Tigers Preparing Young LBs for LSU Game

Comments from linebacker coach Tommy Thigpen and Gene Chizik are featured in this Auburn football practice report.

Auburn, Ala.--Coach Gene Chizik said he liked what he saw on the practice field for a second consecutive evening as his Auburn football team worked out for more than two hours in preparation for Saturday's home game vs. No. 2 LSU.

"I feel like this week has been very good," Chizik said. "I feel like all of the kids have been very focused. They are excited about playing the game. I think the energy was definitely there and they understand the challenge that is ahead of us so it will be fun Saturday night."

Chizik said the Tigers, who were off the practice field both Sunday and Monday, have had back-to-back physical practices. "I am proud of them," the coach stated. "We have got to continue to drive that point home (being physical) and become a way of life for us."

With LSU being a power running team, the Tigers are expected to run more of their base 4-3 front. Linebacker coach Tommy Thigpen said that means more playing time for senior Jonathan Evans, who has been a spectator much of the season with the Tigers playing either five or six defensive backs most of the time in games one through three.

Thigpen said that with LSU's big, physical backs that a pair of large freshman linebackers, Cassanova McKinzy and Kris Frost, should see more action this week.

"We have a role for him, a couple of different roles for him" Thigpen said of McKinzy, who made his college debut last week. "We like the way he has been preparing all week. He has been coming in at night, coming in in the morning and we have been doing a lot of one-on-one with him on the board just trying to make sure he gets aligned.

"He is a talented kid and for him it is just knowing his job and his responsibility," Thigpen said. "He is really excited."

Cassanova McKinzy

He noted that Frost is in the same situation. "We have the same kind of role for him this week," the coach said. "We have some plays and packages for him as well. This is their type of game--it is just smash-mouth, downhill, SEC football, and they (LSU) are running the ball as good as anybody we see."

Thigpen said it is important to give starting middle linebacker Jake Holland a break, pointing out he was on the field for 91 snaps last week and 90 in game one.

More on Auburn vs. LSU...

999 And Counting: Senior Onterio McCalebb is one yard shy of reaching the 1,000-mark for career kickoff return yards. He is ranked fourth nationally in this week's NCAA stats with his average of 40.5 yards per return.

Onterio McCalebb

McCalebb is eighth in Auburn history in career all-purpose yardage with 3,736. He is 12th on the school's all-time rushing yardage list with 2,230 after gaining 128 yards vs. ULM.

New Faces On The Field: A total of 17 Tigers have seen action for Auburn so far this season who had not played previously for Chizik's squad. The group includes Mike Blakely, Sammie Coates, Kris Frost, Forrest Hill, Josh Holsey, Jonathan Jones, Jake Lembke, Ricardo Louis, Cassanova McKinzy, Patrick Miller, Jay Prosch, Melvin Ray, Greg Robinson, Jordan Spriggs, Anthony Swain, Christian Westerman and Avery Young.

Patrick Miller

The group includes a half dozen freshmen from the 2012 signee class--offensive tackle Young, offensive tackle Miller, linebacker McKinzy, wide receiver Louis and cornerbacks Jones and Holsey.

Hill, Lembke, Ray and Spriggs walked on to the Auburn team. Lembke, a deep snapper, was put on scholarship in August.

Top Tackler: Daren Bates leads the Southeastern Conference in tackles with an average of 12.7 per game, which puts him on pace to surpass his junior year total of 104, which led the 2011 Auburn defense. In this week's NCAA stats the senior is the third-leading tackler on the nation's 120 Division I?programs.

Daren Bates

Bates, who started at safety his freshman season and linebacker since then, has 260 career tackles. Bates has a chance to become the first Auburn player to produce back-to-back seasons with 100 or more tackles since current San Diego Chargers linebacker Takeo Spikes did that in 1996 and 1997.

Thigpen said he has been pleased with the way that the senior has played in games and prepared for games throughout the week.

In the Basement, Part 1: Auburn is ranked last in scoring among Southeastern Conference teams heading into this week's LSU game against a team ranked first at 48.3 points per game. Auburn is scoring 20.0 points per contest, 6.7 fewer than 13th place Arkansas.

In the Basement, Part 2: Auburn is also last in total offense at 336.0 yards per game. Georgia leads the league at 517.7.

In the Basement, Part 3: The Auburn offense is at the bottom of the SEC statistics this week in passing yardage and pass efficiency. The Tigers are averaging 150.7 yards per contest through the air with a pass efficency rating of 110.9.

In the Basement, Part 4: The defense has done its share in contributing to Auburn's 1-2 start. The Tigers are last in the league in rushing defense, allowing 217.0 yards per came. LSU is ranked No. 1 and is giving up just 47.0 yards per contest at 1.7 yards per rush. Auburn opponents are averaging 5.0 yards per carry. LSU leads the league in rushing yards per game with 269.3.

Next Man Up for LSU:

Report on LSU

In other news and notes:

*Chizik said that running back Corey Grant, who has been battling an ankle problem, is getting healthier and the same is true of defensive tackle Devaunte Sigler, who won praise for his play in the spring, but has yet to contribute this season. Running backs coach Curtis Luper said on Wednesday night that Grant will be ready to go as a running back this week if needed, but noted that the sophomore is behind McCalebb, Tre Mason and Mike Blakely on the depth chart.

*Christian Westerman, who was in a walking boot for last week's game after being hurt in practice, is making progress and got in some practice time on Wednesday night, Chizik said.

*Auburn and LSU will kick off shortly after 6 p.m. CDT on Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium. The game will be televised on ESPN. ESPN Radio?will also have national coverage in addition to the radio broadcast by The Auburn Network. The Auburn Network coverage is also available on Sirius Channel 138 and XM 200.

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