Tiger Coaches Praise Freshman QB

Comments from Gene Chizik and his assistant coaches are featured in this football practice report.

Auburn, Ala.--Freshman quarterback Jonathan Wallace received praise from Auburn's coaches following Wednesday night's practice, a two-hour session in preparation for Saturday's Homecoming contest vs. New Mexico State.

Running backs coach Curtis Luper said the news that Wallace would get his first college start has been well received by his teammates and has "energized" practice this week. "I think people are wanting to step up and play well to support him," the coach said.

Wide receivers coach Trooper Taylor noted that Wallace again showed how serious he is about football when on the Monday after the Vandy game, a day off for the players, he was on the practice field by himself running fumble-avoidance drills, in street clothes, through the blaster machine, which a player runs through while the machine tries to knock the football from his grasp.

"When you see a kid who is working like that, who is committed like that, you can't help but pull for him," Taylor said, noting that Wallace went straight from class to the practice field and did the drills in street clothes.

"He was in some shorts and a light T-shirt and he was out there running through the blaster," Taylor said. "I was shocked, to be honest, because, let me tell you, it is hard to get players to run through that blaster in full pads because it is meant to make you fumble. That is why they make the machine. He was self-punishing himself, I guess, but he was getting it done."

Wallace got an expanded role the following Saturday and threw a pair of touchdown passes, stetting the stage for his first college start this week.

"The one thing I notice about the kid, he is such a hard worker," Taylor said. "He is committed and dedicated and really tries to handle the details. I just like the self-motivation of the kid."

Gene Chizik, head coach of the Tigers, said, "I was really proud of the way--really the last two days--he has practiced. It is very important to him and he is really trying to work on improving his craft.

"It has been fun to watch him out there," the coach added about the freshman quarterback, "He works a lot on his own. He comes in and puts a lot of time in himself. It is good to see him do that."

Chizik said the QB's work has paid off and he has been throwing the ball with more accuracy in practice in recent weeks. Wallace didn't start practice with the Tigers until August.

More for Mason? Luper said after practice that one of the goals for the offense this week is to get 20 carries for Tre Mason. "He is running about as well as any back in the SEC," the coach said.

Tre Mason is a sophomore who is averaging 5.3 yards per carry.

Backup Blakely: Mike Blakely has been the odd man out in the tailback competition. Asked about the possibility of Blakely playing this week, Luper said he would love for the tailback to get into the game and get some carries on Homecoming, but added, "Tre is playing really well. It is hard to take him off the field."

Recruiting Coordination: Luper, who is also Auburn's recruiting coordinator, said the coaching staff has a plan in place for keeping its highly-rated prospects class on board despite the team's poor record. He also said that reports that any of the AU coaches have been restricted from being out on the road recruiting are not correct.

Loeffler on the Aggies: Offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler said defensively that New Mexico State reminds him of Vanderbilt. He noted liked the Commodores New Mexico State stays in its base defense most of the time on first and second downs, but mixes things up on third downs.

Chizik on the Aggies: The head coach noted that he is impressed with the receivers "who can make explosive plays" and noted the Aggies do a good job with the wildcat formation."They play really, really hard," he added.

VanGorder's Disappointment: Defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder said he thought the Tigers have had two good practices this week, but noted he thought the same thing last week prior to his defense being bushwhacked by Texas A&M.

Asked what happened last Saturday night, the coach said the defensive failures were "an accumulation of a lot of things." He mentioned penalties, missed assignments and missed tackles combined with a Texas A&M offense that was "pretty darn good," he said. "They were not a good matchup for us."

Brian VanGorder

The coordinator said seeing Auburn's defense give up 63 points was extremely difficult and noted the only similar game he could remember coaching in was one vs. Purdue when he was at Central Michigan. In that game his defense struggled to stop QB Drew Brees. "It felt a little bit, maybe, like that," he said.

"It takes a lot of fortitude, a lot of personal pride, to push forward and get back on track trying to improve and get better," he added. "That is a big challenge for us at this time."

Moseley, Others Doubtful: Chizik said that quarterback Clint Moseley (ankle injury) is unlikely to play this week. The same is true of defensive tackle Jeffrey Whitaker and cornerback Chris Davis. Whitaker has missed the past two games with an undisclosed injury. Davis, who has had concussion-like symptoms, missed the Vandy game, but saw limited playing time vs. Texas A&M.

Tuning Up Ford: Junior defensive end Dee Ford is getting closer to full speed, Chizik said. "Dee is, I think, improving as the days go on."

Dee Ford

Football Forecast: Fans attending Homecoming this weekend should not have to worry about bad weather if the early forecast is accurate with clear skies and a high of 75 degrees predicted.

Praise for a Senior: Chizik said that wide receiver Travante Stallworth is in line for expanded playing time with his willingness to do the "dirty work" as a blocker on the perimeter. "Travante has really done a nice job," the coach pointed out.

Austin the Aggie: Wide receiver Austin Franklin is not only New Mexico State's top receiver, with 56 points he leads the team in scoring. The 6-2, 180 sophomore caught seven passes for 139 yards last week vs. Louisiana Tech and now has seven career games with 100 or more receiving yards with six coming this season. Franklin is ranked third nationally in receiving yards per game at 120.6.

TV/Radio Coverage: TV coverage of Saturday's game (11:30 a.m. CDT) is scheduled for CSS with Matt Stewart handling the play by play, Chris Doering as the analyst and Angela Mallen as the sideline reporter. In addition to the Auburn Radio Network coverage across the state the broadcast featuring Rod Bramblett, Stan White, Quentin Riggins, Andy Burcham and Paul Ellen can be heard on Sirius 106 and XM 199.

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