Tigers Close Practice With Scrimmage

A report on Auburn's final pre-Christmas football scrimmage features comments from coaches Gene Chizik, Gus Malzahn and Ted Roof plus news and notes.

Auburn, Ala.--Coach Gene Chizik gave his team's final pre-Christmas football practice high marks as the Tigers worked out for two hours before the players headed in different directions immediately after the session at the soccer field and Hutsell-Rosen Track.

The team will return to practice two days after Christmas to resume preparations for their Jan. 10th BCS Championship Game contest vs. Oregon.

"I thought the guys were really focused and into it," Chizik said of Wednesday's workout. "They need a little bit of time off. They will spend a little bit of time with their families, which is well deserved and needed."

Commenting on the focus of the team's four practices since resuming workouts on Saturday, Chizik said, "We wanted to basically get back to the fundamentals of football--blocking and tackling.

"It wasn't so much scheming, although we obviously worked on some general things, but for the most part we were trying to get back into the flow of just the fundamentals of football," he said.

"We were off for two weeks plus," Chizik added. "We just felt we needed to get back into the swing of things."

Chizik noted in a typical game week the Tigers have three days of practice. He said there is still a lot of time to get ready to play the Ducks with another week of practice on campus before the Tigers fly to Arizona on January 3rd for more workouts.

The coach said that the players were told they need to do things on their own over the Christmas break to make sure they stay in proper shape. "They know what they have to do to take care of their bodies," he said. "We did quite a bit of conditioning over the past four days, which was really good, and the end of last week, which was really good. We have gotten in the weight room and done a lot of conditioning. They have got to go home and maintain that."

Chizik had praise for All-American defensive tackle Nick Fairley on Wednesday, noting that the junior bumped up his performance level starting with the 2009 Georgia game and has been on an improvement curve since then.

"As the games went on and he started to get more playing time, he realized this game could come easy to me. I think that is why you have seen his game so elevated because his confidence level is better and he understood offenses much better. Before he was just putting his hand on the ground and trying to figure it out all. He has come a long way in a lot of regards."

Fairley, who is projected to be a first round draft pick, hasn't talked to Chizik about whether or not he is coming back for his redshirt senior season. The coach noted that is something they will talk at the appropriate time, which is after the Oregon game.

Chizik said that short scrimmages featuring the redshirts and backups to end the past two practices were good. "We probably went 15-20 plays today, probably a little bit more yesterday after practice," he said. "It is good to see some of those young guys get in there. They like it, too. It is fun for them."

Chizik talks to the team at Wednesday's practice before sending them home for a Christmas break.

Offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn and defensive coordinator Ted Roof both said the short scrimmages were productive.

Commenting on the pre-Christmas drills, Malzahn said, "We were just trying to put our base plan in, get our kids back, getting their timing back to be crisp and to develop some of these younger guys. We got a chance to do a little bit of scrimmaging with some younger guys, specifically the offensive line up front, so it was good."

With another break for Christmas, Malzahn said that the Tigers will "have to get after it" when they resume workouts. "Our guys understand that," he said. "Our goal when we come back is to be locked and loaded and get them back in playing shape."

Commenting on the past four practices on defense, Roof said, "It has been really good work for us. We got the basic game plans in against their base runs and passes and to get a real good introduction as far as that goes. We have gotten some physical reps done and we have gotten some good reps for our younger players as well."

Roof said it was "wonderful" to get to see the redshirts and backups in 11 on 11 work the past two practices. "As a bowl team you basically get another spring practice. Those guys will benefit in spring ball and we will also see the benefits of it next season by the extra reps we are getting although the primary focus is to get ready to win this football game."

In other news and notes:

*Asked if any players will be academically ineligible for the championship game, Chizik said, "Right now we are getting some things still cleared up academically. If that's the case we will let you know."

Asked what the time frame would be on announcing that information, Chizik said, "It just depends. It's different. You know what I mean, it's different things, different times. Again, if we know something different we will let you know."

*With the game being played in the Arizona desert, Chizik said the Tigers will be very aware of the importance of adjusting to a radically different climate from Auburn. The coach said the staff has already discussed the subject. "Absolutely we have thought about that," he said, adding that as the Tigers get closer to game time there will be a focus on proper nutrition and hydration.

"We know that practicing out there, outdoors, is going to be good for us because we are going to be out there and have four or five days to get used to it," Chizik said. "That is definitely something we will be cognizant of."

Cameron Newton

*Junior quarterback Cameron Newton added to his growing list of honors on Wednesday when he was named the College Football Player of the Year by the Associated Press.

*Oregon's LaMichael James leads the nation in rushing yards with 1,682 yards, an average of 152.9 yards per game.

Auburn's defense is allowing just 111.7 yards per contest, down from 2009 when opponents averaged 156.1 rushing yards per game vs. the Tigers. The Tigers have allowed only two runs of more than 30 yards and five of Auburn's opponents netted less than 100 rushing yards. Nine of the teams netted 117 or fewer yards. The Tigers head to Arizona ranked 11th nationally in rushing defense.

*The January 10th game vs. Oregon will be the 21st contest the Tigers have played in the month of January. The Tigers improved their record to 10-8-2 in January with a New Year's Day victory over Northwestern close the 2009 season.

*Oregon is averaging just under 50 points per game this season. The last time Auburn gave up 50 points was in 1996 when the Tigers fell 56-49 to Georgia in four overtimes.

*Oregon's Cliff Harris has returned four punts for touchdowns this season and is averaging 19.5 yards per return on 28 attempts this season. The Tigers have not allowed a punt return for a touchdown since Skyler Green of LSU did it in 2005.

*Although he won't be able to play in the bowl game, Chizik said that injured starting offensive tackle A.J. Greene is doing well in his recovery after breaking a bone in his leg in game three vs. Clemson. The lineman is walking without a limp. "I am really proud of him," Chizik said. "He is coming along well.

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