Auburn, Ala.--With just more than a week to go until the season opener, Coach Gus Malzahn said he wants to put his Auburn football team through a “dress rehearsal” at an early morning practice on Friday before letting them take a break before starting game week preparations on Sunday.
Commenting on what the Tigers will do in their rehearsal, the coach said, “Everything from personnel to situations. Fall camp, we have covered every situation imaginable, but you want to do it again so it sticks with them throughout the season because once the season gets here you are in a routine. You are game-planning, you are trying to be specific.
“Different situations come up almost on a game-by-game basis that you covered in fall camp,” he noted. “It just gives us another opportunity to cover every situation so our guys will know what to do when that situation presents itself.”
It’s normal for coaches to give their team time off about a week before the season opener and Malzahn is not bucking that trend.
“We will give them a chance to kind of revive their mind and bodies, and get to relax a little bit, because it has been a grind,” he said. “Fall camp has been long, it’s been good, but obviously we want our guys fresh.”
After having cooler than normal weather for much of the preseason the temperatures have been in the high 90s the past two days on the practice field.
Asked how he believes his players have been coping with that, he said, “I think they handled it pretty well. Yesterday was probably a little more humid. It is good. I think it is going to be in the 90s--that is what they are telling me--next Saturday. It is going to be a hot one and the breeze in our stadium is not much so we have prepared.”
After taking Monday off for the first day of fall semester, the Tigers have practiced three times. “Overall, I feel like we have had a solid week of practice,” Malzahn said. “Our attention has been really good and our guys have been excited about practicing.”
He also said the Tigers are getting healthier as the August 30th opener draws near. “I would say probably most teams have a lot of nicks and bruises and all that in fall camp, that’s part of the process. Strategically, you make sure your guys are healthy and fresh before the first game and we have definitely started that process.”
Commenting on Thursday’s workout, the coach said it was a solid one and added, “Our attention has been really good, and our guys have been excited about practicing.”
One of the seniors the Tigers are counting heavily on is tight end/H-back C.J. Uzomah, who was named to the Coaches Preseason All-SEC Second Team on Thursday. A player whose junior year was limited by injuries, he is expected to be a bigger part of the offense this fall, something that he said is exciting.
“Offensively, we are going to put up points,” he said, noting the Tigers will offer a challenge for opposing defenses on how to stop the Tigers.
“Defenses are going to see we can run the ball,” he said. “Nick (Marshall) can run the ball and we can throw it short, we can throw it deep. A guy like Sammie (Coates) can catch a little screen and go 70 yards in the blink of eye. It will be interesting to see how they are going to prepare for this.”
Uzomah is a big target at six-foot-four, who weighs around 260 pounds. “My weight fluctuates between 255 to 265,” he said. “Anywhere in that range is fine.” He can line up at tight end, H-back, fullback and slot receiver.
Third team selections are guard Chad Slade, defensive lineman Montravius Adams and “star” rover Robenson Therezie, whose status for the season is unclear due to an “eligibility” issue, according to Malzahn. On Thursday he said there is no update on the senior’s situation.
“I think they have responded well,” Malzahn said of the rebuilt offensive line. “You get used to working beside certain people. We did have a couple of changes after Kozan went down and it’s just a matter of reps beside each other.
“There is nothing better than reps, there is nothing better than experience, and I really feel like that group will gel as the season goes on. You feel as good as you can with the guys working in fall camp and having almost 30 days to get used to communicating.”
In other news and notes:
*LaDarius Owens, who has missed practice time with an infection, is trying to make a push to break hold on to his 2013 starting spot at defensive end. “He has responded well,” Malzahn said. “The good thing for him is he is a veteran guy. He knows exactly everything with our defense and our calls, and everything that goes with that. He has come back and done well.”
*The head coach said there will be “quite a few” newcomers who could see action vs. the Razorbacks, but didn’t give any specifics. “We will have our depth charts out next Tuesday, same time we did last year as far as first games go.”
*Normally the Tigers put one or more walk-on players on scholarship to start fall classes, but that did not happen this year. “We didn’t have any scholarships available, but that is a possibility in the future,” the head coach said. “Me being a former walk-on at this level, I’m very sensitive to that and we’ve got some good ones.”