Tigers Preparing for Another Physical Test

Comments from Auburn football players and Gus Malzahn are featured in this practice report.

Auburn, Ala.--After taking Monday off the Auburn football team put on the full pads for what players and coaches called a productive session that lasted more than two hours on Tuesday night.

"We had another hard, physical practice just trying to get that mentality," offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn said. "The kids' focus was very good so for the most part I was pleased for a Tuesday."

Malzahn credited back-to-back physical practices last Tuesday and Wednesday for helping produce a major improvement in the running game from week one to week two.

"We went good on good (first team vs. first team) quite a bit against each other trying to be more physical and trying to be able to execute better," the coach said of the workout that included installation of the game plan for Saturday's road trip to Clemson.

Malzahn pointed out the need to play physical football is vitally important this week. He said in Auburn's 27-24 victory over Clemson last season at Jordan-Hare Stadium the visitors were by far the more physical football team.

Commenting on Clemson's 2011 defense, Malzahn said, "I think they are extremely talented. That group last year, it was such a physical game. They whipped us. We had some big plays. We didn't earn much. We have our work cut out for us. We know we are going to get their best shot. They have got a lot of very talented players who can really run."

Saturday's contest will be the first road start for quarterback Barrett Trotter. "It will be different not having all of our fans, but once you get on the field you try to block that stuff out," the Auburn junior said. "Hopefully, all of the young guys will get used to that real quick and not let it really affect them.

"The fans are going to yell at you and boo you and that kind of stuff, but you can't really pay them much attention," he said. "The best thing to do is try to block that all at."

Trotter heads into the game having completed 33-46 passes for 407 yards with five touchdowns and one interception. His pass efficiency rating is 177.58. Last season Cam Newton set the school record in that category with a 182.05 rating, going well past the previous record of 172.89 set by Jason Campbell in 2004.

With kickoff at 11 a.m. CDT at Memorial Stadium in Clemson, it will be a third consecutive morning kickoff for the Tigers. Prior to that the Tigers made sure they were ready to go full speed in the mornings to start the season. "We had 11 o'clock practices and scrimmages in preseason so we are used to it," Trotter said.

When Auburn's offense takes the field the Tigers will have to be sharp to move the football and score points, Trotter said. "They are a very athletic defense," he pointed out. "They are fast and move to the ball well."

Trotter noted that in game two vs. Mississippi State the visiting Bulldogs had saved several defensive packages for the Auburn game they didn't display in an opening night rout of Memphis. "We are going to have to prepare for different looks again this week," the quarterback said.

Commenting on what he is expecting from Trotter, Malzahn said, "Each year you are learning your quarterback. Last year it probably took me four games to really figure out what Cam (Cam Newton) could do and couldn't do.

"We are still learning Barrett and I think he is still learning himself a little bit so it should be a real good test for him to be on the road," Malzahn said. "It will be a great environment. It will be very noisy so we will see not only how he handles it, but how our entire offense handles the noise."

Defensive end Corey Lemonier agreed with Malzahn that the Tigers had a productive practice on Tuesday night. "It was good," he said. "There was a lot of intensity, people flying around."

One of the major focuses for this year's Auburn team has been to get a young defensive line up to speed. Lemonier said he is seeing progress as the Tigers prepare to face a 2-0 Clemson team that returns for starters on the offensive line.

"I feel like we are improving every day since the first game," he said. "The first game was seeing where we were at and the second game was like a really big improvement."

Corey Lemonier is shown in action vs. Mississippi State.

Lemonier said he can see the defensive front continuing to make progress and pointed out that Tuesday's practice could have been the best one this season for the front four. He said the defensive linemen are playing with more toughness and doing a better job of getting lined up properly based on the formation the offense is using.

In other news and notes:

*Through two games sophomore Michael Dyer and junior Onterio McCalebb have taken almost all of the carries in Auburn's running attack. Dyer has run the ball 32 times at 5.5 yards per carry, which is 48.5 percent of his team's rushing plays. McCalebb has carried the ball 20 times and is averaging 5.5 yards per attempt. He has carried the football on 30.3 percent of Auburn's running plays and has nine of his team's 34 pass receptions.

*After two games senior Neiko Thorpe leads the Tigers in solo tackles with 11 and total tackles with 20 while playing safety for the first time after starting at cornerback the previous two seasons. *Daren Bates is second in tackles with eight solos and 11 assists, linebacker Jake Holland has eight solos and eight assists and safety Demetruce McNeal has six solo tackles and 10 assists.

*Clemson is expecting to get one of its top defenders back on the field this week to face Auburn. Safety Rashard Hall was held out of action in his team's victory over Wofford last week with a knee injury.

*Clemson's roster features seven players from the state of Alabama. The group includes freshman Demond Buice from Gaston High, freshman safety Desmond Brown from Cherokee County High, freshman running back D.J. Howard from Lincoln High, senior guard Antoine McClain from Anniston High, freshman guard Spencer Region from Cullman High, senior tight end Drew Traylor from Mountain Brook High and sophomore tight end Darrell Smith from Gadsden City High.

*Auburn has just one player on its roster from the state of South Carolina, backup redshirt freshman offensive guard Eric Mack from Calhoun County High.

*One of Clemson's concerns going into this game has been missed tackles. Head coach Dabo Swinney and defensive coordinator Kevin Steele said they are focusing on getting that issue corrected this week after the ACC team struggled to stop Wofford's rushing attack last Saturday.

*Freshman running back Tre Mason said he hopes to get an opportunity to return kickoffs again this week. Because he has been a major threat so far this season, Mississippi State did a short kick against Auburn last week and he hopes that is not a developing trend. He said it "makes me mad" when teams purposely kick the ball away from him.

"I love the chance to return. I like to get the offense and defense hyped. If I return a big one, everybody is going be playing with energy and a lot of intensity."

The freshman added he is looking forward to his first college road trip as his Tigers take on Clemson in a game that will kick off at 11 a.m. CDT with television coverage on ABC. "I am just excited to see what we can do," he said.


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