Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn said the practice was a productive one for the Tigers, who are trying to work out the issues they had in a disappointing performance in a 42-38 victory over Utah State.
"We got a lot done," Malzahn said. "We went to work. It was a very physical practice, a very demanding practice. It was good see."
Asked if there was more contact than normal, the coach said, "I would say for a normal Tuesday there was a lot of contact, but contact is definitely needed right now."
Junior running back Onterio McCalebb, like Malzahn, said the Tigers had a productive session on Tuesday. "I think it was a very physical practice," McCalebb said. "I think everybody came out there with the mindset we have Mississippi State coming in here Saturday and it is going to be physical."
Jawara "Rah-Rah" White, a redshirt freshman who made his college game debut last Saturday, agreed with McCalebb about the pracitce. "It was physical," White said. "It was real physical. It's going to be a physical game. It's something we have to get in our minds, not just our physical body, but we have to be mentally prepared to be physical."
Malzahn pointed out the Tigers need to get better at running the football after struggling in that area vs. Utah State. "If we can do that we have a chance to be a good offense," he said.
The coordinator and quarterback coach said the Tigers are still "gathering information" on their personnel so he did not rule out the possibility of lineup changes for game two. "I will say this, with an inexperienced team with a lot of unknowns, I think as coaches you learn a lot each game," he said.
"I look back at last year and we had a lot of the pieces of the puzzle already in place, but we didn't really find out our identity, our true identity, probably until game four so we are gathering information each week as coaches. Our goal is to get the best 11 on the field and get the ball to our best players. We are still a work in progress."
Saturday's game is the SEC opener for both teams who come into the contest with 1-0 records. Gene Chizik and his third-year Auburn coaching staff are 2-0 vs. Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen, who is in his third year in charge of the MSU program.
Auburn defeated the Bulldogs 49-24 at Jordan-Hare two years ago and the Tigers won 17-14 last season in Starkville.
Malzahn said that he was encouraged by what he saw with the offensive line at Tuesday night's practice after the group struggled in game one. "Our guys came out today with a really good mindset to play physical football," he pointed out. "That group, for the first start, you have got to remember that we have one lineman (Brandon Mosley) who had 11 games starting experience."
Mosley's starts were at right tackle last year. He played left tackle vs. Utah State, a position that Malzahn noted is significantly different in his offense than playing on the right side. "For the rest of them it was their first rodeo," the coach said. "We had a true freshman at center. The encouraging thing is we really think they can get better each week. It is just a matter of how quick they can get the competition and the cohesion. It takes a lot for an offensive line to gel together."
After earning SEC Freshman of the Week honors in his college debut, one of the questions about the Auburn offense is will Tre Mason have a bigger role in the running attack than he did in game one?
Mason returned four kickoffs for 176 yards vs. Utah State, the third highest single-game yardage total in Tiger history. In the second quarter he raced 97 yards for a touchdown that gave his struggling team a boost before halftime.
The former Park Vista High star from Lake Worth, Fla., carried the football just once for two yards as a tailback. In the preseason scrimmages he was the leading rusher by a wide margin.
"I can't wait, I?hope I get some carries in the next game," Mason said. "It is all up to the coaches and how I?do in practice so we will wait and see."
Mason said he isn't going to get a big head after making a splash in his college debut. In fact, all week he has gone out of his way to praise his teammates on the kickoff return team for making his success possible. "Everybody else has to do their assignment for me to do my assignment," he said. "My assignment is to take it to the house."
He added, "Without the 10 other guys, I can't return anything. That is why I give most of my props to them."
The freshman got a kick out of his longest return. "My first touchdown in the SEC is one of the greatest feelings of my life," he said.
Tre Mason heads to the end zone on a kickoff return, something he did regularly in high school.
Mason's good play in preseason came without the benefit of being on campus throughout the summer like the other freshmen. He was back home finishing a class he needed to enroll at Auburn, but he did more than that.
"I came in late, but I actually had a trainer named Jason Rosen," the running back points out. "We actually trained a little bit harder than I was supposed to so when I got here so I could be in a little bit better shape."
Mason said his first college game was exciting, especially how the Tigers performed in the closing minutes to pull out a victory.
The Tigers are relying heavily on freshmen as return men this year. Trovon Reed is the number one punt returner and Quan Bray is the other deep back with Mason on kickoff returns. Bray returned two kickoffs for 55 yards on Saturday.
"Quan is an amazing player,"?Mason said. "I haven't seen players like him in a long time. He is a threat. Us together we try to do our part on special teams."
Malzahn said he likes what he is seeing from Mason, noting the running back is "making progress." He said Mason and a lot of the other freshmen will likely see increased playing time as the season progresses.
Auburn's most experienced running back, jMcCalebb, had praise for Mason on Tuesday night. "Everybody on the team has faith in him," said McCalebb, who noted he is trying to mentor the freshmen like older players did for him when he first got to Auburn.
In other news and notes:
*Mosley, who started at left tackle vs. Utah State, is also getting work at practice at right tackle. "We will probably a few changes," he said. "Wherever they need me to play, I will play." The senior said he isn't sure what position he will play vs. Mississippi State, but it won't be a surprise to see him back on the right side.
*Saturday's game will kick off at 11:21 a.m. CDT time and will be televised by the SEC Network. Dave Neal will do the play by play with Andre Ware the analyst and Cara Capuano the sideline reporter.
*AU officials said on Tuesday that Mississippi State could not sell its full allotment of 5,000 tickets for the game and that Auburn has put those tickets on sale.
*Auburn is going for a fourth straight victory in the series vs. Mississippi State. Auburn has an all-time record of 59-23-2 vs. the Bulldogs. Auburn is 26-6 vs. the Bulldogs in games played at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
*Auburn has won its last nine games played at Jordan-Hare Stadium and the Tigers head into Saturday's game having won nine of their last 10 matchups vs. Mississippi State.
*Head coach Gene Chizik said the most important area his Tigers need to improve in this week vs. Mississippi State is to play more physical football on both offense and defense. The Bulldogs overpowered Memphis in their opening game last Thursday, rumbling to a 59-14 road victory. Chizik said his team has to be prepared for a Mississippi State squad that is playing with more confidence than the ones Auburn defeated during Chizik's two previous seasons as head coach of the Tigers.
*Malzahn said he expects to see a physical and fast defense when the Tigers take on Mississippi State.