Tigers Return to Practice Without Prosch

Auburn hit the practice field on Monday to begin preparations for a road trip to Mississippi State.

Auburn, Ala.--The Auburn football Tigers altered their in-season schedule to take advantage of the Labor Day holiday and practiced on Monday, their normal off-day, as they began on-the-field preparations for Saturday's SEC opener at Mississippi State.

Kickoff for the game at Davis Wade Stadium is shortly after 11 a.m. CDT. Coach Gene Chizik said Auburn's theme this week is correcting mistakes on both sides of the line of scrimmage that showed up during his team's 26-19 season-opening loss to Clemson.

After arriving home from Atlanta in the early morning hours on Sunday, Chizik gave his team the day off. With no classes on Monday, the Tigers put in a full day preparing for the Mississippi State. Players watched video with their position coaches and met with either offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler or defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder before hitting the practice field to begin installation of the week two game plan.

Following a physical game on Saturday night, Chizik put his team through a light workout in shorts.

The Tigers practiced without their starting fullback, Jay Prosch, who was at home with his family after learning on Monday morning that his mother passed away after suffering from cancer.

"Jay's in Mobile right now and we just ask that everybody keeps him in their thoughts and prayers," Chizik said. "It's a very, very difficult time for him as you can imagine. We're trying to all be very respectful of the situation.

"We don't really have many details, funeral arrangements and things of that nature," Chizik added. "He's at home, we talked to him this morning and he's doing fine, as fine as you can be under the circumstances."

Prosch, a star at UMS-Wright in high school, signed with the University of Illinois in 2010 and was a standout at the Big Ten school for the past two seasons. He decided to transfer to Auburn so he could make more frequent trips home to Mobile to be with his mother.

Because of the circumstances of Prosch's case, Illinois supported the fullback's transfer to Auburn and the NCAA waived its rule that transfers from one Division I program to another must sit out for a season.

Prosch's blocking was one of the highlights for the Tigers on Saturday vs. Clemson.

Chizik said Auburn's rebuilt offensive line had its good moments and not-so-good moments in the opener, but noted he liked what he saw from Tunde Fariyike in his first collegiate start as the redshirt sophomore filled in for suspended center Reese Dismukes. Chizik has not said when Dismukes, a Freshman All-SEC pick last year, will be allowed to play.

"I am very proud of Tunde in terms of him stepping in in a short period of time," the head coach said. "He did not play perfect and we knew he wouldn't. I thought overall he really stepped up to the plate and helped our football team."

Fariyike agreed with his head coach's assessment about how the center performed vs. Clemson after studying video of the game. "I saw I had some good plays and some bad plays, but overall I had a pretty solid game," he said.

Tunde Fariyike

Although Fariyike had played on special teams, prior to Saturday night he had only been in one college game at center when he saw mop-up duty vs. Ole Miss last year.

"It was a blast," Fariyike said of his chance to play a whole game as a starter. "I had fun the whole time apart from the outcome."

Asked if there were any surprises in his first start, Fariyike said, "Not really. I thought I played pretty well. I didn't know how that was going to go at all. That is what I aimed to do and what I did."

The center said he expects to play better in the future and notes he is sure that will happen. "I need to get better communication for sure," he said. "I need to get more comfortable out there and get better at running off the ball.

"I felt like at times we handled the noise really well and at other times we didn't," Fariyike said. "There was one time I didn't hear Kiehl (Frazier) at all and didn't get the snap off."

Fariyike predicted the offense will improve as the Tigers become more settled in their new system. "The sky is the limit," the center said. "I think everybody has got a taste of what we are going to do. We are got to start working together to get some different things clicking. We have a chance to be really good."

In addition to Fariyike, the Tigers played two other first-time starters on opening night with redshirt freshman Greg Robinson at left tackle and true freshman Avery Young at left tackle. "I think they played a pretty good game," Fariyike said. "I was really proud of them on how they handled their first start in college football."

Chizik agreed with Fariyike about the freshmen. "For their first game I really am proud of both of those guys as well, especially Avery Young," Chizik said. "Avery didn't play perfect. He's got so much room for improvement it's scary. To throw him out there for his first game as a starting right tackle against a Top 10 or Top 15 team in the country and to play the whole game, I'm very proud of him.

"We have a lot of improvement to go in the offensive line, but I think there will be a lot of things that they will be able to see on tape in game situations that they can learn from," Chizik added.

In other news and notes:

*Fariyike said one of the more encouraging aspects of the opener was his team had success running the football. "We were moving the ball really well on the ground and getting some good push there," he said.

*Mississippi State, a 56-9 winner over Jackson State on Saturday night, is looking for its first SEC West victory over a team not named Ole Miss since Dan Mullen took over as head coach in Starkville. Mullen is 0-3 vs. Chizik's teams. Mississippi State has just one victory in its last 12 games vs. Auburn.

*In last year's Auburn vs. Mississippi State game, the Tigers took a 41-34 victory that wasn't decided until the closing seconds when safety Ryan Smith completed a goal stand for his team when he tackled quarterback Chris Relf on a fourth down play.

Ryan Smith is shown tackling Chris Relf at the end of last year's Auburn vs. Mississippi State game at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

The star of that game for the Bulldogs was Vick Ballard, who rushed for 135 yards on 21 carries and caught five passes for 64 yards, but the big back won't be in action for the rematch because he was a senior last fall.

*Mississippi State's top player this year is probably senior cornerback Johnathan Banks, who came into the season with 12 career interceptions, which ranked him fourth among all Division I players. In the opener this year Jackson State only threw two passes to his side of the field and both were incomplete.

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