"We had a good practice," said junior linebacker Daren Bates. "Everybody came back ready to win. We had no setbacks today at practice. We practiced great to make for a better chance for us to win Saturday."
As the Tigers prepare for game seven, Bates said he is seeing progress defensively "from everybody" on his side of the football. "Everybody's IQ is going up about what they have to do in this package or whatever. Everybody is getting better every day."
Another defensive player, cornerback T'Sharvan Bell, said he agrees with Bates that the defense is improving and noted he is personally excited about playing the Gators for the first time as Florida returns to the AU schedule for the first time since 2007.
Bell, who grew up a Florida fan, said that he is really looking forward to Saturday night's game against the Gators. He noted that Florida ended up offering him a scholarship late in the recruiting process, but by that time he had committed to Auburn and wasn't going back on his word. "Once I was committed, I wasn't going to change my mind," he said.
"I still am a Florida fan as long as we aren't playing,"?the junior added. "It is going to be exciting," he said, pointing out that both teams have 4-2 records and both are trying to bounce back from road losses last week. "It is going to be a 60-minute fight."
On the offensive side of the football, coordinator and quarterback coach Guy Malzahn used the phrase "solid" several times to describe the Tuesday night workout. "The guys came out wanting to practice," he said, adding, "We put in our plan today. You could tell they were really eager to see what the plan was."
After scoring just 14 points vs. Arkansas and getting inconsistent play from the receivers and the quarterbacks in Fayetteville, Malzahn said the issues on his side of the ball are group ones.
He said despite the struggles quarterback Barrett Trotter had vs. the Razorbacks, the junior is still the starter because he believes Trotter gives the Tigers the best chance to win games.
"Really, we have got to get better around him," Malzahn said. "We have to get better around him in all areas. There are some throws he would like to have back, but we are going into this week like any other week."
Commenting on Frazier's play vs. Arkansas, Malzahn said, "He did a good job of running the football, a good job of operating the communications--it was extremely loud. Obviously, there were two balls (interceptions) he would like to have back. He is a competitor. He was extremely disappointed. He is the type who usually doesn't make the same mistake twice. Just the speed of the secondary, it takes a while to get used to that. He will improve in that area."
Cody Parkey is showing why he was a high school All-American with a strong sophomore performance.
Malzahn said Frazier's role will vary from week to week, but in general the coaches are working to expand the freshman's playing time as he becomes more polished running the entire offensive package.
Commenting on what he sees of the Florida defense, Malzahn said, "They have good athletes. I think they are extremely talented up front. Their linebackers can really run and the secondary, they fly around back there, too."
The best area of Auburn's play in the first half of the season has been the special teams play. One of the reasons for that is that kicker Cody Parkey, a sophomore from Jupiter, Fla., High School, is off to a great start.
"I am excited,"?he said. "All of my buddies go to Florida. I know a couple of guys from back home who play for Florida."
Parkey's kickoffs and field goals have been one of the highlights for Coach Gene Chizik's team. Last year as a true freshman the former Under Armour All-American kicked off 35 times with two touchbacks while sharing that duty with 2010 senior Wes Byrum.
This season, through six games, Parkey has handled all 33 of Auburn's kickoffs and 20 have been touchbacks. That ranks the sophomore first in the SEC and second nationally behind Quinn Sharp of Oklahoma State, who has 27 touchbacks this season.
Parkey says a combination of better health and the additional strength he picked up in the offseason program that have made him a more productive kicker in 2011. Commenting on his touchbacks this season, he said, "I feel like I can do that in every game. It is something I have worked really hard at and I am glad it is showing up out there on the field."
As a freshman he was bothered by a hip flexor that affected the distance on his kicks. "With my injury I had last year, I never felt 100 percent," he said.
Parkey also missed the end of spring practice this year with a quadriceps injury, but he went to work on his rehab immediately and has come back strong. He noted that he is now kicking the ball farther than he ever has.
Heading into this week's game vs. the Gators, Parkey is 7-8 on his field goals and has shown the leg strength to attempt a long field goal if needed. In high school he made a 55-yarder and earned a very early scholarship from Auburn during his junior year at Jupiter High after he gave a strong performance at a summer kicking camp on the AU campus.
In other news and notes:
*The Tigers are expected to have a large group of prospects in for unofficial visits this week to go along with official visits from prospects such as five-star offensive tackle Avery Young from Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., High School, five-star defensive end Jordan Jenkins from Harris County, Ga., High, four star Auburn offensive tackle commitment Shane Callahan from Chaparral High in Parker, Colo., three-star center Matt Cochran from Buhach Colony High in Atwater, Calif., and three-star Auburn cornerback commitment T.J. Davis from Godby High in Tallahassee, Fla.
*At the halfway point of the season the Tigers have played 16 true freshmen. Seven have seen action on offense. That group includes wide receivers Quan Bray, Jaylon Denson and C.J. Uzomah, center Reese Dismukes, quarterback Kiehl Frazier, running back Tre Mason and tight end/H-back Brandon Fulse.
Defensively, eight true freshmen have played. The group includes tackles Angelo Blackson, Devaunte Sigler and Gabe Wright, linebacker Garrett Harper, cornerbacks Jonathan Rose, Robensen Therezie and Jermaine Whitehead and safety Erique Florence. Walk-on wide receiver Garrett Harper from Shiloh Christian in Springdale, Ark., has played on special teams.
*Whitehead said after watching video of Florida's offense that he is impressed with the speed of the Gators' running backs. Chris Rainey has rushed for 467 yards at 5.4 yards per carry. Jeff Demps has rushed for 324 yards with an average of 8.3 per carry. Mike Gillislee has 247 rushing yards with an average of 7.1 per carry.
*Auburn leads its series vs. the Gators 42-38-2 and has won the last two meetings and three of the previous four, but Florida has won eight of the last 11 matchups.
*Kickoff for the Florida game is 6 p.m. CDT and it will be televised on ESPN with Brad Nessler, Todd Blackledge and Holley Rowe calling the action.