Preparations for Pigs Improving, Coaches Say

Comments from Auburn coaches and a senior starter are featured as the Tigers cotinue their on-the-field preparations for a battle of nationally-ranked teams.

Auburn, Ala.--Auburn coaches gave Wednesday's football practice a thumbs up after the Tuesday night session received mixed reviews.

Coach Gene Chizik's Tigers practiced for two hours in helmets and shorts preparing for Saturday's SEC West showdown featuring seventh-ranked Auburn vs. 12th-ranked Arkansas.

On Tuesday night coordinator and quarterback coach Gus Malzahn wasn't thrilled with how the Tigers practiced. Commenting on Wednesday night, running backs coach Curtis Luper said, "It was good. It was better than Tuesday's. We were more focused.

"As soon as the sun goes down the weather is cooling off now and that helps our guys," Luper said. "Coach Chizik has cut it back a little for the players this week. I think we will be ready to play on Saturday."

Curtis Luper

Defensive coach Phillip Lolley, who is in charge of the cornerbacks, said he liked what he saw on the defensive practice field on Wednesday evening and on Tuesday, too. "Practice has been good," Lolley said. He added that he told his players they need to build on the fourth quarter stop they make in Lexington that forced the Wildcats to kick a field goal setting the stage for Auburn to win the game in the closing seconds with a field goal of their own.

"We are having to throw a lot at them this week," Lolley said of the defense as the Tigers prepare for a high-powered Arkansas offense led by star quarterback Ryan Mallett. "Hopefully I will be able to rest them a little tomorrow with their legs. I noticed tonight we had gotten in a lot of reps."

Lolley said the Tigers have a major challenge on their hands preparing for Mallett and his impressive group of receivers that includes the tight end and running backs. "I have been in this conference a long time and he throws it as good as anybody when he is on," Lolley said of Mallett.

The coach added that the junior quarterback does a good job of getting the football to a variety of different teammates. "You can't just concentrate on one or two receivers," Lolley said.

Ryan Mallett scrambles from pressure in his team's victory over Texas A&M last Saturday.

Mallett led the Razorbacks to a 44-23 victory over Auburn last year. One of the Auburn seniors who is quite familiar with what happened last season in Fayetteville is guard Mike Berry.

"Last year's game was one of those days when things just never seemed to go right," Berry said. "We were able to drive the ball, but we had a fumble here, a mistake there and stopped ourselves.

"Playing against a good team like Arkansas there wasn't enough room for those kind of errors," Berry said. "We hurt ourselves with stupid penalties and fumbles, something that will kill an offense every time."

This year's Arkansas team comes into the game with a 4-1 record and the Razorbacks are 1-1 in the SEC. The team's only loss was a 24-20 setback to Alabama in a game that the Razorbacks had multiple opportunities to win.

"We know we have our hands full with Arkansas," Berry said. "They are a great SEC opponent. We know that we are going to have to show up ready to play on Saturday afternoon."

Auburn is 6-0 following its 37-34 road victory at Kentucky. "It was one of those games where we knew we had to be physical and dominate the line of scrimmage and we did that," Berry said.

"As an offensive line I think we played great, we played together and we played physical," he added.

The Tigers used both Berry and Isom to block on the corners at times vs. Kentucky. "We were able to pull both guards and get us out on the edge," Berry said. "Both of us did a great job of blocking in space and were able to take advantage of what the defense was giving us.

"It is fun to do that as a guard, but it also takes a lot of energy to get 300 pounds moving and get out on the corner so you have to get on your horse and get moving in a hurry. Once you get out there the reward is you have a chance to knock somebody down."

Against the Wildcats the Tigers scored on all five first half possessions with four touchdowns and one field goal, but managed only two second half field goals. "The first half is one of the best offensive performances we have had since I have been here," Berry said. "We have to do a better job of finishing games. We have to keep our foot on the gas."

Despite the second half disappointments offensively, the Tigers had a strong finish driving from their own seven-yard line to the UK seven to win the field goal on a chip shot field goal by Wes Byrum as time expired.

"I am not going to lie, I was proud of that drive," Berry said. "I didn't realize until later we had the ball for 19 plays on that drive."

In news and notes:

*Senior receiver Kodi Burns from Fort Smith and senior offensive tackle Lee Ziemba from Rogers are two of Auburn's four players from the state of Arkansas. Freshman running back Michael Dyer plus Dakota Mosley, a tight end who is redshirting, were teammates last season at Little Rock Christian Academy.

*Running backs coach Curtis Luper said that Dyer is improving, but said the newcomer needs to step up and play better this week against what he said is an Arkansas defense that is much improved from last year.

*Chizik said that freshman Steven Clark, who made his college debut as the punter at Kentucky, is likely to be the starter again this week.

*The coach said that linebacker Eltoro Freeman, who did not play vs. Kentucky due to injury, is "day by day" with his status. Another injured Tiger, wide receiver Trovon Reed, is likely to redshirt the coach said. Reed has been slowed by a kneecap injury and saw action briefly in one game making him eligible for a medical hardship redshirt.

*Chizik's record has improved to 19-24 as a college head coach with his 6-0 start this season that has improved his record to 14-5 at Auburn. Bobby Petrino is 17-13 in his third season in charge of the Arkansas team and his overall record is 58-22 in seven seasons as a college head coach.

Petrino and Chizik worked together as coordinators at Auburn for the 2002 season. Chizik said he has a "professional" relationship with the Arkansas coach, just as he has with all of the head coaches in the SEC.

*Auburn hasn't played any wet weather football this season and that isn't expected to change this week. The forecast is for temperatures in the 70s and no chance of rain is in the forecast for Saturday's 2:30 p.m. CDT kickoff at Jordan-Hare Stadium. CBS will televise the contest.

*Although Auburn is the undefeated team, the Tigers have trailed in four of their six games. Arkansas, which has one loss in five outings, has trailed for just eight minutes and 48 seconds this year. The Razorbacks have scored a touchdown on their opening possession the past three games and this season they have outscored opponents 88-20 in the second quarter.

*Despite being ranked No. 2 in total offense behind Auburn in this week's SEC statistics the Razorbacks are eighth in the league scoring at 30 points per game. Auburn is averaging 36.7 points per game, which is No. 2 in the league behind Ole Miss at 37.2.


Inside The AU Tigers Top Stories