Tigers Wrap Up Preparations for Razorbacks

Gus Malzahn said after Auburn's final on the field practice for Saturday's road trip to Arkansas that Nick Marshall is still "day by day" on whether he will be the starting quarterback vs. the Razorbacks.

Auburn, Ala.--Auburn wrapped up on-the-field preparations for its third road trip of the season with an hour and 10 minutes long practice in shorts on Thursday evening rehearsing the game plan for Saturday's contest at Arkansas, which will match two of the SEC's four new head coaches.

With eight games in the books for both squads, Coach Gus Malzahn's Tigers are 7-1 overall and 3-1 in SEC play while riding a four-game winning streak. Arkansas coach Bret Bielema's team is 3-5 overall, 0-4 in the SEC and has lost its last five games.

Next week Malzahn will go head to head with another one of the SEC's new coaches, Butch Jones, whose Tennessee team is 4-4 overall and 1-3 in the league. New Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops has posted a 1-6 record and his Wildcats are 0-4 in the SEC.

Following Thursday's session Malzahn said the Tigers had a good week of practice. "We had great attention, great effort," he said. "I feel very good going into this week."

Commenting on starting quarterback Nick Marshall, who left the FAU game last Saturday in the second quarter after hurting his shoulder, Malzahn said the junior continued to practice on Thursday and whether or not he starts will be a game-time decision on Saturday.

"We are still taking it day by day," Malzahn said. "Obviously, we would like him to play, but at the same time he has got to be healthy enough to do that.

"Jeremy Johnson has looked extremely good in practice as we figured he would," Malzahn added. "It will probably be a game-time decision."

Nick Marshall has started seven of Auburn's games this season.

The Auburn coach kept Texas A&M guessing on Marshall's status prior to AU's last road trip and the junior quarterback had a strong performance, rushing for two touchdowns and throwing for two more in a victory over the Aggies.

Malzahn notes that Johnson, a true freshman, has been getting plenty of practice time with offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee splitting reps between the big freshman and Marshall.

Johnson has seen action in three games and has completed 27-39 passes for 393 yards with six touchdowns and two interceptions. Johnson, who is the current SEC Freshman of the Week after previously winning it in his start vs. Western Carolina, has also rushed for 47 yards on seven carries.

A major reason for Auburn's improved record this season has been the running attack. Auburn is leading the SEC and is fifth nationally in rushing at 315.4 yards per contest. If the Tigers can maintain that average they will set a school single-season record.

Junior right guard Chad Slade, who opened the season as one of four returning starters on the offensive line, said the Tigers will be ready to give a strong effort on Saturday evening in Fayetteville.

"I know this is a big game for Coach Malzahn and all our coaching staff going back to a home state," said Slade, who noted that his team plans to come out and play "hard-nosed Auburn football" for Saturday's 5 p.m. contest at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.

Chad Slade

"The coaches are going to love the way we play," Slade added. "We are going to love the way we play."

Slade's position coach, J.B. Grimes, and offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee are both from Arkansas as is running backs coach Tim Horton and graduate assistant coach Kodi Burns. Horton was on the Razorbacks' coaching staff last season.

Slade credits Grimes with pushing the offensive line to take a major step forward this season. "He has brought a lot to us," the junior said. "He has brought the mindset that we have to be physical in each and every aspect of the game. We can't give up and go out there and have mental mistakes.

"You have to go out there and play each and every play one snap at a time," Slade said. "You can't go out there and worry about the play you just had. You have to worry about the next play. It's all about the next play. He has brought a lot of intensity to the offensive line now."

Slade said the offensive line is "10 times better" than it used to be. "I feel like we have made the most improvement in the run game," he pointed out. "I feel like each and every day that we go out here and get better."

In other news and notes:

*In statistics featuring only SEC games, Arkansas is at the bottom of the league in both scoring offense and scoring defense. The Razorbacks are averaging 12.5 points in their four leagues and are giving up 44.8 points.

*In SEC play the Razorbacks are 12th in total offense (315.5 yards per game) and total defense (486.8). Auburn is fourth in total offense (471.5) and 11th in total defense (484.5).

*Saturday's game will be Senior Day for the Razorbacks, who will honor 20 players.

*With the victory over Florida Atlantic last week the Tigers wrapped up their regular season non-conference schedule and extended a streak that dates back to 1992 of not losing a game to an opponent outside of a BCS conference. The only other SEC team with that distinction if Florida.

*Auburn second team cornerback Johnathan Ford is questionable for making the trip to Fayetteville after returning home to be with his mother who is seriously ill. If the freshman is not available senior Ryan White, who started two games at cornerback this year when Chris Davis was hurt before moving to safety, will be available for playing time at corner if needed. Jonathan Jones, a sophomore who returned to action last week from an injury, is the other second team cornerback. Jones is backing up junior Jonathon Mincy.

Jonathan Jones is a sophomore for the Tigers.

*The Tigers are converting 44.8 percent of their third down chances heading into the final third of the regular season schedule. Auburn is 24-34 (59.3 percent) converting third down opportunities from 1-3 yards, 11-26 (42.3 percent) from 4-6 yards, 8-30 (26.7 percent) from 7-10 yards and 4-15 (26.7 percent) on plays 11 yards or longer.

Defensively, the Tigers are allowing opponents to convert 32 percent of their third downs. Auburn has allowed 14-26 (53.9 percent) conversions from 1-3 yards, 10-26 (38.5 percent) from 4-6 yards, 8-30 (29.6 percent) from 7-10 yards and 2-26 (7.7 percent) on plays 11 yards or longer.

*The weather forecast for Saturday's game calls for temperatures in the 40s in Fayetteville with light wind and no chance of rain.

*The Arkansas game will be televised on ESPN2 with Joe Tessitore doing play-by-play for the 5 p.m. CDT kickoff. Matt Millen is the analyst and Maria Taylor the sideline reporter.

*Satellite radio coverage is available on Sirius channel 112 and XM channel 201.

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