Tigers Turn Their Focus Toward Clemson

News, notes and quotes are featured as the Auburn football team returned to practice.

Auburn, Ala.--After a two-day break from practice the Auburn Tigers put on full pads for a lengthy practice on Tuesday evening that did not win rave reviews from the head football coach.

"We did a little bit of Clemson work, a little bit of us work," Gene Chizik said of the full pads session that he said was "pretty physical," which has been a consistent theme going back to spring drills. "Overall, I thought it was an okay day," he said.

"I think they understand now how game-week practices are going to work," Chizik said. "That is kind of where we are at now, trying to get the process down of how we are going to practice on game week. That is kind of what we focused on tonight."

Chizik the Tigers came out sluggish and improved as the session went along. He added that he expects a better session when the team returns to the practice field on Wednesday evening.

Senior linebacker Jonathan Evans described the practice as being "pretty good."

"We were working on getting the game plan in for Clemson so we can get out there and do our thing," he said.

Evans is pushing for a starting spot at the strongside linebacker spot and has extensive experience at the weakside position. He has not played in the middle this year, where junior Jake Holland is running No. 1, but that could change soon. "Tomorrow I should be working a little bit at mike," he said.

Jonathan Evans

Evans noted that at Tuesday's practice that senior Ashton Richardson, who was limited by an injury last year, got the second team middle linebacker reps ahead of freshman Cassanova McKinzy.

Chizik and defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder have said recently the linebackers are improving as a group. Evans agreed after Tuesday's practice. "It's like night and day difference since the start of practice," the senior said.

In other news and notes:

*Chizik said the quarterbacks had a good practice on Tuesday, but said he isn't ready to name a starter at that position or any of the other spots with the Clemson game coming up a week from Saturday. However, the coach the staff is closing in on settling on a two-deep for the opener, he added.

*Tight end Darrion Hutcherson and wide receiver Jaquay Williams have still not qualified academically. Chizik did not say when the Tigers expect to get a ruling on their availability for enrolling in school for fall semester classes, but noted, "it is coming down to the wire on that."

He said that in the next two to three days the coaching staff hopes to know what their status will be for the 2012 season.

*Commenting on preseason All-SEC defensive end Corey Lemonier, Chizik said the junior "is getting better and he works at it every day."

The coach noted that with the Tigers not flipping ends to the weakside and strongside of the offensive formation this year that requires Lemonier to be able to line up head-to-head with tight ends, something he didn't normally do in the past. The coach said that the keys for Lemonier having a strong season are to adjust to that change along with becoming a more effective run stopper.

*Another junior, safety Ryan Smith, won praise from Chizik on Tuesday night. "Ryan's edge is he is a very smart player. He understands the game. He understands football--he's studied it. At the safety spot in this defense it requires a lot of communication. It requires some checks and things of that nature he is very comfortable with right now."

Mostly a backup the past two years, Chizik said Smith is challenging for a starting spot. Smith noted that he wants to be known as an all-around player, not the guy who just made the big fourth down play on the goal line stand last year vs. Mississippi State.

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