ALABAMA, AUBURN NOTEBOOK
AUBURN — Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville told reporters after Sunday’s practice that a team depth chart will be released Monday.
He also hinted that some young players who are expected to start may not be in that role Saturday against Kansas State because of a lack of experience.
“Being the first game, you want to go with experience a little bit,” he said. “You might not go with the best guy that’s doing it at the time. You might go with experience early and work everybody in.”
The team practiced for more than two hours Sunday. They will take the day off Monday and return for a morning practice Tuesday.
Receiver Montez Billings, who had practice with the team for the last few days in a half-speed mode, did not practice Sunday. Billings is suffering from a hamstring injury.
Senior fullback Carl Stewart (hamstring) and true freshman linebacker Brent Slusher (bruised arm) returned to full speed at practice. Tuberville said that Stewart is “back close to 100 percent.”
Backup quarterback Neil Caudle (shoulder) is expected to return to practice next week.
Junior James Swinton said he has secured a spot in the six-receiver playing rotation for this season.
“I feel like I secured a spot, but I’m not satisfied,” said Swinton, who has two catches in two seasons at Auburn. “I want to keep fighting and pushing harder so they can have more confidence in me and understand that I can get the job done.”
Last week, receivers coach Greg Knox said Prechae Rodriguez, Rod Smith and Robert Dunn are the top three wide-outs, but a host of players were competing for the No. 2 spots.
Knox said only the first six receivers will be in the playing rotation this season. He has refused to name the second tier.
But Tuberville told reporters Sunday night that he expects true freshman Chris Slaughter to play against Kansas State.
Swinton, who is the backup to Smith, is most known for his speed. Offensive coordinator Al Borges called the 6-foot-0, 177-pounder faster than “grease lightning.”
The Tucker, Ga., native said he beat all of his challengers in a 40-yard dash race with a 4.3 time, claiming he’s “at the top.”
“We settled that,” Swinton said. “There wasn’t anybody who was very close to my time.”
Auburn’s 2007-08 basketball schedule features nine games against teams that made last year’s NCAA tournament and another seven that qualified for the NIT, but coach Jeff Lebo said the schedule “is probably not as challenging as it has been in the past.”
The schedule, released this weekend, shows the Tigers tipping off the season Nov. 9 at Tulane. Auburn plays only once at home in its first seven games, against Kennessaw State on Nov. 13. The team’s non-conference schedule is highlighted with the BB&T Classic in Washington, D.C., where the Tigers face George Washington. That is followed with a contest against West Virginia in Birmingham for the Big East/SEC Invitational.
The Tigers end non-conference play at home against Xavier on Jan. 6. A nationally televised home game with Arkansas tips off Southeastern Conference play Jan. 10, and two days later the Tigers travel to two-time defending national champion Florida.
Auburn plays all SEC West foes twice, once home then away. It will host three SEC East teams, including Kentucky (Feb. 6), South Carolina (Mar. 1) and Georgia (Mar. 5). Along with that road game to Florida, Auburn travels to Vanderbilt (Feb. 2) and Tennessee (Feb. 20).
Daily sports writer
When former Alabama coach Mike Shula recruited kick returner Javier Arenas out of Tampa’s Robinson High, Arenas was considered a one-trick pony. Shula and then-special teams coach Dave Ungerer identified Arenas as mostly a return specialist.
But current coach Nick Saban sees Arenas as more than that. Saban has inserted Arenas at the “star” position when Alabama uses five defensive backs and has him switching roles between cornerback and safety.
“He plays multiple roles,” Saban said. “He’s played some corner and he’s offered a little more speed and athleticism at safety. Even though he’s a little bit small, he’s very explosive and strong tackler and good hitter.”
In Alabama’s second scrimmage of the preseason, Arenas had three tackles and a 30-yard interception return for a touchdown. In the first scrimmage, he had four tackles.
Of Arenas’ multiple roles, Saban said, “That’s confused him a little bit, but I think in the end, he’ll be able to contribute and help us there.”
Last season, Arenas averaged 19.1 yards on kickoff returns and 9.2 on punts. He returned a punt 65 yards for a touchdown against Florida International.
Alabama might throw to the tight end more this season. At least, Saban is indicating as much.
According to Saban, junior Nick Walker has lost some weight and is in better shape, while junior Travis McCall can help with the blocking schemes.
“I think they do outstanding things for us to have big blocking tight ends for your running game, and they’re one of best mismatch players you can have in the passing game as well,” Saban said. “We really feel fortunate about both of those guys.”
Last season, McCall had eight catches for 105 yards and a touchdown against Auburn, and Walker had three catches for 39 yards and a touchdown against Arkansas.
Alabama did not practice Sunday. With thunderstorms approaching Saturday, the team practiced indoors.
Despite the constant triple-digit temperatures throughout the preseason, it marked the first time that the Tide practiced indoors since preseason workouts started Aug. 3.
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