Auburn Coach Pleased With Practice

Comments from Gene Chizik and other coaches plus news and notes on the Auburn football Tigers are featured in this report.

Auburn, Ala.--The Auburn Tigers hit the practice field for two hours on Wednesday night focusing on their game plan for Saturday night's home football game vs. the Ole Miss Rebels.

"I thought we had a good practice again," Coach Gene Chizik said. "I feel like our guys have responded really well this week. Like any of the other weeks we have come off tough losses, they have been very focused."

Auburn, 5-3 overall and 3-2 in the SEC, is trying to rebound from a 45-10 loss on the road to No. 1 LSU last Saturday. Ole Miss, which is 2-5 overall and 0-4 in the SEC, is coming off a 29-24 home loss to Arkansas.

"Overall it has been a very good week," Chizik said of his team's practices. "It is going to be a great challenge for us. I really feel like our team is going to be ready to play."

Junior wide receiver Emory Blake practiced Wednesday night and is in better shape physically than he was at this time a week ago, Chizik noted. However, the coach said it will still be a game-time decision on whether or not he plays vs. the Rebels.

Wide receiver coach Trooper Taylor said that the junior receiver wasn't full speed at Wednesday night's workout as he tries to continue to recover from an ankle injury. "He is not a kid who wants to miss," Taylor said of Blake. "I can tell it bothers him a lot."

Kickoff time for Saturday's game is 6 p.m. CDT and it will be televised on ESPNU.

Auburn will try to keep continue its history of success on the gridiron vs. the Rebels. Since the league switched to divisional play in 1993 Auburn has only lost three times to Ole Miss. The only one of those three losses that came at Auburn was a 24-20 setback in 2003 in a game the Tigers had a chance to win late, but wide receiver Ben Obomanu dropped what would have been the game-winning pass.

The Tigers lead the overall series 26-9, including a 12-2 advantage in games play at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Offensive line coach Jeff Grimes said the offensive line "didn't do our part" in Auburn's loss to LSU. He said that the focus in practice has been looking ahead to "focus all of our efforts on the game this week."

"Sometimes you have to make the corrections, address them very directly and then you move forward," Grimes said. "I think if you sit back and worry what happened last week too long, you get yourself in trouble. I think the same thing can happen if you look back at a win too long."

The coach noted the Tigers won't make any changes in the starting lineup for a third straight week, but did say several of the backups are making progress. Tunde Fariyike, a redshirt freshman, has played better in practice and is now the No. 2 center behind Reese Dismukes.

With Chad Slade taking over for injured guard Jared Cooper, Grimes said Eric Mack, another redshirt freshman, will be the next man up if the Tigers need to put another guard into the game.

Blake Burgess, who backs up at center and guard, is also working at tight end.

Greg Robinson

A pair of highly regarded freshmen, guard Christian Westerman and tackle Greg Robinson, are improving in practice, but the Grimes said he has no regrets about the decision to redshirt the players because he said they aren't where they need to be yet to play ahead of the current linemen who are starting.

Grimes said that Robinson's practice performance has picked up considerably, which has encouraged the coach about the Louisiana native's potential down the road. "He has improved, but not to my level of satisfaction," Grimes said.

"I do think he is working hard and I think the last three weeks he has really kind of recognized where he is right now," Grimes said. "A lot of freshmen in his position just kind of ride the year out and really don't improve much, and don't learn much, and don't get much better. He really has focused these last three weeks. I think it has been a greater sense of urgency on his part to get better and to get himself ready if we were to need them."

Christian Westerman

Grimes said he has been telling Robinson and Westerman that even though they are not playing in games they need to make sure they are getting ready to do that in 2012. "Those two guys have improved a lot," Grimes said. "I am looking forward to see what their future is going to look like because they are both talented kids, who are the right kind of kids, too."

In other news and notes:

*Ole Miss running back Brandon Bolden has been hampered by injuries, but is expected to play against the Tigers. He has 2,305 career rushing, which is fifth in Ole Miss history. He is just 18 yards shy of passing Dou Innocent for fourth place on the Ole Miss rushing list.

*Bolden is second in rushing touchdowns in Ole Miss history with 25 and is second in rushing average for backs with more than 400 attempts at 5.4 yards per carry.

*Auburn and Ole Miss go into Saturday night's game at the bottom of the SEC statistics for pass defense, total defense and scoring defense.

Auburn is giving up 221.6 yards per game through the air, which is last in the league, just ahead of the 219.3 yards per game allowed by the Rebels.

Auburn is allowing opponents to score 28.2 points per game, which is 11th in the league, one spot ahead of Ole Miss (29.1 points per game).

The Tigers are 11th in total defense allowing 403 yards per contest with Ole Miss in the basement at 442.1 yards per game.

*Nationally the Tigers are 75th in total defense and 93rd in total offense with an average of 346.75 yards per contest. Auburn is 106th nationally in passing yards per game with 163.50 and 35th in rushing with 183.25 yards per outing.

*AU's passing ranking is the team's worst in this week's national statistics. Auburn is ranked highest in two kicking game statistics. The Tigers are 22nd in kickoff returns with an average of 24.21 yards and 25th in net punting at 38.79 yards.

*With 25 punts downed inside the opposition's 20-yard line, Steven Clark is second nationally in that category just two behind Ryan Allen of Louisiana Tech.

*Assistant coach Taylor said he has been pleased with how Trovon Reed has looked in practice this week. Commenting on receivers as a group, he said they need to make improvement, but he noted that he thought the receivers improved in route-running and blocking vs. LSU."

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