Chizik: Lineup Will Look The Same This Week

The Auburn football Tigers put on the full pads as they continue preparations for their road trip to Mississippi State.

Auburn, Ala.--The Auburn football Tigers had their second consecutive good practice, Coach Gene Chizik said Wednesday night after his team wrapped up a full pads session that lasted more than two hours.

Chizik noted that the team still has "a little ways to go" before he feels the Tigers will be ready to face the Mississippi State Bulldogs on the SEC football opener for both teams.

"We always take Wednesdays and work a lot of third down," he said. "It's a good third down day and a good blitz day--blitz pickup offensively and blitz on defense, and pressure game. We worked some goal line today."

With Reese Dismukes coming off his suspension this week and Chizik saying Tuesday the 2011 starting center will play Saturday, he noted after Wednesday's practice that Tunde Fariyike and the sophomore have been rotating with the first string.

"We haven't made a decision right now at center," Chizik noted. "We'll obviously go through tomorrow's practice and evaluate what we're going to do."

Fariyike won praise from the coaches for his play vs. Clemson. It was the first significant action in college for the redshirt sophomore. Dismukes started every game last season and earned Freshman All-SEC honors.

The head coach said that Auburn fans can expect to see a similar starting lineup in game two to the one that took the field last Saturday night vs. Clemson in the Georgia Dome.

Earlier in the week Chizik and defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder said there was going to be competition this week for starting spots at almost every position after a disappointing performance by the AU defense in the season opener.

Chizik noted the Tigers have been adding noise to the team's practices this week as they prepare for their first true road game of the season. "We don't have the luxury of having a lot of cow bells," he joked. "We just use the standard noise that we use in practice.

"We know it's going to be loud and we know there are going to be times offensively when it's going to be a challenge, but we've been working it," he said.

With the last two meetings with the Bulldogs coming down to the last drives of the games before Auburn pulled out wins, Chizik said his players don't think it's just "coach speak" when the staff continuously reminds them the game could come down to the last tick on the clock in the fourth quarter.

"I think they understand it's difficult to play in Starkville and they understand that this is an extremely good football team," he said of Mississippi State. "We've got a tremendous challenge in front of us and they know that."

One challenge the Tigers face defensively is Mississippi State quarterback Tyler Russell. A traditional dropback style passer, Chizik said the junior plays a different way than 2011 starter Chris Relf. Russell completed 15-24 passes for 185 yards and two scores against Jackson State last weekend, but wasn't a running threat. However, the Auburn coach said he isn't sure if Russell will run the ball much against the Tigers.

Tyler Russell will lead the Mississippi State offense on Saturday.

"The offense hasn't really changed," Chizik said. "It'll be very interesting to us to see their ideas of running the ball. Obviously with the quarterback last year, with Chris in there, they were a quarterback-run team as often as they would like. That hasn't necessarily been the case from what we've seen, but that doesn't mean it won't be the case. He's an extremely talented passer. He's got some height and good range and vision.

"They do a great job with their power and counter series running the football," he added. "They're very physical at the point of attack. The quarterback, Tyler, traditionally hasn't been a part of that, but very well could be. They've got some really good backs."

With the a potentially strong running attack by Mississippi State, Auburn defensive line coach Mike Pelton said his defensive ends need to tackle better against the run than they did in the opener. Saying he did like the effort and physicality that was given by the front four, Pelton said they were out of position too many times--especially the tackles.

As the defense looks to improve on allowing 528 total yards to Clemson, safety Jermaine Whitehead will try to make it happen in his home state on Saturday for a game that will be televised nationally at 11 a.m. on ESPN.

"I've got a lot of people from back home wanting to visit and see me play," the Greenwood native said. "I get a chance to play football, which is first of all outstanding, and to go back to my home state and play is even that more remarkable."

Whitehead added he knew a lot of players on the Bulldogs' team, including Johnthan Banks, Nickeo Whitley, Cameron Lawrence, Josh Boyd and Chad Bumphis.

"Yeah, I know a whole lot of guys on their team," Whitehead continued. "I've been talking to a couple of them and they've been cool. We're buddies, but Saturday, may the be best man win."

Whitehead played well in the season opener, recording 11 tackles in the 26-19 defeat, but said he and the team are working on improvements to prepare for the fast-paced Bulldogs.

Verbally committed to Mississippi State at one point before signing with the Tigers in the class in 2011, the sophomore said Starkville is close to his hometown.

"It's not that far from my city and my brother and older cousin both went to Mississippi State so I went up there a whole lot," the Auburn safety noted. "They have a great coaching staff and it's a great place to play. It's going to be loud and rocking. "All of the games are important, but I would like to get a little bragging rights."

Jermaine Whitehead started his second game for Auburn on Saturday vs. Clemson.

In other news and notes:

*Chizik said some members of the team and staff along with Chette Williams will attend the funeral of fullback Jay Prosch's mother, Iris, Thursday. "It looks like we'll be able to attend the funeral," Chizik said. "The time is a little challenging for us, but we're going to obviously try to get as many people as we can there."

* Defensive line coach Mike Pelton said Wednesday night that his two true freshmen, end Gimel President and tackle Tyler Nero, have been doing well in practice, but aren't in the playing rotation for game two. Unless there is a rash of injuries, both players will likely be redshirted.

*Auburn is 45-28-5 in SEC openers, including 18-1 in its last 19. The Tigers lead the series with Mississippi State 60-23-2.

*The Bulldogs' 56 points against Jackson State on Saturday was the most in the SEC West and second most in the conference in week one. The nine points against Mississippi State was the lowest points total in the SEC.

Entering Saturday's contest with Auburn, Mississippi State's Davis Wade Stadium will be sold out for the 18th consecutive game. A crowd of 55,092 is expected for the morning kickoff.

*The 55 combined first-half points in the 2011 AU vs. MSU meeting are most in the first half of an SEC game involving Auburn since 1995 against Florida (Florida 35, Auburn 20). The 75 combined points are the second-most ever in the Auburn-Mississippi State series. The only game with more was when Mississippi State won 49-34 in 1952.

*Cornerback Ryan White made his first career start against the Bulldogs in 2011. Saturday could provide the junior with his fourth career start at Auburn.

*Auburn is the Bulldogs' only conference game in September. Mullen's team travels to Troy on the 15th and welcomes South Alabama to Starkville on the 22th before a bye week on the 29th.

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