It's Miller Time Again At Right Tackle

Gus Malzahn talks about Wednesday evening's Auburn football practice and the decision to start Patrick Miller on the offensive line.

Auburn, Ala.--Gus Malzahn said he likes the state of mind of his Auburn football team after the Tigers held their final full pads practice on Wednesday evening prior to Saturday night's season opener vs. Washington State.

"I felt like we had a solid Wednesday practice," he said. "We focused on third downs and some other game plan type situations. Our kids the last two days, I could really tell their intensity and attention level has been better. That is usually a very good sign."

Malzahn said the Tigers will have a light workout on Thursday and a walk-through on Friday for putting the finishing touches on preparations for his first game as head coach of the Tigers.

"Any time you get to Thursday and Friday you have done a lot of the physical work and a lot of it is just cleaning things up in the communication and the mental part," Malzahn noted. "There is a balance between keeping your guys ready and wanting them fresh for the first game."

The head coach released his depth chart prior to practice and one of the most interesting battles was who would start at right tackle. Last season, as a true freshman, Avery Young opened the season number one ahead of Patrick Miller.

After a shoulder injury to Young required surgery, Miller, who was also a true freshman, started the final nine games at right tackle. Young, who received a medical hardship redshirt, was limited in spring drills and Miller held the number one spot then.

With Young healthy again for preseason drills, Malzahn said the competition was open again with another redshirt freshman, Shon Coleman, also in the mix. Coleman goes into the opener No. 2 at left tackle behind sophomore Greg Robinson, a returning starter, with Young listed No. 2 on the right side.

Young has also practiced at left guard this preseason and has even done some snapping from the center spot.

Commenting on Miller winning the starting assignment for the opener, Malzahn said, "He had a very good spring and then it was open competition. We really felt strongly we needed to do that because Shon and Avery both improved. They both had very good fall camps and we wanted to open it up, but at the same time we have got some depth at different positions. That was part of the plan all of the time.

We have a lot of confidence in Avery, a whole of confidence," Malzahn added. "He made that battle very interesting. I know the positive as far as offensive line goes is we have quality depth. I think there is a chance you could see him on the field."

Patrick Miller is shown in action vs. LSU last season, the college he originally planned to attend before deciding to enroll at Auburn as an early high school graduate in January of 2012.

Asked if there were many close battles for starting spots, the head coach said, "There were a few, right tackle being one of those. That's usually a good thing. I think our quarterbacks, too. We have got three quarterbacks that we have confidence that could take the field. There were some others like at the running back position where you will see quite a few of those guys play."

Avery Young, like Miller, is from the Palm Beach, Fla., area. The two played high school football a short drive apart.

Juco transfer Nick Marshall emerged atop the depth chart at quarterback two weeks before the opener with sophomore Jonathan Wallace and true freshmanJeremy Johnson listed as the co-number two QBs.

Malzahn said the plan on Saturday night will be to play a lot of defensive linemen against an opponent that likes to pass the football on almost every down. "I think you will see a lot of those guys playing," he predicted.

A trio of true freshmen are expected to see action in the front four--Montravius Adams at tackle and Elijah Daniel and Carl Lawson at end.

"Those young guys are extremely talented--they have shown flashes of being very good," Malzahn said. "It's just a matter of those young guys being consistent and being able to play play-in and play-out."

The Tigers struggled rushing the passer last year, which has been a point of emphasis for new defensive line coach Rodney Garner dating back to spring training. That emphasis has intensified in preparations for the Cougars, who threw the football 71 percent of the time last season.

"I think anytime you are playing a passing team a key is putting pressure on the quarterback," Malzahn said. "We have got confidence in our guys and, like I said when I first got here, we didn't worry about anything in the past and tried to put it behind us. We tried to give everybody an equal foot moving forward and we feel like we've done that.

In other news and notes:

*Auburn officials are expecting a crowd of around 83,000 to 84,000 for Saturday's game. Washington State is expected to bring 1,900 fans to the contest.

*Saturday's game will be televised on ESPNU and the Auburn Network's radio broadcast is being carried on XM channel 201.

Locally in the Auburn area the radio broadcast is on 94.3 FM. Because that station is high definition fans in the stadium listening on radios will notice a significant delay between what is happening on the field and when they hear play-by-play man Rod Bramlett's call of the action.

*Tre Mason was one of Auburn's primary kickoff returners as a freshman when he took one back 97 yards for a touchdown vs. Utah State in his college debut. Mason and fellow junior running back Corey Grant go into the season as the two deep backs.

Last year Mason returned just three kickoffs for an average of 26.3 yards per return. A second team preseason All-SEC pick this year at tailback, he averaged 26.4 on 24 returns in 2011.

*The Tigers have returned at least one kickoff for a score in five consecutive seasons. Only Kansas State (8), Louisiana Tech (7) and Central Florida (6) have longer streaks among Division I teams.

*The Tigers have an all-time record of 92 wins, 26 losses and two ties in season openers. Auburn had won six consecutive openers prior to losing to Clemson last season at the Georgia Dome. The 92 opening game victories are the third most for any SEC team behind Alabama (94) and Arkansas (93).

*The Tigers have an all-time record of 7-3 in games vs. PAC-10 opponents and are 1-0 vs. Washington State, a team Auburn defeated 40-14 in the 2006 season opener.

*Members of the undefeated 1993 team will be honored in a pre-game ceremony on Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Coach Terry Bowden's first team at Auburn posted an 11-0 record with a No. 4 national ranking. In game two vs. Arkansas State the Tigers will honor the 1988 team that posted a 10-2 mark and won the SEC title.

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