshman in his only six games this year, was suspended for the first half of this season following an underage drinking incident in June.

"He's a friend that I made here at Auburn, and I wish the best for him wherever he goes or if things work out and he winds up back here," Herring said. "I don't know the circumstances, but I hope it all works out for him."

For Sears, the suspension means his sometimes-tumultuous career at Auburn is over. The senior missed three games to begin this season and two of the final three during the 2005 season because of violating team rules.

He was found guilty of drunken driving July 16 stemming from an incident in November 2005. Sears also missed last season's Capital One bowl loss to Wisconsin.

The loss of Lester, for at least one game, opens up a spot for true freshman Ben Tate, who rushed for more than 100 yards three times this year.

"What a great opportunity to get Ben in the game," Gran said. "We can go into next year and see where he's progressed. I'll watch that in practice — see where he is mentally. Tre is the guy, right now, at No. 2."

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