Auburn's head football coach said he liked what he saw on Sunday night and again on Tuesday and Wednesday nights as the Tigers worked on installing the game plans for Saturday's contest vs. ULM, that will offer different challenges on both offense and defense.
"The tempo was very high," Chizik said. "They were very upbeat. They were very energetic practices so I think our guys, up to this point of the week, have really worked hard."
One the areas of concentration has been preparing the offense for ULM's aggressive 3-3-5 defense, which specializes in trying to confuse the offensive line's blocking assignments.
"The defensive scheme has its challenges because is not one you see a lot," Chizik said. "Obviously, they are very productive at what they do, particularly getting to the quarterback, so we spent a lot of time figuring the whole protection schemes out we are going to have to use.
"It goes the same in the run game, too, making sure we can pick up all of the slants, movements and blitzes, which are really very problematic for offenses," the coach added.
When they had the football in the opener the Warhawks were effective at keeping drives alive with aggressive play calling on third and fourth downs, forcing Arkansas to defend 103 snaps in ULM's 34-31 overtime victory last week.
"That is one of the keys for us, being able to get off the field on third downs and trying to create some turnovers and try to get another possession through explosive plays defensively," Chizik said.
"They are not afraid to go for it on fourth down," he added. "A case in point, right before halftime, on fourth and one on the goal line they went for it. They are not afraid to do that. They are going to come in here and they are going to be very aggressive when it comes to play calling. We expect that.
"I?think that is one of the things that leads them to more downs," Chizik said. "They will take some chances...that keeps the chains moving a lot of times for them.
"It puts a lot of pressure on (the defense)," Chizik added. "If they are doing that it turns into a four-down series. If they get the first down, here you go, potentially another four so they can create some extremely long drives and keep the defense on the field and eat a lot of time, too."
An area of concern for Auburn's defense through the first two games has been the lack of production from the front four, particularly the tackles.
"There is a lot of pressure on those guys to do well, but it all goes back to the inside guys because if they're not doing their job there is a lot more pressure on them to produce," defensive line coach Mike Pelton said after Wednesday night's practice.
"It's a group effort," he noted. "There has to be more production inside and it's only going to benefit those guys (ends). Just like I tell them, there are two books out there on you and everybody can see what you can do and can't do and you've got to work at it. They're trying to and there are some growing pains.
"They have got to continue to work," Pelton said. "There are no shortcuts to success, none whatsoever. As bad as we want to win and as bad as we want success there are no shortcuts to it. It all involves work."
In other news and notes:
*Senior wide receiver DeAngelo Benton, who was suspended for the first two games for violations of team rules, will dress for Saturday's game and will be available to play, Chizik said.
Benton's position coach, Trooper Taylor said, "I think he got the message--at least I hope he did. I am excited to have him back." Prior to the first two games, Benton was relegated to the scout team.
A high school All-American, Benton has been mostly a part-time player at Auburn who has not lived up to expectations. "He has got to own up to those things," Taylor said. "To be honest, the kid has been hurt a bunch so if he can stay healthy I think he will be able to really help us."
*Chizik said that running back Corey Grant continues to make progress from a preseason ankle injury that sidelined him in games one and two. The redshirt sophomore is not expected to be back in action this week, but could play soon.
*Chizik said he was not aware of a newspaper report quoting a Mississippi State assistant coach that the Bulldogs were getting a read on whether Auburn was going to pass or run on Saturday. "We can rectify that problem," he said.
*Chizik said he has been pleased with how QB Kiehl Frazier has practiced this week after struggling vs. Mississippi State. "I feel like he has come to work and has had a great attitude. I feel like he has worked extremely hard on and off the field, putting in extra time himself so I have been very happy with the way he has responded."
*Secondary coach Willie Martinez said after Wednesday's practice the Tigers could have some changes in the starting lineup for a second week, but didn't give specifics. He did say that freshman cornerbacks Jonathan Jones and Josh Holsey are doing well in practice and that sophomore safety Erique Florence has been working with the ones and twos this week. Florence missed preseason practice time with an injury.
Jonathan Jones is a speedy freshman from Carrollton, Ga., High School.
*Saturday's game, which starts at 11:21 a.m. CDT, will be televised on The SEC Network. Dave Neal will do the play-by-play, Andre Ware will be the analyst and Cara Capuana is the sideline reporter.
*ULM is one of just four teams on Auburn's 2012 schedule that did not participate in a bowl last season. The Warhawks, who are 0-8 all-time vs. the Tigers, picked up their first-ever victory over a Top 25 team last week with a 34-31 overtime win over Arkansas in a game played at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.
*Quarterback Kolton Browning was named the Walter Camp group's national player of the week for his performance vs. Arkansas in addition to being named the Sun Belt Conference Player of the Week. He helped ULM become the first team from that conference to defeat a Top 10 ranked opponent. Browning passed for 412 yards and rushed for 69 more, including a 16-yard scramble on the game-winning touchdown run in overtime.
*In 2011 the Warhawks set a Sun Belt Conference record for fewest rushing yards allowed per game at 100.0. They improved on that total to open the 2011 season vs. Arkansas, allowing the Razorbacks just 96. Arkansas star Knile Davis was held to 62 yards rushing and was not a major factor in the fourth quarter when the game was on the line.
*ULM has a record of 4-37-1 vs. SEC teams.
*Auburn has an 18-0 record vs. current teams from the Sun Belt Conference. Other than ULM, the most games (three) have been played vs. the Ragin' Cajuns of Louisiana-LaFayettte. The Tigers are 2-0 vs. Western Kentucky and Arkansas State and have one win apiece vs. Florida Atlantic and North Texas State.