Tigers Looking To Improve During Off Week

Comments from Gus Malzahn, players plus news and notes are featured in this Auburn football report.

Auburn, Ala.--Gus Malzahn said his Auburn football team has made progress during their four days of practice this week and one of the team’s veteran players, Gabe Wright, agreed with the head coach.

The Tigers went through a practice of approximately two hours on Thursday evening in helmets and shorts as they prepare for next Thursday’s road game at Kansas State. The Tigers also worked out on Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

“The players will watch video on Friday, but not practice, and on Saturday they have the day off while their head coach works as a TV analyst for CBS. “I think it’s good exposure, there is no doubt,” Malzahn on his one-day gig as a football analyst on TV. “I am looking forward to it.”

“We had another solid practice today,” Malzahn said. “I think we had, overall, a solid week. I feel like we improved on some little things as far as offense, defense and special teams.”

Wright, who noted that he is currently working at tackle in practice after starting at end the first two games, said, it is “very important” for the team to get better when it has extra practice time with no game on Saturday.

“As a team in a bye week we have to be even more locked in,” Wright said. “To be honest I?feel we really took advantage of this open week. Guys are going to get a little rest tomorrow and Saturday a couple of guys will kind of get together and watch the other games.

“For the most part, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday went rather well,” he added. “I feel like we really got our base packages done. We did start game-planning for Kansas State so we are really looking forward to next week.”

Commenting on the week of practice another senior, Corey Grant, said, “Going into this week we just tried to get better--work on our corrections that are part of our base offense. We started working on Kansas State, getting ready for them, trying to get ahead.”

The running back has a high opinion of this year’s Auburn offense. Asked if any defense can stop the Tigers, he said, “When we are clicking on all cylinders I really don’t think so. We have so many weapons and Coach (Malzahn) uses everybody so I think it is really hard to stop.”

Auburn leads its series 3-0 vs. Kansas State, but this year’s matchup will be the first time the Tigers have faced the Wildcats with Bill Snyder as the coach.

Snyder led K-State to its most successful era from 1989-2005. He retired after that, but was coaxed into returning for the 2009 season and goes into the Auburn game with an all-time record of 180 wins, 90 losses and one tie. Snyder won national coach of the year awards in 1991, 1994, 1998, 2011 and 2012.

Bill Snyder

“I think he's one of the better coaches to ever walk the planet,” Malzahn said. “You can turn on the game film and you can see why. They execute offense and defense and the special teams, and they get the most out of their players. That’s really what stands out to me.”

The last time Auburn played Kansas State was in 2007 when the Tigers rallied in the fourth quarter to pull out a 23-13 victory in front of 86,439 fans at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Brandon Cox threw a three-yard touchdown pass to tight end Gabe McKenzie with 2:01 left to put the Tigers ahead in that game. Then, with 1:11 left to play, defensive end Antonio Coleman returned a fumble 34 yards for an insurance touchdown.

In that game the Wildcats held the Tigers to 62 rushing yards on 37 carries and 229 passing yards. Auburn held K-State to 27 rushing yards on 16 carries and the visitors hit 33 of 58 passes for 289 yards with two interceptions.

Asked if the 2014 Kansas State team reminds him of any team he has coached against, Malzahn said, “That is a tough question. I am sure it does if I have time to think about it. They are just very good at what they do. They don’t beat themselves, they don’t make mistakes, especially defensively. They make you earn everything.”

Commenting on the team’s bye week, Malzahn said, “We try to use that same approach (as last year). We do know a lot more about our guys obviously than we did last year. As a coach the things you learn over the first two games, you try to play to your strengths. You try to build upon those things.

“That has kind of been our approach. Part of the off-week was to get better at what we do and part of the off-week is to get a head start on a very good Kansas State team.”

In other news and notes:

*Heading into next week’s game in Manhattan, Kan., Auburn’s all-time record is 78-37-6 in road openers. Kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m. CDT and the contest will be televised on ESPN.

*Nick Marshall rushed for 103 yards vs. San Jose State. That was the fifth time he has broke the 100-yard mark for the Tigers and it extended a winning streak to 13 games for contests in which Auburn has a quarterback rush for at least 100 yards. The streak started with Phil Gargis running for 129 yards vs. Florida State in 1976.

*Malzahn said after Thursday’s practice that his team’s two transfers from SEC programs, safety Tray Matthews from Georgia and offensive linemen Austin Golson from Ole Miss, are helping the scout teams give the offense and defense good looks in practice.

Austin Golson (73) is shown at practice with Devonte Danzey (53).

*Cameron Artis-Payne ranks 14th nationally in rushing yards per game at 144.5. The senior is averaging 6.9 yards per carry, up from last season’s 6.7 per carry. Tre Mason, who set a school-record for rushing yards last season with 1,1816, averaged 5.7 yards per rush on his way to being named 2013 SEC Offensive Player of the Year.

Offensive Coordinator Rhett Lashlee noted that he likes what he is seeing from Artis-Payne through the first two games. “I think he is quicker,” Lashlee said. “I am going to say he probably lost around eight pounds (since last year).”

Lashlee noted that he likes how the senior runs with power and added, “I think that’s him developing into a better overall back. I have been really pleased.”

*The Tigers will return to practice on Sunday after getting two days off.

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