Tigers Turn Their Focus to the Warhawks

A report on Auburn's football preparations for the home opener features comments from coaches and players.

Auburn, Ala.--Auburn put on the full pads for a two-hour practice on Tuesday that featured a limited amount of work with the first team offense and the first team defense going head to head. The Tigers also worked with the scout teams on installation of the game plan for Saturday's home football opener vs. Louisiana-Monroe.

The coaching staff has challenged the players to step up their performance and leadership levels and one of he veterans on the roster, senior wide receiver Travante Stallworth, said there is evidence that is taking place.

"Practice was real good," he told Inside the Auburn Tigers. "Everybody was energized. People were ready to go back out there because everybody wants to win this week. I saw a different tempo from everybody. It was a great practice tonight.

Stallworth noted the Tigers had full speed work with the best vs. the best. "Coach Chiz (Gene Chizik) wanted it just like a game and Coach (Scot) Loeffler also wants it just like a game so we can practice good habits. Everybody was flying around and hitting each other."

Travante Stallworth is a senior from Leesville, La.

Stallworth said he thought the receivers had a particularly good practice. "No balls were on the ground,"?he said. "Kiehl (Frazier), Clint (Moseley) and Jonathan Wallace all threw great balls today. Everybody is playing with an edge. We want to go out there and win and just try to turn the season around."

Loeffler agreed with Stallworth's assessment of the practice. "It was excellent," the coach said. "We made some strides tonight."

Getting Loeffler's offense performing at a higher level is a very high priority for game three with a potent-scoring opponent coming to Jordan-Hare Stadium. Auburn's only touchdown vs. Mississippi State came on a kickoff return by Onterio McCalebb.

Improving the running attack and eliminating turnovers are priorities this week for the Tigers. Quarterback Kiehl Frazier threw three interceptions in game two and lost two fumbles.

"There were some things he did well that he actually improved on from the Clemson game," the coach said, noting the sophomore did a better job of managing the huddle and getting the Tigers lined up properly.

"Then there were obviously some breakdowns," Loeffler added. "At the end of the day it was his first road game. He watched the tape and he will improve."

Loeffler also agreed with Stallworth that there are signs of players looking to step up their level of play. "There is a lot of pride here at Auburn--unbelievable pride. Whenever you are 0-2 these guys don't like it as much as everybody else. They have pride and they are going to come to work every day to make it better and so is this staff.

"The staff is totally committed to getting things cleaned up and we are going to grind until we do," he added.

With this week's opponent, Louisiana-Monroe, running an unusual 3-3-5 defensive alignment the Warhawks offer a challenge for the Tigers because of the system and how they play it, Loeffler said.

"They play extremely hard, they are tough and they rally to the football," he said. "They can move, they can fly around. My hat is off to them in terms of how hard they play. He has got those guys playing at 1,000 miles per hour...they fly to the football and they create chaos."

Loeffler said not to expect changes in the lineup this week, but defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder noted there could be changes on defense, but declined to say what players may be involved. He had praise for a safety who broke into the starting lineup last week, junior Demetruce McNeal, who made six solo tackles with a dozen assists. "I thought his effort on the field was special," the coach said.

After studying video of the loss to Mississippi State, VanGorder said, "I thought it was a much better first half. We played better football. The second half was more of the things we dealt with in the first game...It was a better game, but there are still a lot of concerns."

VanGorder said the execution needs to improve throughout the defense. In particular, he said the tackles have to win more of the one-on-one battles up front, something he said is especially important facing the spread offenses that are popular in the college game.

As the Tigers prepare to face an opponent that was effective throwing the ball early and often in a victory over Arkansas last week, VanGorder was asked if his team would employ more press-man coverage.

"That always seems to be a question that comes up to defensive coaches, but we are not built to play a lot of press-man right now," he said, noting he watched the defensive backs in press coverage drills on Tuesday night and believes the Tigers need to improve in that area.

"A lot of our mission has been to cut down on big plays over our head," VanGorder said. "That was a battle a year ago and we have been able to do that in the first two games in a better way, but we still gave up one big shot on Saturday. We are going to play to our players' strength. Right now (press-man) is not one of our strengths and we will continue to work on it. Hopefully, you will see more of that down the line."

The one area of Auburn's play that has been consistently good through the first two games is special teams. Kicker Cody Parkey is 5-5 on field goals and has not allowed opponents to return kickoffs except for the times his coaches have instructed him to kick the ball intentionally short to induce a return.

Cody Parkey

"I am kicking the ball pretty well on field goals and kickoffs," Parkey said. "Obviously, there is still room for improvement. It is kind of bittersweet because we haven't been playing good as a whole.

"We are 0-2, obviously, but I don't feel like we are an 0-2 team," he added. "We are going to bounce back. I just have to continue to keep making kicks to help us win."

In other news and notes:

*Offensive tackle Greg Robinson said he got a scare during the Mississippi State game when he took a blow to the knee. The redshirt freshman returned to the game the next series and said he is full speed ahead as the Tigers prepare for Louisiana-Monroe.

Robinson said he believes he has played hard in his first two college games, but can improve on his assignments, but overall he said he has played solidly. Loeffler agreed, noting that Robinson was one of the bright spots in game two. He said another offensive lineman, guard Chad Slade, did some good things vs. Mississippi State.

Greg Robinson

*Saturday's game, which starts at 11:21 a.m. CDT, will be televised on The SEC Network.

*The Sept. 15th date for Saturday's game is the latest home opener for the Tigers since playing Southern Miss on the same date in 1984. The Tigers have an all-time record of 94-15-3 in home openers and are 8-0 all-time vs. Louisiana-Monroe.

*Gene Chizik's Auburn record is 3-0 in home openers with wins over Louisiana Tech (37-13) Arkansas State (52-26) and Utah State (42-38).

*Chizik's record at Auburn is 15-2 in non-conference games.

Quoting Coach Gene Chizik

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