Monday Practice Video:
Atlanta, Ga.—After taking some time off for Christmas break the Auburn Tigers got back to work Monday morning with a full pad practice in the Georgia Dome as they prepare to face Virginia in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl. Working on all phases of the game in the two hour practice Coach Gene Chizik said his team had a good day on the field following up productive practices on campus.
"We were focused in Auburn," Chizik said. "I thought their focus was definitely there today. Comparing it to where we were five days ago, there's not a big difference.
"I thought we had a good practice today," he added. "I was worried a little bit about being rusty kind of being away from practice a little bit, but I thought the energy level was high. I thought they were very focused this morning in meetings. It went well."
One of the questions that has come up in recent weeks is how Auburn will handle things at the running back position. With Michael Dyer suspended indefinitely it leaves the Tigers with a hole at the position having to replace the back-to-back 1,000-yard rusher. Junior Onterio McCalebb and true freshman Tre Mason should get the bulk of the work against Virginia and on Monday true freshman Quan Bray got some reps with the third group. Quarterback Clint Moseley said he's a guy that could see some action if needed.
"Losing Mike, Tre's role expanded a lot," Moseley said. "O, even his role is going to expand and his responsibilities are going to be a little bigger. We've got to have someone else. We can't have just one running back. We have been putting a few other people back there just in case one of them gets hurt.
"Quan is really good with the ball in his hands," he added. "He hasn't gotten any reps the whole year at running back. It's a little bit of an adjustment, but he's really good with the ball in his hands."
Mason seconded those comments about his classmate Bray. Expected to take on a much bigger role against Virginia than he's had this season, Mason said he's excited about his opportunity and looking forward to seeing if Bray can make an impact as well.
"It's exciting ," Mason said. "Very exciting. I was just waiting on this chance. It's a great opportunity that I was given. I'm just going to do what I have to do to win. I like the venue (Georgia Dome). It's a faster pace. I like the turf. It's a fast track.
"He (Quan) is perfect," he added. "He's versatile. He could play every position on the field if you wanted him to. He could play defense too. He's just a great athlete."
Quan Bray on Monday
While the running backs are the question on offense, perhaps the biggest question mark on defense is not how the Tigers will look under Chizik's guidance, but where he will coach from? Always in the press box as a defensive coordinator, the head coach said that he plans to coach from the sidelines against Virginia as the takes over for the departed Ted Roof, but that could change.
"Right now that's the plan," Chizik said. "As I get closer and really think about it, it might change."
Also with the overall duties to lead his team, Chizik said the toughest part is going to be dealing with the in-game things that come up while also calling the defense.
"That's going to be the challenge for me," Chizik said. "Even when I was a defensive coordinator I never called a game from the field so that's going to be a little bit different for me."
One thing that has been different for the defense has been the intensity of the practices with Chizik at the helm. That continued Monday morning as the linebackers jumped right into a physical practice with plenty of hitting in drills. Jake Holland said it was nice to get the rust off early and get things going.
"I feel like the team had a really good practice today," Holland said. "Everybody was fast and we jumped back into it pretty quick. Everybody was attentive. We're just moving forward with the plan.
"You have to get your feet wet early coming back off Christmas break," he added. "You've got to get back into it physically. That's what Coach Chizik wanted to do and with those drills early in practice that's what we did."
The team will practice the rest of the week inside the Georgia Dome as the Tigers prepare for Saturday night's Chick-Fil-A Bowl against Virginia. Kickoff for the game is scheduled for 6:30 P.M. CT.