AUBURN, Ala. — Philip Pierre-Louis returned punts in a pinch for Auburn at Tennessee. That doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll do it again.
Pierre-Louis, who has been in head coach Gene Chizik’s doghouse for most of the year, replaced Anthony Gulley as the team’s punt returner Saturday night after Gulley got dinged up covering a kickoff in the first quarter.
Pierre-Louis had two returns for nine yards and successfully made three fair catches, a positive sign for an Auburn punt return unit that’s had trouble in that area.
“Alls we asked was just let us keep the ball,” Chizik said. “Just don’t turn the ball over, and then he started feeling a little bit comfortable enough to take them and get some return mileage out of them as well, so that was good to see.”
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Chizik didn’t say who will return punts at Arkansas this Saturday.
It was Pierre-Louis’ first action since suffering a season-ending knee injury in last year’s opener. He had issues this August that kept him away from the team for part of training camp in August and is still working his way back into Chizik’s good graces. He did not dress for the Tigers’ first four games this season.
Chizik didn’t promise anything about future playing time for Pierre-Louis, who has not practiced in any offensive packages yet.
“Philip is going to continue to work with us as a punt returner,” Chizik said. “Whether he plays or doesn’t play, that will be kind of day-to-day. We’ll see where that goes. It will be a work in progress as well.”
Revolving right guard
Chizik offered no specifics as to who would start at right guard for the Tigers next week.
Byron Isom, who started the first three games, missed his second straight game Saturday because of a team-imposed suspension. Chizik has given no timetable for his return.
“If you see him back he’ll have done the things we’ve asked him to do,” Chizik reiterated Sunday.
Freshman John Sullen started against Ball State, but junior Bart Eddins got his shot against Tennessee. Eddins, who has had three knee surgeries in his career, played nearly the entire game and held his own against a strong Tennessee defense.
“Really, really proud of Bart,” Chizik said. “No. 1, because he’s really overcome some health issues and he played with them Saturday night; they didn’t just go away.”
All you can eat
Running back Ben Tate was so appreciative of the holes his offensive linemen made for him against Tennessee that he’s taking the whole group, including H-back Eric Smith, out to dinner sometime this week, following through on a promise he’s made in the past.
The restaurant choice? Definitely some sort of buffet.
“They all like to eat,” Tate said. “That’s too much money. I’ll probably take them to Golden Corral, something like that.”
Tate ranks 13th nationally and second in the SEC in rushing, averaging 108 yards per game. He ran for 128 yards Saturday against a solid Vols defense that was allowing only 87 yards a game on the ground entering the night.
“That just lets everyone know that we’re for real,” Tate said. “It kind of gives us confidence in ourselves too. They are one of the best defenses in the country with one of the best defensive coordinators in the country. That just shows us that our hard work is paying off.”
Auburn’s game at Arkansas this Saturday will start at noon ET. It will be televised by ESPN. ... Injured QB Barrett Trotter (ACL) made the trip to Knoxville, mostly to help relay offensive signals. “We want to keep him around the offense,” Chizik said. ... Auburn brought 27 players to Tennessee who had never traveled for a road game before.