Eguae Makes A Move As Tigers Prepare For Rebs

A report on Auburn's football practice features comments from Gus Malzahn and players along with news and notes on the Tigers as they prepare for a home game vs. Ole Miss.

Auburn, Ala.--Senior Nosa Eguae is making a move from end to tackle and is expected to be in the starting lineup on Saturday night when the Auburn football Tigers take on Ole Miss.

Eguae and the Tigers worked out for more than two hours on Wednesday evening in shorts, shoulder pads and helmets as Coach Gus Malzahn's team continued to install the game plan for its third Southeastern Conference game of the season.

Malzahn said the Tigers had a "solid" workout and praised his seniors and members of the junior class for showing on-the-field leadership as the Tigers head into their second month of the schedule.

The six-foot-three, 269-pound Eguae has two starts at end this year and 33 for his college career. This will be his first as a tackle, although he has seen spot duty there previously.

Junior center Reese Dismukes is second on the team in career starts with 27, one ahead of junior guard Chad Slade. Jake Holland, a senior linebacker, is No. 2 on the team in defensive starts with 20, one ahead of junior cornerback Jonathon Mincy.

Eguae's move bumps junior Angelo Blackson out of the starting lineup. Blackson has played in 29 games with 14 starts has five tackles this season has been credited with a half of a QB sack.

"We had a chance in the off-week to start evaluating things," Malzahn said of Eguae moving to first team at tackle ahead of Blackson. "That is not to say it won't change, but that is the way we are starting out this game."

Commenting on Eguae, who has seen significant action going back to his redshirt freshman on the 2010 national championship team, Malzahn said, "He is a guy you can count. He is going to do what he is coached to do so far so that has a lot to do with it (Eguae starting)."

Auburn's other first team defensive tackle this week, Ben Bradley, has played in four games for the Tigers since transferring from junior college and he has three starts. Bradley moved ahead of junior Gabe Wright on the depth chart following the opening night victory vs. Washington State.

Senior Dee Ford and junior LaDarius Owens are expected to start at the end positions, the same spots where they lined up in game four vs. LSU.

Defensive line coach Rodney Garner has not been shy about rotating his backups into games. The result has been better play by the front four in the fourth quarter of games than in the first three quarters so far this season. Eguae said that strategy has made a positive difference.

"Being fresh really helps us on defense as the game goes along, but the important thing is making plays within the scheme and that's easier to do when you have been rested some because of our rotation," the senior said.

Eguae noted that he is pleased that he is able to go full speed this season after being limited in 2012. "Last season it was tough coming off of shoulder surgery," he said. "Midway in the season I finally starting to get my groove back with my shoulder.

"I have been able to get in there with Coach Russell (strength and conditioning coach Ryan Russell) and really hit the weights hard," Eguae said. "I have lost two percent body fat and I have gained eight pounds with six of it being muscle."

Nosa Eguae originally committed to the University of Colorado before switching to Auburn.

With the end of his collegiate football career not too far away, the Texan said he has enjoyed his time at Auburn and playing for the Tigers.

"College football is awesome," he said. "I talk to guys that play on the next level and they say there is nothing like the camaraderie of college football of playing with guys you have shared blood, sweat and tears with 365 days a year, guys who have the exact same goals, guys who come in as 17-year-old boys and leave as 22-year-old men. There is nothing like it."

The Tigers are scheduled to practice again on Thursday as they prepare for an Ole Miss team that will bring a 3-1 mark into Saturday's game. Auburn has the same record and like the Rebels the Tigers are 1-1 in SEC play.

Following Wednesday night's practice, Malzahn said, "It is getting to the point our leadership is starting to set the tone of the expectations as far as practice instead of the coaches and that is always a good thing moving forward. I liked our energy and our attention to detail."

The Auburn coach said last week the focus of practice was "on ourselves trying to clean up the little things it takes to be successful moving forward." He said in addition to continuing to rehearse the game plan the practices this week are focusing on improving details both offensively and defensively.

"We have a very good plan, I feel like, moving forward for the rest of the season, not just schematically, but even personnel-wise," Malzahn said. "

While Ole Miss was losing at Alabama last Saturday, the Tigers were taking their first off-week of the season. Linebacker Kris Frost said his team is eager to get back into action.

Frost had his top game of the season in tackles made in game four vs. LSU. He was in on six stops and now has 16 for the season. The redshirt sophomore said that after looking at video of the Rebels he is impressed. "We have to be on our toes because they execute well and are a fast team," the linebacker said.

Kris Frost

Frost noted with the Rebels' speed the defensive units that have been the most successful against Ole Miss have done a good job of defending the corners. "You need to make them become a north-south team," he said. "That is what a lot of schools have done to become successful against them so that is the plan they have had and the plan we plan on executing as well."

The linebacker pointed out that he believes the Tigers are showing signs of improvement defensively and with an extra week to prepare he predicts the defense will be better against Ole Miss than it was two weeks earlier at LSU.

"It (the off week) had a great impact on us, especially after the game with LSU," Frost said. "It gave us a chance to really sit back and really focus on the things we have done good up to this point and focus on the things we have had to change and modify to make our team a better team.

"It has also given us a chance to rest and get healthy," he added. "I am sure our the guys who weren't healthy before are healthy now and ready to go."

Frost said he believes the off-week will benefit the offense, too. "I think we will be better collectively as a team. We have a lot of time to think about the things we have done right and done wrong as a team, and correct all of the mistakes and issues."

In other news and notes:

*Justin Garrett has struggled with a foot problem and seen limited action so far this season after being the spring game defensive MVP playing at the "star" rover position.

Justin Garrett is shown in action this season.

Malzahn said on Wednesday night that Garrett is becoming more comfortable at his new position, weakside linebacker, after making the move there prior to the LSU game. However, the junior's status for this week is uncertain after suffering another injury in practice this week so now he is having to rehab his ankle as well as a foot.

Chris Davis is a key player for AU's defense.

*Another player who has been injured, senior cornerback Chris Davis, worked as a punt returner and saw action at cornerback at Wednesday night's practice. Davis, who has been out since hurting his ankle in game two, is expected to be back on the field Saturday night. Malzahn wouldn't say if Davis or Quan Bray would return punts this week, but did not rule out the possibility that Davis would get that assignment, noting the senior is a "tough guy."

*Sophomore cornerback Jonathan Jones, who has yet to play this season after suffering an ankle injury in August, could be making his 2013 debut this week. He has been running close to full speed since last week. Neither Jones nor Davis were available for game four. "Depth-wise it was kind of scary going into the LSU game,"said Malzahn, who noted the improved depth is a plus for his team this week.

Jonathan Jones is one of the team's fastest players. He saw significant playing time in 2012 as a true freshman.

*True freshman Tony Stevens looked good early in preseason drills, but the wide receiver was slowed by a hamstring injury that sidelined him for the opener.

He has steadily improved and has two catches with the chance for even more playing time now that he goes into the Ole Miss game listed as a co-number one on the depth chart with sophomore Sammie Coates. "He is a guy we really feel like has a chance to be a really good receiver," Malzahn said of the freshman.. "He is a guy you will see more and more out there...The more he is out there the more comfortable that he will become."

Tony Stevens is from Orlando, Fla., where he was a standout on both offense and defense in high school.

*The Tigers have four interceptions, which doubles their total from the entire 2012 season. Jermaine Whitehead's interception vs. LSU was the first by the Tigers vs. SEC competition since T'Sharvan Bell's pick vs. Ole Miss in 2011. Whitehead has two career interceptions. His first came in 2011 vs. Florida Atlantic.

*Ole Miss quarterbacks Bo Wallace and Barry Brunetti have thrown 131 passes this season and have yet to be intercepted.

*Ole Miss ranks 10th in the SEC passing yardage per game at 219.8, one spot ahead of Auburn's 207.2 yards per contest. The Rebels are eighth in total offense with an average of 418.8 yards per contest, one spot behind Auburn which is averaging 438.5 yards per game.

*Defensively, Auburn is 13th of 14 teams in the SEC in yards allowed per game at 439.5. Ole Miss, which is ranked 24th in this week's AP 25 poll, is sixth at 358.0. The Rebels are one place out of being ranked in the USA Today Coaches Top 25 poll.

*Containing Ole Miss senior Jeff Scott will be a key to Auburn's success, according to defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson. Scott raced 75 yards for a touchdown with 1:07 left to give the Rebels a road win at Vandy. That is tied for the SEC's longest run from scrimmage this season. Scott has the longest punt return this year, going 73 yards for a touchdown vs. Texas.

*Ole Miss sophomore Cody Core is very familiar with the Auburn program. He was a standout performer at Auburn High who was a frequent visitor to AU games hoping for a scholarship offer from the Tigers, which did not come. He has two catches for the Rebels this season and has also been getting a look as a safety.

*Tickets are still available for Saturday's game at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. CDT and the contest will be televised on ESPNU.

*TV coverage is on ESPNU with Clay Matvick doing the play by play, Matt Stinchcomb is the analyst and Dawn Davenport is the sideline reporter.

*Satellite radio coverage of the game is available on Sirius 139 and XM channel 198.

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