"They have really responded well," Malzahn said. "Barrett has really taken a leadership role and Clint Moseley is preparing like he is a starter, too. He has been very attentive with a great attitude, and Kiehl Frazier the same way. In meetings and on the field they have been paying attention. I am very pleased with their effort mentally and physically."
The Tigers practiced for two hours both indoors and outdoors on Thursday evening and will be back on the practice field at 6 a.m. on Friday as they continue preparations for Auburn's football opener on Sept. 3rd vs. visiting Utah State.
"We had really good attention today in practice," Malzahn said. "You could tell the urgency. Every day they can tell it is getting closer to game week. The attitude has been good. We are rotating the young guys in to try to give us some depth. We are game-planning half the time and half the time we are worrying about ourselves."
Up front the Tigers are rebuilding the line that lost four senior starters from the 14-0 national championship team. Asked how the new offensive line group is developing, Malzahn said, "I think pretty good. With their inexperience we are trying to give them a lot of different looks. We are trying to really fine tune.
"Coach (Jeff) Grimes has really been coaching in detail on different things," Malzahn said. "The first game you are not for sure what you are going to get so you have got to be prepared for a lot of different things."
Malzahn said the offense has been working on playing at a fast pace and he is not changing his goals of reaching 80 plays or winning the game. "There are certain times the game dictates you can't run 80, but that is still our goal as far as our pace goes," he noted.
The offensive coordinator said trying to build depth is a focus as the Tigers prepare to play Utah State. "There are going to be young guys on the field," he said. "I can't tell you how many are going to start and all of that, but there are going to be young guys playing. That is my anxiety--hold on to the football, execution, penalties--the things that happen from inexperienced teams."
Utah State is expected to be in a different defense this year, moving to a 3-4 front. Malzahn said with this being the first game the Tigers will need to be ready for anything from the Aggies.
Defensive coordinator Ted Roof said the same thing about getting ready for Utah State's offense. "They do everything under the sun," he stated. "They will line up in anything from unbalanced wishbone to no backs and everything in between. There is a lot of diversity in their offense. They do a good job with multiple personnel groupings and pace...we have the whole ball of wax to deal with defensively."
Like Malzahn, Roof said the defensive coaches are still evaluating to decide who plays in the opener. He said to expect a lot of guys to see the field.
"In what you what call normal years, if there is such a thing as a normal year, you are going to play somewhere around 18 to 20 people on defense," Roof said. "This year the number is going to be significantly higher than that because people have earned it."
Roof said having so many players preparing for game action helps morale and improves the focus of the group. "Some kids, if they know they are getting into the game, you are going to see a different level of attention to detail as far as preparation," the coach noted.
The defensive coordinator pointed out that last year the Tigers played a lot of backups early in the games and that kept the defense fresher in the fourth quarters of contests as well as fresher late in the season.
After Friday's practice, the Tigers will be off on Sunday and begin game week preparations.
Offensive line coach Grimes said that senior tackle A.J. Greene has made progress in recent practices since coming back from an injury problem. Greene noted he has been working at the left and right tackle spots. Greene said wherever Grimes wants him to play is fine with him.
"I am just trying to get back in the groove of things," the senior said. "I am just trying to keep a positive attitude and just stay focused on what I need to do."
A.J. Greene Commenting on the offensive line as a group, Greene said, "We are bonding really, really well. Besides last year, this is the group of guys where I can say I really call them my brothers. We do everything to together--got out to eat, we joke around with each other all of the time.
"It is really a great thing to have a brotherhood with the offensive line, especially with us having to work together like we have to do," Greened added. "It is a great thing. We are coming along really, really well. Things are really going good now."
Commenting on the offense as a whole, Greene said, "We are in a growing process still. We are coming together. We are figuring out what everybody can do. It is all a molding process and we are still continuing to grow."
Freshman Devaunte Sigler is making a push for playing time at defensive tackle.
In other news and notes:
*Utah State practiced once on Thursday after having two practices on Wednesday. The Aggies are scheduled to practice twice on Friday and scrimmage on Saturday.
Utah State coach Gary Anderson said he liked Thursday practice which focused on offensive and defensive special situations as well as the kicking game.
*Malzahn said that redshirt freshman Ladarious Phillips is much improved this spring and will have a chance to play and show the coaches what he can do in a game situation.
*Roof said that sophomore cornerback Ryan White is improving. "He seems to have a knack for making plays on the ball in space. He has become more physical and he is working at it. He hasn't arrived yet, but I have seen a lot of improvement since last year and that is the way it should evolve."
*Redshirt freshman LaDarius Owens said after practice that he feels more comfortable at defensive end than he did last fall at linebacker and has a feeling he will be able to contribute early for the Tigers at the position he played in high school.
*True freshman Justin Garrett said he expects to play in the opener. He noted that he is working on all of the special teams in addition to seeing action as an outside linebacker.
*Junior defensive tackle Jamar Travis has won praise from the coaches for his improvement this preseason. Travis said he is trying to "fight" on the field to take advantage of the opportunity for playing time with the top three tackles now on NFL rosters.
He admitted he was motivated reading and hearing that the Tigers were going to have to rely on only true freshmen to be backups at tackle. Asked if he has improved since last year, he said, "Yes, sir. I have improved a lot I think, especially going into summer workouts working with Coach Yox (Kevin Yoxall)." Travis said he has improved his work ethic and that has helped him become a better player. "I go a lot harder," he said.