Another Good Practice, Tigers Say

Comments from Gene Chizik, Curtis Luper, Trooper Taylor and Mike Blanc along with news and notes from Auburn's football practice are featured.

Auburn, Ala.--Gene Chizik gave Wednesday evening's practice a thumbs up as his football team worked out for two hours in shorts and helmets as Auburn continued its preparations for Saturday's home game vs. Clemson.

"I thought the focus was really there," Auburn's head coach said, adding that the Tigers have now had back-to-back good practices.

"We really tried to get back to fundamentals and playing technique better, doing the little things that are going to make us a better football team we didn't do the first two weeks," Chizik said.

For the second straight day, the offense and defense worked against each other than just their normal drills against the scout teams with the theory that the Tigers wanted to be prepared for the good team speed they will see from this week's opponent.

Chizik noted he is excited about the focus of his football team and how his players are practicing with good energy as Auburn resumes its old rivalry with Clemson of the Atlantic Coast Conference. "They will be excited to play on Saturday," he stated.

Running backs coach Curtis Luper said after Wednesday night's practice that he has been pleased with how freshman tailback Michael Dyer has been progressing. "He will probably get a few more (carries) hopefully, depending on how the game goes," Luper said. "He is just getting more comfortable in the offense."

Luper said that the freshman is right on schedule. "We don't want to throw him in there too fast--too much, too soon. We want to make sure he is ready, he is comfortable. He is getting there.

"He has been running very well between the tackles," Luper pointed out. "He has probably run the best between the tackles of the three guys who have been running the ball. It doesn't surprise me because he did that in high school and he will get better."

Michael Dyer

The coach said that he is treating the five-star running back carefully. "My plan is to go slow with him. It is like a first round pick quarterback--take your time, don't throw him in there to the wolves too soon, but his time is coming."

Luper said that senior tailback Mario Fannin, who left the Mississippi State game with a shoulder injury, is doing fine. "He is a rock," the coach stated. "He surprises me all of the time. He is doing well."

Luper, who is also Auburn's recruiting coordinator, said that the Tigers are having a good week of practice and that this will be a big weekend to showcase the program to prospects. A large number of prospects are expected in for unofficial visits with the coaching staff's phones rings from prospects and their coaches who want to come to the game. Running back Dee Hart from Orlando, Fla., is expected in for an official visit.

Chizik and Luper pointed out that with ESPN's GameDay Show being telecast from Auburn this Saturday it will be a great opportunity for prospects from around the country to learn more about the AU program. "The fans are going to be loud and boisterous is what I have heard," Luper said.

After practice on Wednesday night, Chizik met with students for a pep rally at the new dorm village complex.

Coach Gene Chizik addresses the students in front of the north entrance to the Auburn Arena.

*Chizik said that despite rumors that the Tigers are going to wear blue pants for the Clemson game that his team will wear its regular regular uniforms for the game.

Defensive line coach Tracy Rocker said after Wednesday's practice he has been pleased with the play of reserve defensive tackle Mike Blanc. "He has stimulated our defense up front," Rocker said.

"If you look back at the Mississippi State game, he came off the bench and all of the sudden bam, had a sack. Against Arkansas State he came off the bench and made a tackle for a loss and a sack."

Blanc said he and his fellow defensive linemen have been working on the fundamentals of getting off of blocks and pressuring the quarterback in practice this week with Clemson quarterback Kyle Parker coming to Jordan-Hare Stadium on Saturday.

"Coach Rock works us hard in practice every day so we can get better," Blanc said. "He tells us that our front four needs to be the best. We have made some progress, but Coach Rocker isn't satisfied and wants to see that continue to improve in this game against Clemson. He is the kind of coach who tells us that you should never be pleased, you should never settle for what you just did, you should be working hard to get better.

"We did some good things last week, but we also did some things that we need to improve on and we are looking forward to getting better this week," Blanc said.

Blanc added that he and his teammates are excited about playing Clemson out of the ACC. "We really look forward to playing these guys because they have great players," Blanc said. "It is going to be a fun game. Coach (Ted) Roof has been telling us about the SEC and the ACC. I think a lot of people are looking forward to seeing this game."

In other news and notes:

*Freshman wide receiver Trovon Reed is still questionable for Saturday's game, Chizik said. "We hope he can play," he said. Reed's position coach, Trooper Taylor, said the freshman is getting closer to being ready and is practicing as a punt returner and a kickoff returner in addition to his receiver role.

*Another wide receiver, Travante Stallworth, is still battling to get back to full speed after having knee surgery, Taylor noted.

*Freshman fullback Ladarious Phillips, who is rehabbing from an ankle injury, is making progress and could be ready to play some time in the next couple of weeks, running backs coach Luper said after Wednesday night's practice.

Luper said that junior Eric Smith is a guy the coaches can count on to run the football if he is needed on Saturday night. He predicted that Smith will get the ball in his hands in the coming weeks playing multiple positions. Smith lines up at H-back, fullback, tailback and tight end.

Kickoff time is set for shortly after 6 p.m. CDT on Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium as Clemson makes its first football road trip to Auburn since 1971.

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