Tigers Experiment at Tuesday Evening Practice

A report on Auburn's football practice features comments from players and coaches.

Auburn, Ala.--With plenty of time to prepare for the BCS Championship Game next month Auburn's football coaches have time to do some experimenting.

At Tuesday evening's practice redshirting freshman defensive tackle LaDarious Phillips, who had a good preseason performance at fullback before being injured, worked at defensive tackle during the two-hour session in full pads.

Tracy Rocker said, "I worked LaDarious Phillips a little bit with me and I got to see him move around a little bit at tackle. He may be on both sides of the ball. We got to look at everybody."

Rocker said that Phillips "made a play" in the 11 on 11 work, but added, "He has a long way to go."

LaDarious Phillips

Running backs coach Curtis Luper told Phillips, who has weighed in the 280s range this summer, that he needs to keep his weight in check if he wants to stay at fullback. "He looks like a real defensive lineman now," Rocker said with a laugh when asked what Phillips is currently weighing. "He is a little fatty bread now, but I like him as a player and I?think he is going to be a good player for us on either side of the ball so I feel good about it."

Rocker also got to spend extra time coaching redshirting freshman Justin Delaine, an end from Linden who won some praise from the coach in preseason. That happened again on Tuesday. "Justin Delaine did some good things today," Rocker noted.

Phillips, who played both offense and defense at Handley High in Roanoke last season, was expected to play this fall. However, on the last play of the last preseason scrimmage he suffered a serious ankle injury that caused the coaching staff to hold him out this season and go through a redshirt.

Trooper Taylor, Auburn's assistant head coach, said he liked what he saw at the practice and said the Tigers had a better tempo and were less rusty at practice than in the previous sessions.

"It was good to see guys flying around and they were really attentive," Taylor said. "It was good to see the execution part of it."

As they did in their other two sessions since returning to practice on Saturday following a break of two weeks, the Tigers used the women's soccer field and the infield at the Hutsell-Rosen Track for practice due to the football practice fields being unavailable due to construction of the new indoor facility.

Senior center Ryan Pugh said the change of practice venue hasn't been a problem. "It's a nice facility over there," he said.

Photos of the construction project at Auburn's practice fields are shown above. The new 100-yard indoor practice facility is scheduled to be completed prior to the start of 2011 preseason practices in August.

Pugh has been involved in two other postseason practice sessions in 2007 for the Chick-fil-A Bowl and 2009 for the Outback Bowl. He said there are some similarities and differences preparing for the BCS Championship Game.

"I think there is definitely a sense of urgency about picking up the tempo," he said. "There is a lot more to practice for now than just your average bowl game because it is not just another game. Obviously, there is a lot more at stake.

"Right now though it is like a normal bowl practice as far as a lot of younger guys getting reps," he said. "With the older guys we are putting in our game plan more slowly than we normally would because we have so much more time."

Pugh said because there is so much time until the Tigers play Oregon on Jan. 10th it is important that the seniors set an example for their teammates on staying focused on each workout when it "seems like there is no light at the end of the tunnel."

Pugh, an All-SEC center, said he has a lot of respect for the Oregon team the Tigers will play in the BCS title game as well as the Pac-10 Conference the Ducks have won the past two seasons. "It is just as good as the SEC," he said. "They are a talented football team."

Commenting on the Oregon defense, he said from watching video he sees a group of players that is aggressive and fast. "These guys are well coached, physical football players and they swarm to the ball," Pugh said.

The senior added, "They are very sound. They are good at what they do. That is why they are a good defense--they play as a team. They play a lot of guys so they are always fresh. It is going to be a big challenge for us."

The Tigers will have their fourth BCS practice on Wednesday before taking a break of five days for Christmas before resuming practices on campus. On January 3rd the team will fly to Arizona and continue workouts there for their game at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale.

"I am sure we will try to experience the moment while we are out there," Pugh said of the trip to Arizona. "At the same time I think we will understand what is at stake and take it as a normal game week, not just a bowl game. We are not just happy to be out there in Glendale and enjoy the moment."

The senior said he doesn't think the pressure of playing in a national championship team will bother the Tigers. "I think so far this year we have played in a lot of big games. Each game has gotten bigger and bigger and in this game I am sure there will be some nerves for some guys on the team. A good thing for us we have a lot of guys who have played a lot of games. We are experienced as anybody in the country as well as Oregon is, too.

Pugh said the Tigers handled the pressure of playing in the SEC Championship Game with no problem. "That has got to be pretty pressured-packed knowing that if you win that game you are in the national championship," he point out.

SEC teams have never lost in the BCS Championship Game and Pugh said the Tigers take pride in being the SEC champion. "We want to represent our league well as does every other team when they go to bowl games," he noted, adding it helps league teams in getting better bowl bids in future years and even helps attract top recruits to SEC teams.

In other news and notes:

*The Tigers have a 20-13-2 record on bowl games. The .600 winning percentage is eighth nationally of teams that have made at least 10 postseason appearances.

*The Tigers will wear their home blue jerseys for the game vs. Oregon. The Tigers have been dressed in the blue jerseys in 13 of their past 16 bowl games and have a 7-5-1 record in those contests.

*Freshman Michael Dyer has a chance to become the first freshman in Auburn history to rush for 1,000 yards. The tailback from Little Rock, Ark., Christian Academy has 950 yards at 5.9 yards per carry. He is second on the team in rushing behind Cameron Newton's 1,409 yards.

*Junior wide receiver Darvin Adams is 91 receiving yards away from reaching 1,000 this season. Last year he finished with 997 yards. Adams has a substantial edge for the team lead in receiving yardage with senior Terrell Zachery at 557 yards while sophomore Emory Blake is third with 500 yards.

*Blake, who has seven touchdown receptions on 29 catches this year, is tied with Adams for the team lead in TD receptions while sophomore Philip Lutzenkirchen is third with five touchdowns on just 13 catches.


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