AUBURN, Ala. — No college football team is at 100 percent health in November. And while Auburn football has dodged major injuries through its first eight games of the season, there are some concerns heading into what should be another physical matchup this Saturday against Vanderbilt.
However, Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn is optimistic about his team’s overall health two days away from its final SEC home game. While Auburn left a 40-29 win over Ole Miss last Saturday with injury doubts for several players, all of the Tigers returned to action this week.
“It was a very physical game, and we had to go get some players off the field and all that. But everyone practiced,” Malzahn said Thursday night in his weekly Tiger Talk radio show appearance. “We’re hoping that we’ll get everybody out there and ready to go. This time of year, it’s a challenge. You’re going to be beat up to a certain point.”
The players that Auburn’s training staff had to get off the field against Ole Miss include junior linebacker Tre’ Williams, sophomore defensive tackle Andrew Williams and redshirt freshman cornerback Javaris Davis.
Injured senior wide receiver Tony Stevens, who leads the team in catches and receiving yards this season, did not play the Ole Miss game after going through pregame warmups.
All four practiced this week, according to Malzahn. Earlier in the week, the Auburn head coach said a return to the practice field would be a good sign for their availability against Vanderbilt.
“If everybody practices today, it’s usually a good sign,” Malzahn said. “We’ll see once they move around but this time of year if somebody doesn’t practice on Tuesdays sometimes that’s a little bit of a challenge, but we’ll see.”
With just four games left in the regular season, Auburn’s coaching staff expects the Tigers to fight through some minor injury issues.
“Obviously at this point and time in the year in the SEC West, you’re going to come back on Sunday with some nicks and bruises, but we’re all in a good situation,” Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele said Wednesday night. The only one that’s hard to deal with is if somebody has a concussion because the protocol, and I understand that and agree with it, it’s fine.
“But you can work guys and get them ready to play with the exception of that because they cant do anything based on where they’re at and all that. Everybody else you just kind of work through it.”
On Thursday night, Malzahn revealed one player who already worked through those bumps and bruises — sophomore running back Kamryn Pettway.
Pettway wasn’t 100 percent heading into Auburn’s Week 8 matchup against Arkansas. Still, the powerful running back rushed for 192 yards and 2 touchdowns in a 56-3 rout of the Razorbacks. Pettway now leads the SEC in rushing yards with 933 in just six games of action.
“A couple weeks ago, he was pretty banged up,” Malzahn said. “We didn’t make a big deal of it before the Arkansas game and he just ran the ball so hard, got stronger as he went.”