Chizik Likes Wednesday Evening Workout

Comments from Gene Chizik and several key players are featured as Auburn continues its preparations for a road test vs. Ole Miss.

Auburn, Ala.--The Auburn Tigers dodged rain and lightning, but were able to get in two hours of football practice on Wednesday evening as the continued their preparations for Saturday's road trip to Ole Miss.

Gene Chizik, head coach of the 8-0 Tigers who are ranked No. 1 in the nation by the BCS, said, "Overall, it was a really good practice, really focused. We have one more day to work. Obviously we are going to have to play a really good game to be able to beat these guys in Oxford.

"We have to got to be focused and we have to be right on our game--we have to bring our ‘A' game," Chizik added.

Cornerback T'Sharvan Bell, who missed the LSU game with a hamstring injury, is making progress this week, Chizik said. However, the coach said he didn't know if the sophomore would be ready to play vs. Ole Miss.

Strongside linebacker Daren Bates, who injured his shoulder in the LSU game, is not expected to play this week. His replacement for the second half last Saturday, sophomore Jonathan Evans, is filling for Bates. Senior linebacker Craig Stevens, who can play on the strongside or weakside, can fill in for Bates, too, and junior Eltoro Freeman can move into the strongside spot where Stevens is starting when needed.

Kickoff for Saturday's game is at 5 p.m. CDT from soldout Vaught-Hemingway Stadium where the Rebels have added 1,000 temporary seats to fill the demand for tickets. The game will be televised on ESPN2.

With Cameron Newton being nationally-discussed in newspapers, magazines, TV, radio and on the Internet as the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy, senior center Ryan Pugh said the quarterback has not let the massive amount of attention he has received affect how he prepares for and performs in games.

"If you ask anybody on the team, I don't think Cam puts himself ahead of anybody," Pugh said. "I know we support him just as much as he supports us. He's a great competitor. The kid just wants to win. Everybody sees that.

"It's not a one-man team when you've got guys covering kicks, our defense playing its butt off and receivers catching the ball," Pugh added. "Like we've said all year, when these games come down to the fourth quarter, it's a team win every time. It's not going to be about one guy doing his deal out there because everybody's doing their jobs. If they don't do their jobs, then you're not going to be successful. I think that's the thing, we just keep doing our jobs."

Ryan Pugh

Pugh said that from watching video of Ole Miss the Rebels have talented players on the defensive front and at linebacker. "I think Cornell (6-1, 235 senior linebacker Jonathan Cornell) is one probably of the leading tacklers in the SEC," he said. "Up front they are always talented. They always have good up front players and Coach Price (former Auburn assistant coach Terry Price) will have them coached up and ready to play this week as they are every week.

"It will be another tough game," Pugh added. "Nothing is guaranteed in this league. You have to go out there and work for it."

The fourth quarter has been a productive period for both the offense and defense. Asked about that, senior defensive tackle Zach Clayton said, "We come in prepared because our coaches prepare us to play hard in the fourth quarter. I think that's worked to our advantage in most of the games this season.

"It's important to make stops all game, but in the fourth quarter when the game's on the line, if we make a stop we believe the offense can score every time because of the confidence we have in them."

Another member of the defense, junior safety Mike McNeil, made his first start since the 2008 season in Auburn's victory over LSU last week. "I have a lot I can improve on, but as a whole I think I did okay," he said.

McNeil missed the entire 2009 season recovering from a broken bone in his leg after being a full-time starter the previous season. With Aairon Savage out with an injury, McNeil is expected to be the starting safety the rest of the season.

"I know I have a key role in the defense and when I am out there I have to make plays," he said.

Mike McNeil

For this week's road trip to Ole Miss, McNeil and his defensive teammates have the challenge of containing quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, who is coming off a big game vs. Arkansas. For the season the transfer from Oregon has rushed for 559 yards and passed for 1,260 more. McNeil said the Tigers will be well aware of what Masoli is up to on Saturday. "A dual threat quarterback is always a challenge for the defense as a whole," he said.

In other news and notes:

*Chizik said one of the keys to success on Saturday is the secondary matching up against a tall group of Ole Miss receivers, who the Auburn coach said are physical. "They will throw the ball up to them seven or eight times a game," Chizik said. "That is going to be a huge challenge for our corners and safeties."

Chizik said the Tigers made progress in the secondary vs. LSU. "Overall, last week as we went back and looked at it, we definitely made progress."

*Auburn coaches have praised the play of true freshman cornerback Chris Davis going back to August. His playing time has increased as the season has progressed. McNeil has noticed the freshman's development and said the cornerback played well vs. LSU filling in for T'Sharvan Bell, who is sidelined by a hamstring problem. "He is a real good athlete and can make all of the plays," McNeil said. "I?think he played a good game on special teams and when he was called on defensively he made plays and had good coverage."

*Auburn is the third Top 25 team Ole Miss has faced this season. The Rebels lost at Alabama and at Arkansas the past two weeks. Last season the Rebels posted a 2-1 record vs. ranked teams. In the last 10 meetings with Top 25 opponents, Ole Miss is 5-5. The Rebels are 58-131-2 all-time playing ranked teams.

*Auburn's Newton has rushed for a total of 603 yards in his last three games. The last Auburn player to accomplish that was Bo Jackson during his 1985 Heisman Trophy winning season of 1985. Jackson's total of 658 yards in consecutive games came against Ole Miss (240), Florida State (176) and Georgia Tech (242).

*The Tigers have come up with 13 turnovers in their last five games to improve to plus eight for the season in turnover margin. Eight of the turnovers have come in the fourth quarter of games, a period Auburn has outscored opponents 76-28.

*Auburn will wear its blue jerseys for the road trip to Oxford instead of its traditional road whites because Ole Miss has requested to wear. The Rebels are expected to unveil a new uniform on Saturday.

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