"Tonight we had a practice where we worked a lot of situational things," Chizik said. "I thought we were a little rusty on some situations I would have liked to have been a little bit further along on. Overall, mostly mentally, we were pretty good most of the night until we got down to the end."
Chizik said the Tigers still have a lot of work to do on special situations like time management. "I thought the effort was good, but we have so much polishing we have got to do in this next week as we work on Utah State," the coach said.
The head coach noted that organizational practices like the one on Sunday are "really important" considering he estimates the Tigers will play between 12 and 15 true freshmen on Saturday.
"We know when we go out there, there are going to be a lot of big eyes the first game," Chizik said. Commenting on the Sunday practice after giving the Tigers the day off on Saturday, Chizik said, "We went out there to go through the pre-game ritual, exactly who is going to be where and how it is going to unfold--things of that nature."
With the Tigers in game week mode, Monday is the normal day off so they won't return to the practice field until Tuesday as the Tigers continue to polish the game plan for Utah State, a team out of the WAC that has never played Auburn.
Chizik said the Aggies are well coached and will present his team challenges. "Number one, they play extremely hard," he said. "They have got a lot of returning starters offensively (nine) and offensively they are all over the place in terms of so many formations, so many things to try to confuse you. They have a lot of moving parts to their offense, in some ways similar to ours."
The Auburn coach said the Tigers are preparing for the Aggies switching to a 3-4 front on defense, but said with this being the opener for both teams there is the unknown factor on what to expect.
Chizik said that Auburn's new starter quarterback, Barrett Trotter, is ready for the assignment. "I feel like he has a great grasp of the offense. I feel like he is going to play well. He, along with our whole football team, I am glad that they still have another week to prepare."
Chizik said that Trotter has improved throughout the preseason and added that the coaches have a high level of confidence in the junior.
After practice on Sunday night Trotter said that he expects to be nervous going into his first start, but feels confident he can handle the assignment as a redshirt junior.
"I definitely think I will have some nerves, but that is a good thing," Trotter said. "If you don't have nerves, there might be something wrong with you."
Barrett Trotter is making the jump from Cam Newton's backup to the starter. The last time he started was in December 2007 as his Briarwood Christian team lost in the Class 5A state championship game.
Trotter said he felt prepared to be the starter last season, but said he is more prepared now. "Now being here another year being in the system for another year, getting more familiar with everything, I feel more and more comfortable each day," he said.
Trotter, who hasn't started a game since his senior year at Briarwood Christian, said, "I feel like I still have something to prove. Just winning a starting spot doesn't prove anything. It is about how I do when I am out there."
In other news and notes:
*One of the walk-ons who was put on scholarship at the start of fall semester classes is not expected to play this season after suffering a serious ACL injury in practice. Davis Hooper, a senior from Trinity Presbyterian in Montgomery, got plenty of action in spring training this season at both tailback and fullback. In the past two seasons he ran the ball 12 times for 37 yards. Hooper was an All-State football and baseball player in high school.
"What a phenomenal kid," Chizik said of Hooper, noting that the senior wasn't given a scholarship, he "earned it" with his performance on the field. "That kid loves Auburn, he loves football. It is just a tough situation, but I tell you of all of the kids we have got, if anybody can handle that it will be him. He just has a great attitude, a great spirit about him."
Running back Onterio McCalebb said that he considers Hooper "a brother" and noted the walk-on is a guy who has earned the respect of the Tigers.
*With game week here, if the long range forecast is correct, players and fans can expect heat for Saturday's 11 a.m. kickoff. The long-range forecast is for temperatures in the lows 90s with a 20 percent chance of a thundershower.
*Last season Chizik named his starting lineup on Tuesday prior to the season opener. If he does that again this week one of the young players likely to be in that group is true freshman center Reese Dismukes from Spanish Fort High.
By graduating from high school early and enrolling at Auburn in January, Dismukes said he feels confident in his assignments after having spring practice under his belt plus a month of preseason drills. "Coming in the spring really helped me with that," he said. "I have pretty much got the whole offense down and that whole kind of thing. I am pretty much comfortable with doing everything I need to do, making the calls and that kind of thing."
*Utah State had a "thud" scrimmage on Saturday, meaning defenders were not allowed to tackle offensive players to the ground. "We got done exactly what we wanted, with a lot of game scenarios for us," said Utah State head coach Gary Andersen. "It was a thud drill. I would have liked to do a little more live situations, but right now, one week from today right now, the Auburn game is over so it is not real smart to come out here and tackle people with less than seven days until the football game. I thought we handled some situations well. There is a lot to learn from the tape."
*Anderson said after the scrimmage his defense has been practicing to substitute quickly to prepare for the pace of Gus Malzahn's Auburn offense. The Utah State coach said he feels better about his team's field goal kicking than he did earlier this preseason, but is concerned about the punting and doesn't want to put the defense in bad field position situations vs. the Tigers.
*Sophomore defensive end Corey Lemonier said that it will be a challenge for the true freshmen to stay focused on their assignments with all of th excitement of playing in their first college game. "It is a great experience," he said. "It is going to be hard for them to not be distracted."
Lemonier said the Tigers are looking forward to showing what they can do. He said that the low expectations for the defending national champions is something the team can deal with and show they are underrated. "We just have to go out there and show we mean business," he said. "It motivates. I?am not going to overreact. We just need to go out there and do our thing."