Tigers Almost Ready for Iron Bowl

Comments from the Tigers are featured as Auburn comes to a close on its preparations for Friday's SEC football showdown at Alabama.

Auburn, Ala.--Auburn polished its offensive and defensive game plans on Wednesday evening preparing for Friday's regular season finale on Friday at Alabama.

Coach Gene Chizik's SEC West football champions worked out for an hour and 15 minutes in shorts and helmets at rain-soaked Jordan-Hare Stadium as fog rolled in during the practice. In addition to team drills, position coaches did individual drills with the unbeaten Tigers.

The Tigers also worked on special teams as they had their final major practice before they head to Tuscaloosa to play a 9-2 Alabama team that will be looking to knock off the 11-0 and second-ranked Tigers. Kickoff is set for shortly after 1:30 p.m. CST with television coverage on CBS.

Auburn's players will meet for a walk-through of the game plan on Thursday morning before having a Thanksgiving meal together. After having the afternoon free the Tigers will board buses for the road trip to Tuscaloosa where Auburn has won six times in seven games in the history of the series.

Chizik said he likes the way the Tigers have prepared for the rivalry game. The only coach on the Auburn staff who has played in the Auburn-Alabama game, former Tiger All-American Tracy Rocker, said he has been pleased with how his tackles and ends have prepared for games throughout the season and game 12 vs. Alabama is no exception.

Rocker noted he expects his true freshmen to step up and perform like experienced players on Friday as the Tigers try to continue their first unbeaten season since the team won them all in 2004.

One of the new guys on the defensive front is end Corey Lemonier, who has played in every game this season. The quick and athletic freshman from Hialeah, Fla., High has seven solo tackles and four assists with four tackles for lost yardage and two sacks.

With backup defensive end Michael Goggans having to sit out the first half of Friday's game after being ejected from the Georgia game when it was ruled he threw a punch in a scuffle in the closing seconds of Auburn's 49-31 victory over the Bulldogs, Lemonier and the other backup ends could see more playing time.

"They are counting on all of us to play and come in and contribute," Lemonier said. "It is unfortunate what happened. We all have to come in and do our thing and be involved."

Lemonier said he believes he has made strides as a football player as the season has progressed. "My technique and all of that has improved and I have been able to figure out plays. It (the game) has just got slower for me."

Corey Lemonier

Lemonier has been able to maintain his weight during the season. He is 6-4, 227 pounds. A goal in the offseason is to add size and muscle. Combine added size with excellent quickness and he has the potential to be an outstanding pass rusher.

The freshman said he is looking forward to playing in his first Auburn vs. Alabama game, which he expects to be a physical contest, something he likes. "They (physical games) really show the character of our players. Our team has a lot of character. It is going to be a real good game."

Lemonier watched last year's Auburn-Alabama showdown in Auburn on his official recruiting visit. "I could sense it was a pretty heated rivalry," he said.

Chizik said that the entire defense, especially the guys on the line of scrimmage, will be challenged to stop Alabama's physical running attack. Auburn's defense has been solid against the run this year, but hasn't played consistently against the pass.

Lemonier admitted the Tigers need to play more consistently on defense, but added that his team's defense has performed well when games have been on the line. "We come in the clutch," he says.

Lemonier noted that he likes seeing the seniors enjoy an undefeated season with three games left to play vs. Alabama, vs. South Carolina in the SEC Championship Game and against a still to be determined opponent and venue in either the BCS Championship Game or a bowl.

However, for Lemonier and the Tigers the focus is on Friday's game. "I am pretty excited for that,"?he said about playing in the rivalry game. "Practice got more intense, people are into it. It is going to be a good game."

Rocker said he is also counting on freshmen tackles Jeffrey Whitaker and Kenneth Carter to contribute. The Tigers will play the first half without backup tackle Mike Blanc, who was also ejected in the Georgia game.

"I told those guys they aren't freshmen any more in our eyes," Rocker said. "They have played enough football for us that we expect them to play well when we call on them."

On Wednesday Auburn's head coach stayed on theme about focusing on one game at a time even though he admitted everyone on the team is aware that two more victories will earn the Tigers a spot in the BCS Championship Game.

"We don't really talk around this building in terms of the long term," Chizik said. "I think it is a given we understand if we continue to win what is out there for us. We still try to live day by day in the way of thinking the next game is the most important game. We are continuing to focus on and process that every day."

Also on Wednesday, Chizik endorsed his junior quarterback, Cameron Newton, as a Heisman Trophy candidate, but he wouldn't say that Newton is definitely the best player in college football this year because the coach noted he hasn't seen everybody play.

Cameron Newton leads the SEC in rushing.

"We knew he was a very good football player," Chizik said. "You never know exactly what to expect until they have got to do it in front of 90,000 every week. We had question marks just in terms of how he was going to respond in this league on game day. We didn't really know what to expect."

With 11 games in the books and Newton leading the SEC in rushing while also rewriting the Auburn record book for passing statistics, Chizik said Newton has answered the questions about how he would perform as a starter in the SEC. "He has probably surpassed everybody's expectations," the coach said.

Chizik noted that a "relentless" work ethic and a serious approach to playing to his potential are key factors in Newton developing into such an impact player.


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