Chizik Likes Practices Praises Sanders

The Auburn football team returned to practice as they begin to focus on their opening day opponent.

Auburn, Ala.--After two days off the Auburn football team put on full pads Tuesday evening for a practice head coach Gene Chizik said was a good one.

"We did some good work against each other," Chizik said as the offense squared off against the defense. "We worked some Utah State for the first time."

The Tigers also worked on special teams and Chizik said he liked the overall tempo of the practice. "Some of the guys who were kind of nicked up and bumped and bruised I?thought were running around a little better out there," Chizik said. "I think a couple of days off helped for sure. Overall, I thought there was a little extra pep in their step."

The head coach said the Tigers will be counting on plenty of help from their freshmen. "We are expecting those guys to step up to the plate," he said, noting the coaching staff has been giving them a large number of reps in practice. However, he noted that can only partially get the freshmen ready for games.

"There is no substitution for game experience," he said. "There is no way around it."

A large number of freshmen are being considered for the playing rotation. Chizik said the coaching staff should have a depth chart ready by the weekend.

After practice the head coach had praise for Craig Sanders, who is competing for playing time on the defensive front.

"Craig is doing really good," Chizik said. "Craig is just one of those guys who works every day. He really, really wants to be not just a great player, he wants to be a great teammate. Whatever he can do for the team--special teams, whatever he can do at defensive end.

"He is one of those guys you never have to worry about," Chizik added. "He is always out there working. He has gotten better. I am really proud of the direction he is going and I think his best days are still ahead of him."

Sanders was a standout on special teams coverage as a freshman last year. He is hoping to become a major contributor on the defensive line as a sophomore.

Up to 6-4, 267 pounds, about 20 more pounds than he played at last season, Sanders could help at more than one spot on the defensive line where the Tigers are short on depth at tackle. "I am mostly playing end, but I go inside for some special packages," Sanders said.

The sophomore has been able to keep his weight up through the heat of August practices as he looks to play a bigger role on defense this year. "I am really excited about this season,"?he said. "Special teams was really great last year, but I want to step up on defense this year."

Sanders said he is seeing signs of improvement with the front four working together as a group. "I think you will see a good rotation this year to keep everybody fresh," he predicted

Asked what he is working on as the Tigers prepare for their Sept. 3rd season opener vs. Utah State, Sanders said, "I am working at using my hands more and more on pass moves and against run blocks."

In other news and notes:

*The Tigers are preparing for a Utah State team that posted a 4-8 record last year. In last season's opener at Oklahoma, the Aggies played the Sooners close, losing by a 31-24 score.

*Like Auburn with junior Barrett Trotter making his first collegiate start, Utah State will have a new starter for the opener vs. the Tigers. The Aggies have not announced their starter yet. The competition is between junior Adam Kennedy, a juco transfer from San Joaquin Delta Community College in California, and true freshman Chuckie Keeton, a two-time Texas Class 5A All-State player from Cypress Creek High in Houston.

"The staff and the football team are very comfortable with our quarterback situation," Utah State head coach Gary Andersen said. "Playing a quality opponent like Auburn, we believe it is important for us to gain every advantage we can. Announcing a starting quarterback could possibly be a disadvantage for our football team."

Keeton is a mobile quarterback and Keeton is more of a pocket passer. Andersen said he doesn't plan to have a two-quarterback system. He said the Aggies want to pick a No. 1 guy and go with him.

The Aggies are still in the two-a-days phase of practices and are expected to have their final scrimmage of the preseason on Saturday.

*The Tigers will practice Wednesday through Friday before taking Saturday off.

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