Players Say Tigers Are Focused on the Dogs

A report on Tuesday night's Auburn football practice features comments from players and Gus Malzahn.

Auburn, Ala.--For a third straight week the Auburn Tigers practiced in shorts, shoulder pads and helmets following their Monday day off. Players and coaches said the team had a productive session as the Tigers prepare for their oldest rival.

Georgia Bulldogs on Saturday.

Commenting on Tuesday's practice that lasted two hours and 20 minutes, offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn said, "It went good. They bounced around pretty good. They had fresh legs, which was important at this point of the year. Overall, it was a good start to the week."

Defensively, the Tigers had starting outside linebacker Daren Bates back in the mix on Tuesday evening. He has been sidelined by a shoulder injury suffered in the LSU game. Another sophomore, Jonathan Evans, and junior Eltoro Freeman have been filling in for Bates.

"With Daren out my role increased a little bit," Evans said. "But this week Daren is back so we're splitting time. Both of us are out there working hard. Whoever gets out there we're going to play the best we can and try to make plays."

Another linebacker, senior Josh Bynes, said that he is seeing no signs that media reports about Cameron Newton are affecting the players as they prepare for Georgia and said the players believe the reports are "bogus."

Malzahn, who coaches the quarterbacks, said that Newton performed well in Tuesday's practice and is focused on this week's game. "As a matter of fact, he is extremely motivated and he had a good practice tonight and he had a good practice last week. He is very focused."

Malzahn added that it is "fair to say" that Newton's teammates have rallied to support him. "Our guys know what is on the line and they have worked extremely hard to get to this point. Off the field stuff, I really don't believe it will be a factor."

One of those players, Emory Blake, agreed with Malzahn about Newton's focus. "There is no change," Blake said of Newton. "Cam is the same person to me. We all have the same goals in mind. We're just concentrating on beating Georgia."

The offensive coordinator said it is a lot of fun seeing how this undefeated team has developed. "To see those guys do well is a great feeling," Malzahn said. "We have positioned ourselves and now we have to finish and that is what is on our mind now."

Georgia comes into the game with a 5-5 record, but has won four of its last five games with improved play on both defense and offense.

Commenting on UGA's defense, Malzahn said, "You can tell they are very fast. They fly around. They have great pass rushers. You can tell they are starting to get a feel for their defensive coordinator. They are playing extremely fast and you can tell they have improved each game."

The Bulldogs have switched from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defensive front. Malzahn said the Bulldogs still run some four man fronts.

Senior wide receiver Terrell Zachery said he is looking forward to Saturday's game, which will be his final contest in Jordan-Hare Stadium. He is coming off a big game vs. Chattanooga in which he caught a career-high seven passes for a career-high 148 yards.

Terrell Zachery makes a catch vs. Chattanooga last Saturday.

Commenting on Tuesday's practice, the wide receiver said the Tigers are focused, but added with the 2010 team it has been that way all season.

"Tonight was a great practice," he said. "The offense was rolling."

In other news and notes:

*With a victory over Georgia on Saturday, the Tigers would not only snap their four-game losing streak to the Bulldogs, they would finish their home season with an 8-0 record at Jordan-Hare Stadium. The only other Auburn team to go 8-0 at home was Coach Pat Dye's 1988 squad, which won the SEC Championship and finished 10-2.

*Cameron Newton is averaging 114.6 rushing yards per game, which leads the SEC and is 10th nationally and second among quarterbacks. He leads the nation in rushing touchdowns with 15.

*Against SEC opponents Newton is averaging 149.0 rushing yards per contest and has an SEC-best 12 rushing TDs.

*Newton is the first player in Auburn history to rush for three or more touchdowns in three consecutive SEC games. Joe Cribbs, in 1979, is the only Tiger to rush for three or more touchdowns in consecutive games.

•Auburn is second in the nation in passing efficiency with a rating of 182.03 and Cameron Newton is second nationally in the individual rankings with his 182.77 rating.

*Onterio McCalebb is threatening the Auburn single-season record for rushing yards in a season with a minimum of 40 carries. Tommy Lorino holds the record with 8.44 yards per carry in 1956. McCalebb is averaging 9.27 yards per carry. In Auburn's last three games, he has averaged 15.9 yards per carry.

*The Tigers and Bulldogs have played 113 games in the SEC's oldest rivalry. Auburn has one more victory than the Bulldogs, who have outscored the Tigers by an average of less than a half a point per game over the history of the rivalry than began with a game at an Atlanta park in 1892.

*Nick Fairley's 18 tackles are tied with his position coach, Tracy Rocker, for the fourth most in an Auburn single season since the statistic started being kept in 1981. Terry Solomon (1995) and Gary Walker (1994) top the Auburn list with 20. Antonio Coleman had 18 1/2 in 2007.

*Malzahn had praise for running backs Michael Dyer, Onterio McCalebb and Mario Fannin after Tuesday's practice.

Commenting on Dyer, who can break Bo Jackson's freshman rushing record this week, Malzahn said, "We didn't want to throw him to the wolves early until he got a good feel for everything. I think he is fresh right now and I think that is a good thing. He is very comfortable with the offense and I think he has fresh legs and a fresh body. A lot of times the backs are beat up at this time of year."

*Malzahn also praised the offensive line. "They are playing very good football right now," he said. "They are playing very physical." With four experienced seniors in the group, the offensive coordinator said the linemen can almost make adjustments on their own based on what the defense is doing.

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