Going Fast A Theme As Tigers Open Practice

The Auburn football team has less than a full month to get their new offensive and defensive systems ready for the season opener.

Auburn, Ala.--Gus Malzahn's first preseason practice as head coach of the Auburn football team is scheduled for Friday evening as his Tigers begin preparations for their August 31st opener vs. Washington State.

When the Tigers wrapped up spring drills the head coach said he saw progress in his team's ability to play with the up-tempo style he used last season as a rookie college head coach at Arkansas State. However, Malzahn noted his Tigers need to take their tempo to even a higher level this fall.

Malzahn talks to the Tigers at the team's preseason meeting.

Players on Auburn's offense seem excited about their potential to be more productive this year with a faster style of play. That enthusiasm for what the head coach and the new Auburn offensive staff are doing even extends to the defense.

"I am looking forward to it and I am looking forward to seeing a bunch of points on the scoreboard," says Nosa Eguae, a fifth-year senior defensive end. "We are going to play fast on defense, too."

The Tigers will practice once daily on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday before having their first two-a-days sessions on Tuesday. They will practice once on Wednesday before wrapping up their first week with two workouts on Thursday.

Eguae notes the players have bought into what the coaches have been telling them regarding the need to be in the best condition of their life in order to be able to handle a fast style of play for four quarters.

"The guys are in the best shape they have been in since they have been at Auburn," Eguae contends. "I feel like I am in my best shape. Guys' bodies are feeling good. We have to go out there and practice at that speed and play at that speed."

Nosa Eguae

The defensive end says the players have been focused on improving since spring drills ended in April. "Guys got better," Eguae says. "We had our tough days, but guys were out there every day putting in work."

Eguae heads into the season with 31 starts for the Tigers, more than any other player on the team.

"I have never been on an Auburn football team where guys were working on Saturdays like we have been working this summer," he says. "When I would come in here on Saturday mornings I would see 35 or 40 guys working on getting better at their craft. It is something that is awesome and you know it is going pay dividends come the fall."

Coming off a horrendous season in which the Tigers won just three games and failed to defeat an SEC opponent, Eguae says he is looking forward to putting 2012's disappointment in the past.

"Everybody is excited about the season and we have a good group of senior leaders," he says. "I am definitely looking forward to it and the seniors are going out there to lead by example and I believe the young guys are going to follow."

Another senior, punter Steven Clark, agrees with Eguae about the team being ready to perform at a higher level.

"The summer workouts have been exciting and I think everybody feels more prepared for this season than any season we have had so far, especially me personally," Clark says. I am really looking forward to it."

New strength and conditioning coach Ryan Russell and his staff, who took over from Kevin Yoxall, have focused the team's training on being able to be comfortable performing at a fast pace.

"The workouts have been different," Clark says. "Yoxall ran a tough workout, too, but Russell is just a different style. It is really an up-tempo workout. I feel like we got a lot done in a short amount of time. I feel like it was a really good preparation for the season."

Steven Clark was a part-time starter as a freshman and has handled all of the punting duties since the 2011 season.

Clark was a semi-finalist last season for the Ray Guy Award, which is presented annually to the top punter in college football. He averaged 39.8 yards on 70 punts. Only five of his punts were returned for a total of just four yards.

Asked what he is expecting from the team as a whole, Clark says, "I have really high expectations. Last year was a disappointment. I feel like we never lived up to our full potential, which is something I really believe. I am really looking forward to this year."

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