Auburn head coach Gene Chizik said the Tigers looked a "little rusty" as they worked out in shorts, shoulder pads and helmets across the street from the football complex at the women's soccer field. Because of construction on their new indoor practice facility all three of the football complex fields are unavailable.
Chizik said the different venue in practice shouldn't be a problem in either Auburn or when the Tigers fly to Arizona on January 3rd because the rest of their practice routine is the same.
Quarterback Cameron Newton, the Heisman Trophy winner, agreed with Chizik that the Tigers looked rusty on Saturday night, but noted that practice got better as it progressed on the rain-soaked soccer field.
Newton said with so much time before the Tigers play Oregon that the team doesn't want to "over-practice" so the offense will gradually put in the game plan to play the Ducks.
"We have been watching the film and we have seen a lot," he said of Oregon, champions of the Pac-10 Conference with a 12-0 record. "They are good team. they do a lot of great things on the defensive side of the football. We have to brace ourselves for what they have. What they do, they do it very well. Their season has shown that."
One of the key reasons Auburn is 13-0 is that offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn has played a major role in the Tigers averaging close to 42 points per game. Newton said he is happy that the coordinator and quarterback coach will be with him in Glendale, Ariz., for the championship game instead of serving as head coach at Vanderbilt, a job Malzahn was offered last week.
"Coach Malzahn is a special person," Newton said. "First of all, he is a special human being and he was thoughtful enough to think about this team and try to tackle this task (national championship) at hand before he started thinking about any personal situation. I think a lot of people looked at that and gained even more respect for a person like that turning down a job like that."
Cameron Newton is shown at Saturday night's practice.
Malzahn is wrapping up his second season as an Auburn coordinator. "He is an excellent coach," Newton said. "He knows how to get everybody going. He demands a lot of his players. The bar has been raised this year before the season even started. His expectation level is high enough and he demands everybody play to their best ability."
Newton and his teammates are getting back into their practice routine after having two weeks off. However, Newton's off-time kept him extremely busy accepting awards, doing TV shows and other interviews that go with being the Heisman Trophy winner and an All-American.
Newton said he didn't know much about those other Heisman finalists other than watching their highlights on TV throughout the year. "Getting a chance to know those guys, just to get to sit down and hang out with those guys, was special to me," he said.
Another highlight was the New York City Auburn Club's Tiger Walk for Newton as he walked into the Best Buy Theater for the Heisman ceremony. "It was amazing to see," the quarterback said. "I was amped up."
Newton said he also got a kick out of being able to do the Top 10 list on David Letterman's TV show. "It was one of the few times I have been nervous this year due to the fact I was on David Letterman," he pointed out. "It is just a lucky few that get a chance to do that."
Newton added that he was really surprised at how many people were there to see the TV show. He said during his time in New York there was something scheduled for him to do morning, afternoon and evening.
In other news:
*Defensive tackle Nick Fairley said he is concentrating on the national championship game and noted that whether or not he is going to enter the NFL Draft is not the priority for him until after the Tigers play Oregon.
At Friday night's team banquet, Fairley was honored as the team Most Valuable Player on defense as selected by his teammates. The players voted Cameron Newton the offensive MVP.
Prospects visiting Auburn this weekend also attended the banquet that Chizik said went very well as the team honored its seniors.
*Fairley said that he has watched video of the Oregon defense and the Tigers will have to be prepared for a very, very fast-paced offense. He said that his position coach, Tracy Rocker, has challenged the interior defensive linemen to be ready in Glendale because the Ducks like to run the football straight up the middle.
*Aairon Savage, Auburn's sixth-year senior safety, is a no-go for the bowl game due to an injury. Senior linebacker Josh Bynes said he is sad that the popular safety won't be able to play, but noted he is glad to have Savage with the team as a student assistant coach.
*The Tigers will take Sunday off from practice and return to action on Monday.