Tigers "Solid" In Practice, Malzahn Says

Comments from Gus Malzahn and players plus Auburn football news and notes are featured in this report as the Tigers continue preparations for Arkansas State.

Auburn, Ala.--The Auburn football Tigers continued preparations for Saturday night's home game with a full pads practice that lasted two hours on Wednesday evening. Coach Gus Malzahn said his team had a "solid" session.

"I thought our guys, for the most part, were locked in," he said in the next to last practice before he plays his old team, Arkansas State. Auburn will have a light workout on Thursday in shorts.

With one game in the books for the new coaching staff, Malzahn said that has been a big plus as the Tigers prepare for the defending Sun Belt Conference champions.

"It has helped a whole lot from the standpoint that we gathered a bunch of information about our players," the coach pointed out. "We understand them a lot better about the things they can do well and the things they need to work on."

Malzahn said that is certainly the case with his starting quarterback, juco transfer Nick Marshall. "I think anytime you go out there and experience something you are going to be better the second time," he said. "I know his nerves will be better.

"He is a competitor, he wants to do well," Malzahn added. "He is hard on himself.

"I think each practice you see him being more comfortable, being more reactive, being able to just play the position without having to think through everything," said Malzahn, who noted that he is expecting a better performance from the quarterback and everybody else who will take the field vs. the Red Wolves.

Junior tight end/H-back C.J. Uzomah said the offense didn't take advantage of opportunities to move the football and score more points in the opener. Getting those issues fixed has been a focus of practice this week.

"We started to pick it up a little bit (in the second half) and we are definitely going to build on that this upcoming weekend," said Uzomah, who noted he contributed to the offensive inconsistency by not making a catch on a Nick Marshall pass that could have produced a first down.

Uzomah said he expects the offense will play at a faster tempo in game two now that Marshall has his first start under his belt. "He looked confident back there and we like that," Uzomah said of the juco college transfer quarterback.

With five more players joining the list in game one, the Tigers have 37 guys on the roster who have started at least one game at Auburn. Making their first starts vs. Washington State were quarterback Nick Marshall, offensive guard Alex Kozan, defensive ends LaDarius Owens and Craig Sanders plus "star" rover Robenson Therezie.

"It was a very special moment," Owens said about finally being able to start a game as a redshirt junior. "My family was there. It was filled with emotion. I went out and tried to do my job. It will always be a great memory."

Owens began his Tiger career at linebacker. He then moved to defensive end. With the new coaching staff on board he was back at linebacker again in spring training, but when injuries hit the defensive ends in preseason he moved back to end.

Owens said when he moved back to end in August he never would have guessed he would be in the starting lineup in the opener vs. Washington State. "I feel like I played well--great assignment ball. It was frustrating with the kind of offense they had--getting the ball off so quick--as far as getting to the quarterback's face, but it was fun experience."

LaDarius Owens

The junior said that the new coaching staff has given the team a "new life" and winning the season opener adds to the positive feeling around the team. "It made us feel like alright, we are doing it the right way," he said. "It was something that we needed.

"A win, regardless of how it comes and when you get it, it always gives you confidence and faith for the future," Owens added.

In other news and notes:

*A pair of projected starters who missed the opener, end Dee Ford and "star" rover Justin Garrett, were able to practice, Malzahn said. However, the coach didn't say if it was certain either one would start or even play vs. Arkansas State.

*Auburn's extra efforts in offseason conditioning appeared to pay dividends on a hot and steamy opening night vs. Washington State. The defense was on the field for 93 snaps in the opener, including penalty plays, but finished the night playing better football than at the start of the game.

Washington State averaged 126.3 yards per quarter and 5.74 yards per play in the first three periods. In the fourth quarter the Cougars gained 85 yards despite getting an extra possession with Tre Mason losing a fumble at midfield. Washington State's average per play in the fourth quarter was 3.9 yards.

*Arkansas State is the first of seven bowl teams on Auburn's schedule. The Red Wolves defeated Kent State last year in Mobile to end the season on an eight-game winning streak. Among Division I teams only Ohio State has a longer winning streak than Arkansas State.

*Auburn has never lost to a current member of the Sun Belt Conference. The Tigers are 2-0 vs. Arkansas State and 15-0 vs. other teams from that league.

*Former Tiger golfer Jason Dufner attended Wednesday's practice

*In addition to Marshall and Kozan, players who saw their first game action as Tigers were defensive tackles Montravius Adams and Ben Bradley, defensive ends Elijah Daniel and Carl Lawson, running back Cameron Artis-Payne, receiver Marcus Davis, cornerback Johnathan Ford, "star" Mackenro Alexander, safety Brandon King, offensive tackle Robert Leff and linebacker Javiie Mitchell.

Ben Bradley

*In August the Tigers put three more walk-ons on scholarship. The group includes senior safety Blake Poole, senior running back Chandler Shakespeare and junior receiver Dimitri Reese. No one from that group received playing time on opening night.

*Saturday's game will be televised regionally on Fox Sports Net starting at 6:30 p.m. CDT Bob Rathbun will do play-by-play and Tim Couch will be the analyst while Elizabeth Moreau is the sideline reporter.

*The Auburn Network's call of the game will be available on Sirius Radio Channel 136.

*Members of the SEC champion1988 Auburn football team will be honored in a pregame ceremony on Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Malzahn Post-Practice Video

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