AU Trying to Sweat the Details In Practice

Auburn's preparations for its first football road trip of the season include focus on clean execution offensively as the Tigers prepare to play the Kansas State Wildcats.

Rhett Lashlee (above) is in his second season as Auburn's offensive coordinator.

Auburn, Ala.--Rhett Lashlee said the Tigers need to sweat the details on execution during their extended practice period as Auburn prepares for its first road test of the 2014 football season.

The offensive coordinator made those comments after the Tigers spent two hours in full pads getting ready for next week’s first road game at the season on a Thursday night at Kansas State.

A sellout crowd is expected at Bill Snyder Family Stadium as the 19th-ranked Wildcats of the Big 12 Conference hope to knock off the fifth-ranked Tigers of the SEC.

“Fortunately for us Nick (quarterback Nick Marshall) has played, a lot of our guys have played,” Lashlee said of competing in loud road venues. “We don’t have a young team. It is like going into any hostile SEC environment. All I’ve heard is that Manhattan is the toughest place to play in the Big 12 so we know we have to really be focused.

“We have been fortunate we haven’t had any false start penalties in the first two games,” Lashlee pointed out. “Your attention to detail and your awareness really has to raise its level when you are on the road in a hostile environment.

“I think it will be a really good measuring stick to see where we are at because now we are going on the road to a place where they have sold it out because you are the one they want to knock off and, boy, they have a good football team.”

Lashlee pointed out that he wants to see the Tigers show their mature and handle the challenge. “It is not the situation we were in last year,” he said when Auburn went into the season as a team that was the hunter rather than the hunted. Kansas State will be the hunter in game three.

“We have been preaching to them already the last two days that we have to execute at a very high level because the way they play they are very sound, they tackle well, they don’t beat themselves, they don’t give up big plays,” the offensive coordinator said. “They make you earn everything you get so that is why they have been so successful so we have to execute very, very well.”

The Auburn coach said that the Tigers showed the ability to play with discipline in game two vs. San Jose State, a team that plays a similar style of defense as the Wildcats. “They are going to make you grind it out and really earn it so it is good we had a game like that,” Lashlee said.

Lashlee, who doubles as quarterback coach, said that Marshall can pass the ball better than he did last Saturday when he completed 10-19 throws for 101 yards as the Tigers defeated San Jose State 59-13.

“I have a ton of belief in him,” the coach said. “A little bit of it was, as a whole, we were a little off with our passing game and give San Jose State some credit. They did a really good job of mixing up looks, which was good. When you take a guy like Sammie (Coates)...on Thursday we decided we were going to hold him so now we put Melvin (Ray) in a different spot and you’ve got Tony (Stevens).

Nick Marshall runs the football vs. San Jose State.

“You have got guys in different spots and you’re used to throwing timing with certain people, you can be a half-yard or yard off on something and that’s going to make all the difference in the world. He missed a few throws he has got to hit.

“A couple of times we had some pressure in his face, and you can’t have that,” he said. “A couple of times we should have caught the ball. It’s as a whole we have to be a little cleaner and a little crisper. I’m not concerned at all because I have seen him do it all fall camp.”

Asked how the senior quarterback graded, Lashlee replied, “He graded out okay. Obviously, the fumble was by far the most disappointing thing for him personally because we worked on it and worked on it and harped on it. He broke that last tackle at the five and, I think, he relaxed and didn’t think anybody else was there. You can’t do that.

“That was a huge momentum killer to start the game,” Lashlee added. “You are about to be up 7-0 quick, and instead all of the momentum shifts. That was the most disappointing thing. I think the decisions were really good. He made really good decisions, and other than that play he protected the football through the air. That’s got to be cleaned up and he knows that.”

In other news and notes:

*Sammie Coates, who missed the San Jose State game with a minor injury, is expected to be back in action vs. Kansas State. “We feel like he will come back 100 percent,” said Auburn’s head coach, Gus Malzahn. “Sammie is definitely a guy who can stretch the field.”

The junior was Auburn’s leading receiver last season by a wide margin, but Malzahn noted the Tigers have more talent at that position this year. “We have a lot more options,” Malzahn said. “Last year it would have been a different story. Melvin Ray stepped in, Tony Stevens got a chance and we threw Ricardo (Louis) a deep ball so we have got a lot more options, but obviously Sammie is one of the better playmakers in our league and we need him back healthy,” the coach added.

*Kansas State has been tough to defeat in early season home games with Bill Snyder as head coach. Dating back to the 1992 season the Wildcats have a 44-2 record in September contests played in Manhattan. The Wildcats have a 57-6 overall record over that same time frame.

*Snyder ranks No. 2 nationally in victories as a head coach at his current school with 180. Frank Beamer of Virginia Tech is the leader at 225 with former Auburn quarterback Larry Blakeney No. 3 at 179 during his tenure at Troy.

*Walk-on junior Alex Kviklys kicked off three times in the second half vs. San Jose State. He didn’t have a touchback, but Malzahn noted it was productive for the coverage team to get a workout. “Obviously, we were trying to kick it in the end zone, but it was good in the long range because we got a chance to cover some kicks,” he said.

“We feel better about our personnel this year,” Malzahn added. “We have a lot guys on there who can cover, tackle and make plays. From a coaching standpoint that was good for us to see.”

Corey Grant is averaging 8.8 yards per carry this season.

*Senior running backs Corey Grant and Cameron Artis-Payne were praised by Lashlee. “Tim (running backs coach Tim Horton) has done a great with his backs,” Lashlee said. “You see him and Cameron really finishing runs. For Corey he has run in-between the tackles in these first two games than he has and he is finishing downhill and he is not dancing, which is really good. I think you have seen he has really developed into an overall running back.

Commenting on Artis-Payne, Lashlee said, “I think he is quicker and he has shown some moves to not just run people over, but cut the inside shoulder and making a guy miss in space last week, which was really good.”

The Tigers will practice again Wednesday and Thursday and the players will have Friday and Saturday off.

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