Chizik Looking For More On Both Sides Of Ball

Auburn coach Gene Chizik talks about the play on both sides of the ball for the Tigers as they prepare to face South Carolina.

Auburn, Ala.--Surviving a physically demanding and hard-hitting overtime win over Clemson Saturday night, the 14th-ranked Auburn Tigers (3-0) get back into conference play this weekend with a huge match-up against #12 South Carolina at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Playing a Gamecock team that is mostly unfamiliar to the Tigers, Chizik said just being back in the SEC is enough to get things amped up this week.

"It's a conference game and there is a heightened awareness of what is at stake when you play a conference game," Chizik said. "Not that there isn't a lot at stake in non-conference games either. Playing a team for the first time for a lot of these guys will be unique and different but it's conference play. They ought to be ready to play."

Taking on a South Carolina team that has played well on both offense and defense, Auburn must get things going offensively. While much of the focus continues to be on the running game by the backs, it's the passing game where the Tigers have been inconsistent.

One of the things that is glaring when you look at Auburn's offense in 2010 is the reliance on junior wide receiver Darvin Adams. Coming off a huge year last year, Adams has become the go-to guy already for Cameron Newton with 10 catches in three games, 214 yards, and a pair of touchdowns.

Those numbers may not seem overwhelming but when you consider Auburn has just 30 completions this season it means he's caught a third of the total balls completed this year. Chizik said the offense must do a better job of distributing the wealth beginning this Saturday.

"I don't want to use the word concern but we would like to have more of that," Chizik said about the passing game. "There is no question about it. We had some guys make some really big plays and really big catches, but you're also starting to see them get double teamed. That's something we're really going to have to look at in terms of being able to get the ball to more guys. In that regard we're going to have to look at some things."

A problem on offense is up front where the Tigers must try to find a replacement for injured tackle A.J. Greene. Likely out for the season with a broken bone, the junior was just three starts into his first season of true playing time after winning the job in the preseason. Now the search for a starter begins all over with John Sullen and Brandon Mosley the two most likely candidates.

Sullen got the first chance to show what he can do after replacing Green against Clemson. While it wasn't perfect, Chizik said Sullen's performance was good considering the circumstances.

"For how quick it unfolded and the way it unfolded I think he played well," Chizik said. "That doesn't mean we're not going to look back and say there were a thousand things all of them could do better. That was glaring to me. John came in and helped us win a football game. That's the way you have to look at it from 10,000 feet right now."

Averaging 259.3 rushing yards per game it's hard to imagine that much is wrong with the running game at the moment, but there are problems. Of those short yardage is one of the biggest concerns. Stopped in a key situation against Mississippi State and against Clemson Saturday night with a chance to possibly win the game, Chizik said the offense has to find a way to make plays in plus situations like that.

"I think we've been very sporadic on those," Chizik said. "That's not where we want to be at all. You would think that on third and one and third and two the advantage goes to the offense about 80 percent of the time. We're not there. We've got to find some ways to be able to convert on those downs especially when the game is on the line. We'll be looking at that real closely this week."

Defensively the focus is on the secondary and improving the play out of that group according to Chizik. In three games Auburn has allowed 679 yards and three touchdowns with the only interception coming from defensive lineman Nick Fairley. Playing the ball and ball awareness are two things Chizik said they are focusing on daily.

"We're certainly not where we need to be on that for sure," Chizik said. "We need to be able to play the ball well and come up with some interceptions. It has been disappointing right now that in three games we haven't had an interception with any of our defensive backs. We've got to create some turnovers on defense but certainly interceptions are what we need to improve on."

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