Tigers Finish Preparations for SEC Opener

A report on the Auburn football Tigers is featured as they prepare to play Mississippi State.

Auburn, Ala.--With Auburn's SEC football opener vs. Mississippi State almost here, Coach Gene Chizik's Tigers finished their on the field preparations for Saturday's road game with a light workout in shorts on Thursday polishing the game plan.

Chizik moved up the practice time and team meetings so players who wanted to attend the funeral of Iris Prosch, the mother of Auburn fullback Jay Prosch, could make the trip to Mobile. Prosch plans to join his teammates for Saturday's SEC opener vs. the Bulldogs.

Prosch's mother died on Monday after a long battle with cancer. The fullback transferred to Auburn from the University of Illinois in January so he could be closer to her. Throughout the winter, spring and summer, Prosch and his sister, an Auburn student, made trips to Mobile to spend time with their mother.

Jay Prosch is shown at Fan Day in August.

Kickoff for the game is set for shortly after 11 a.m. CDT at Davis Wade Stadium in Starkville where a sellout crowd of 55,082 and an ESPN television audience will watch the 86th football game matching the Tigers and Bulldogs

Mississippi State has been Auburn's SEC opener every year dating back to 2004 with the Tigers winning seven of the eight matchups.

Auburn has won the past four games vs. Mississippi State with its last loss to the Bulldogs coming in 2007 by a score of 19-14. Auburn enjoys a 60-23-2 lead in the series that includes a four-game winning streak vs. the Bulldogs, who are just 4-12-1 all-time in games vs. the Tigers played in Starkville.

After a disappointing performance last week in allowing 528 yards to Clemson, Auburn's defensive coaches have been working to get that problem solved before taking the field in Starkville. Defensive line coach Mike Pelton said his tackles have been working on being in the right place at the right time this week after they struggled as a group on a night in which Clemson rushed for 320 yards, including 231 by Clemson running back Andre Ellington.

"We have got to have some guys on the inside step up," Pelton said. "They have been challenged so we'll see.

"The thing about it is our No. 1 focus every week is to stop the run, don't give up explosive plays and win situational football," Pelton noted. "We played 90-something snaps, but there were a couple third downs in there we held them, should have made the play but didn't and that kept us on the field. It's not going to get any easier."

Pelton said that junior end Dee Ford, sophomore tackle Angelo Blackson, junior tackle Jeff Whitaker and junior end Corey Lemonier will be the starting front four for the second week of the season.

A pair of former starters, junior tackle Kenneth Carter and junior end Nosa Eguae, could play a major role in Saturday's game. Playing as a reserve vs. Clemson, Carter produced three of the five stops credited to the tackles.

"Ken is a guy that you don't see much--he just works," Pelton said. "Those guys that missed spring, him and Nosa, they're behind a little bit from the guys that did go through spring, but those guys will work themselves into the playing rotation."

The Tigers signed just two players in the 2013 class to bolster the front four. Tyler Nero is a tackle and Gimel President plays end. Both could be headed for redshirt seasons.

Tyler Nero

"Tyler's still trying to find his way, but he's going to be a good player here," said Pelton, who noted that he has high hopes for President, a Parade All-American as a high school senior.

An end who redshirted last year had received praise for his play in practice, but Keymiya Harrell did not see action in the Clemson game. "Keymiya is still battling a little injury he had since training camp and he's working to get back," Pelton said. "It'll be a welcomed sight when he gets back, just to get him out there and get some depth and just continue to roll your guys."

Another backup end who did not play in the opener is redshirt sophomore Justin Delaine, who played briefly last fall before going down with an injury. "Delaine struggled in the spring and in fall camp and right now he's just not in the playing rotation with those guys," Pelton said. "Every week it changes. Maybe somewhere down the line he can get himself back in there."

In other news and notes:

*The forecast for Starkville is windy with a 50 percent chance of rain and a high temperature in the lows 80s on Saturday.

*Chizik said the starting lineup should be similar to the one the Tigers opened the season with vs. Clemson. One potential change is at center where sophomore Reese Dismukes, who started all 13 games last year, is back from a one-game suspension. Redshirt sophomore Tunde Fariyike started the opener.

*Sophomore cornerback Robenson Therezie, who only played on special teams in the opener, practiced at running back this week, a position he played in high school.

*The Auburn ISP Network will provide coverage of the Tigers and Bulldogs from Starkville. Rod Bramblett will do play by play with Stan White adding commentary while Quentin Riggins works as the sideline reporter with Paul Ellen the studio host and Andy Burcham helping with the postgame coverage.

*Coverage of the game on Saturday will be available on channel 94 on Sirius and channel 198 on XM radios.

*ESPN's coverage of the Auburn-Mississippi State game will feature Dave Pasch doing play by play, Brian Griese handling the commentary with Jenn Brown the sideline report.

*The Tigers last four straight victories over the Bulldogs were by scores of 3-2 (2008), 49-24 (2009), 17-14 (2010) and 41-34 (2011).

*This season is the first since 1984 for the Tigers to have their opening two games away from Jordan-Hare Stadium. The 1984 Tigers lost 20-16 to Miami in the Kickoff Classic in New Jersey and then fell 35-28 at Texas.

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