Tigers Practice Long and Late

Comments from Gene Chizik and Auburn football players are featured in this practice report.

Auburn, Ala.--The Auburn football Tigers had one of their longest practices of the preseason on Wednesday night, a session that Gene Chizik called "productive."

The Tigers were on the practice fields for close to three hours because the head coach wasn't happy with what he was seeing during the early part of the session. In fact, he made the Tigers go back to their first practice period and start again.

"I thought the practice tempo early was a little bit slow, but we really picked it up and finished well," Chizik said.

Working in full pads, the Tigers had an "overall very good day," the head coach stated, noting the Tigers continued to focus on what they will be doing in the opening football game vs. Utah State on Sept. 3rd.

The Tigers have been focused this preseason trying to stabilize the situation at defensive tackle where they lost three strong seniors from the 2010 team, including the SEC Defensive Player of the Year, Nick Fairley.

Chizik said the sophomores who are likely to start, Jeffrey Whitaker and Kenneth Carter, are still young and inexperienced, but pointed out the limited playing time they received in 2010 is a big plus for the 2011 team.

"Just kind of understanding the length of the season and the physicality of the game, and then having to spell some of our guys from last year definitely helped them--also from a confidence level as well," Chizik said.

A defensive tackle who position coach Mike Pelton praised earlier this week is junior Jamar Travis, whose playing time has been mostly limited to special teams the past two seasons.

"We are hoping he can help us," Chizik said of the former W.S. Neal High star from Brewton. "He is still a work in progress and every day we are really trying to push him to be able to play a role in our defense.

"On our defensive line, particularly at that inside position losing all of the guys we did--and a lot of really, really great players as we know--that strained us a little bit defensively," the head coach said. "That inside defensive tackle position may be a little bit of a position by committee.

"A guy like Jamar Travis has an opportunity in front of him," Chizik said. "He has gotten better, there is no question. He has got to continue to work in that direction, but he is fighting every day for a role on our team so I am proud of him for what he has done. He has come on, but has a long ways to go."

Freshman Devaunte Sigler said he is excited that it looks like he will be in the playing rotation at defensive tackle. Mostly a linebacker in high school, he has had a growth spurt and is up to 6-3, 275 pounds, about 25 pounds more than he weighed at this time last year.

Asked about the adjustment to playing defensive tackle, Sigler said, "It was tough at first, but then again I decided if I wanted to play I had to do it."

Sigler said he is looking forward to his first college game. "I am excited to get out on that field at 11 o'clock in the morning in front of all of those people," he said. "I am ready for it."

Devaunte Sigler

Another freshman defensive tackle from Mobile, Jabrian Niles, isn't currently in the playing rotation for the opening game, but will have a chance to see action if he makes progress in the coming weeks, Chizik said. "We are not ruling anybody out, especially as physical as this league is," Chizik said.

"As the season wears on and you start getting in game seven and eight, it is such a physically daunting task for those guys in there with all of the double teams. They have got 600 pounds on them every snap so we are looking for anybody who can help us. We are talking about a guy who can play anywhere from 10 snaps to 50 snaps. We are going to have to get some guys in there who are fresh."

Freshman Gabe Wright, a high school All-American defensive tackle at Carver in Columbus, Ga., said he has been impressed with how Sigler is developing, calling the freshman "beastie."

Wright is expected to be one of the newcomers who plays at tackle. He said he is back to full speed after being slowed by a minor knee problem that caused him to miss scrimmage time.

"I am really excited about the season, but I am really excited about the things we did during camp," Wright said. "I don't want to say we survived, but we improved so much."

Wright said the defensive line has improved "a thousand times" since the start of preseason practice. He noted that he likes the way Pelton is teaching the defensive linemen with a combination of constructive criticism and positive feedback that makes him want to work hard to get better. "It is not all negativity," Wright said. "It is more of a focus on getting better."

In other news and notes:

*Utah State will be making its first ever trip to Auburn for a football game. The Aggies will stay in Columbus, Ga., on Friday night and take a bus into Jordan-Hare Stadium the next morning. Utah State has previously played road games in the state of Alabama at Troy and Alabama-Tuscaloosa.

*Auburn is one of six road games for Coach Gary Anderson's team that returns nine starters on offense and six on defense. His Aggies practiced twice on Wednesday and are scheduled to do it again on Friday. The Aggies are scheduled to scrimmage on Saturday.

*With temperatures in the 90s in Logan this week the visitors should be ready for hot weather for the 11 a.m. kickoff for their game vs. the Tigers.

*The list of returning starters for Utah State includes 5-10, 216 junior Robert Turbin, who rushed for 1,296 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2009, but was out last year with an injury. Turbin also caught 30 passes for 418 yards and five touchdowns.

*Andersen is beginning his third season as head coach in Logan, Utah. His record is 8-16 overall and 5-11 in the Western Athletic Conference.

*Special teams coordinator Jay Boulware, who also coaches the tight ends and H-backs, says the Tigers only have two true tight ends on the roster this year with junior Philip Lutzenkirchen and true freshman Brandon Fulse handling that role. C.J. Uzomah, another freshman, may eventually move to tight end, but is exclusively working with the wide receivers. Both Lutzenkirchen and Fulse have received good marks for their performances this preseason.

*Chizik said that sophomore tailback Mike Dyer is healthy again and doing well in practice. The head coach said that Onterio McCalebb, Anthony Morgan and freshman Tre Mason are all getting practice time at tailback. He said the challenge for Mason and Morgan is making sure they are up to speed on their pass protection blocking assignments.

*Chizik said the Tigers still have not received final word yet on whether tailback Mike Blakely's appeal to be eligible to play this year as a transfer has been rejected or approved.

*The head coach had praise for cornerback Chris Davis after practice on Wednesday night. "Chris Davis has really come on as a corner for us and we are expecting him to play well," Chizik said. "He got a lot of experience for us last year. He has really had a great camp. He has worked extremely hard to be better at his trade."

Chris Davis

*Chizik pointed out that junior cornerback T'Sharvan Bell is performing well and that redshirt freshman Jonathan Mincy, who made progress in the spring, has been showing "too much inconsistency." Chizik said, "He has got to continue to grow up and he has got to continue to work," Chizik said of Mincy.

The head coach added that Tigers will be counting on their true freshmen to provide depth at cornerback this season. Robensen Therezie, Jonathan Rose and Jermaine Whitehead are a trio of freshmen who are trying to get into the playing rotation.

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