Tigers Tackle Preparations For SEC Opener

Comments from Auburn players and coaches are featured in this football report.

Auburn, Ala.--Auburn put on full pads Tuesday evening in preparation for what the football Tigers are expecting to be a physical opponent on Saturday when they travel to Mississippi State.

Defensively, after a disappointing performance by the defense when it came to tackling, improving that phase of the game was a major point of emphasis at the two-hour session.

"We had a lot of tackling drills that emphasized wrapping up," said junior defensive tackle Kenneth Carter. "We worked on that and we worked on our run fits.

"I think the practice was pretty good," he added. "Everybody was up at a high tempo."

Carter said the Tigers are expecting a highly-motivated and physical opponent when they get to Mississippi State on Saturday. "We like that kind of challenge," he said. "We are going to be ready for it."

Kenneth Carter, a starter last season, is looking to move up the depth chart this week.

Defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder said after studying video that his opinion of his team's performance was the same as his initial reaction on Saturday night when he said inconsistent tackling was the group's number one problem vs. Clemson.

"I didn't expect us to be so poor in the area of tackling," the coach said, noting that is a point of emphasis in game two preparations.

The coordinator said after grading the Clemson video, nobody on his side of the ball stood out for their good play and noted that there is still plenty of competition going on in practice for starting spots and playing time.

"Everything we are doing is to establish an attitude of championship defense and we have a lot of work to do," VanGorder said.

On offense Reese Dismukes, Auburn's returning starter at center, is competing to regain his No. 1 spot on the depth chart. Dismukes, a Freshman All-SEC selection in 2011, was suspended for Auburn's opening game after being arrested in downtown Auburn for public intoxication a week before the Tigers opened the 2012 season vs. Clemson.

Redshirt sophomore Tunde Fariyike got the start in place of Dismukes on Saturday night and won praise from Head Coach Gene Chizik for a solid performance in his first substantial playing time since joining the Auburn team in 2010.

Another player making his first Auburn start, fullback Jay Prosch, returned to campus on Tuesday for classes and practice following the death of his mother, Iris. Chizik said the tentative plan is for Prosch to return home to Mobile for the funeral on Thursday and then be with the team as the Tigers play on in Starkville on Saturday at Mississippi State.

A transfer from the University of Illinois in January so he could be closer to his mother who was being treated for cancer, Prosch has developed into a key player for the Tigers because of his blocking ability.

Offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler said after Tuesday night's practice he has a lot of respect for the junior and so do his teammates. "He found out an hour before we left the hotel (prior to Saturday night's game) that his mom just went into a coma. How he was able to stay focused...our guys rallied around him. Our guys really care about him. Our hearts and prayers go out to that whole family.

"He is a great football player," Loeffler added. "We are so happy to have him. He is unselfish. He is everything Auburn wants and he will continue to get better, too."

The Tigers are planning to practice two more days before heading to Mississippi on Friday for a Saturday morning kickoff.

A player the offense will be counting on heavily again this week is receiver Emory Blake. Asked what type of contest he expects on Saturday, the senior said, "Definitely a physical game. I'm real familiar with their secondary and those guys have been there as long as I've been here. They're a good group, experienced group. I'm looking forward to the challenge."

Mississippi State's secondary features NFL prospect Johnthan Banks at cornerback. Chizik pointed out that he is impressed by the MSU defensive backs in general and Banks in particular. Blake agrees.

"He's good, he's a very good cover guy," Blake said. "He has a long body and is fast so he is a DB that you don't see every day."

Blake let it be known that losing The Opening game of his senior season to Clemson continues to bother him. "It's a hard pill to swallow for me because I felt like we played well enough to win the game," he said. "We just didn't make the plays and they did. With that being said, we just have to move on and worry about the next game."

The wide receiver said it is important for the Tigers to bounce back in week two. "I believe it's big for us," he said. "If we win this game I think it'll give us momentum back. I wouldn't say we've lost it, but this last game was tough for us because it was a close game, we fought hard and we just couldn't pull it out in the end. A win would be good for us."

Emory Blake scored Auburn's only touchdown vs. Clemson.

Kickoff time for Saturday's game in Starkville will be shortly after 11 a.m. CDT. A sellout crowd of 55,082 is expected at Davis Wade Stadium on MSU's campus. Auburn won last year's game 41-34 thanks to a last-minute goal stand and has won 11 of the last 12 games vs. Mississippi State.

"We know we're in for a dog fought with these guys," Blake pointed out. "They bring that every year. We're just going to fight back, that's the only thing we can do. I'm looking forward to the challenge."

In other news and notes:

*Blake said that although Auburn struggled running its hurry-up offense at the end of its 26-19 loss to Clemson, the lack of success wasn't due to lack of training. "We work those situations a lot," he said. "That chance that we had at the end of the game, we didn't execute as good as we should have. We're just going to need more work at."

The senior said the Tigers should have taken care of business earlier in the game vs. Clemson. Auburn scored just one touchdown and settled for four field goals.

"We're fully capable of putting up a lot of points," Blake said. "We just have to score when we're in the red (zone). We were driving the ball down on Clemson basically every time we got the ball. We've got to turn some of those field goals into touchdowns."

*Chizik is 3-0 in SEC openers during his tenure as Auburn's head coach. All of those games were vs. Mississippi State, which opened the 2012 season last Saturday night with a 56-9 victory over Jackson State, a member of the SWAC.

In last year's Mississippi State at Auburn matchup, safety Ryan Smith tackled quarterback Chris Relf short of the goal line on the final play as Auburn held on for 41-34 victory. The 2010 game wasn't decided until the closing minute as Auburn held off the Bulldogs 17-14. The Tigers had a much easier time with MSU in Chizik's first year at Auburn, winning 49-24.

*Dave Pasch will do the television play-by-play for Saturday's game on ESPN with Brian Griese the analyst and Jenn Brown the sideline reporter.

*Auburn punted just three times in the opener and none of Steven Clark's punts were returned by Clemson. The junior said special teams play has been a strength of the team since he arrived on campus and he doesn't see that changing this year.

Commenting on the guys he takes the field with, the junior said the group has a lot of good athletes and a lot of potential for success this year. "I am really happy with our punt coverage team," he said. "I?know they are getting down there in the returner's face. I love to see that."

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