Auburn, Ala.--The Tigers continued preparations on Monday for their first road game of the 2014 football season and one of the players who will be heavily counted on to perform well points out that Auburn is taking Kansas State very seriously.
Junior linebacker Kris Frost contends that his Tigers will learn more about what type of team they have when they take on 20th-ranked Kansas State. Kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m. CDT Thursday at soldout Bill Snyder Family Stadium in Manhattan, Kan.
“You always have these stepping stones and these games that show you what kind of team you are,” Frost says.
“We had about three big stepping stones last year,” Frost adds. “I felt like, for instance, Texas A&M was one of those. I feel like this could be one of those games as well with how disciplined they are and how hungry of a team they are.
“With their success over the past few years, they are going to come out and be really amped up for this game at home,” points out Frost, who is in his first season as the starter at weakside linebacker. “This is a really, really big game, a lot bigger of a game than people realize for us and Kansas State. It is going to be a really fun game, and I feel like it is going to show a lot about both teams.”
Frost notes that Kansas State’s offense will try to confuse Auburn’s defense and it is up to the Tigers to be fundamentally sound.
“Frost’s position coach and defensive coordinator, Ellis Johnson, agrees and says, “They give you a lot of different formations just to try to get you misaligned or find an open spot where they can punch a hole in your box. They have got four or five formations they will show you. We have just got to be very aware of it.”
Kansas State is effective running the wildcat formation, Johnson points out. “They don’t take the quarterback off the field,” he says. “They leave him out there so you don’t know it is going to be the wildcat. You have to run check defenses.
“You can’t run a special call that you can send into your players, you have to check into something,” Johnson adds. “We will have to really be on our toes. The player who does the wildcat for them is a great running back so even if you are in the right defense, you are still going to have to execute, get off blocks and tackle well.”
Johnson says he wants to see improvement from the defense as a whole in game three, which is also a theme for Rhett Lashlee, Auburn’s offensive coordinator and quarterback coach.
Lashlee notes that a positive for Auburn’s first road trip is that the roster features a large number of experienced players. “It’s a good thing from the standpoint that we know our guys have been there,” he says. “We know they know that to expect to some degree.
“Now, some of them have never been to Manhattan, and from everything we’ve been told by the guys on staff that have been there, they say it’s an incredible atmosphere,” Lashlee says. “We know that part is a great challenge.
“At the same time it’s a new team,” says Lashlee, who notes that playing at Kansas State will be like playing an SEC road game. “How are we going to respond to adversity? How are we going to respond to momentum swings in the game?”
Auburn’s head coach, Gus Malzahn, said after Monday evening’s practice he liked what he saw. “They have really been locked in the last two days of practice, especially today. You could really see the urgency there. They were flying around and had a lot of positive energy. They are ready to play.”
With the game two days earlier, the Tigers had a normal Wednesday practice on Monday. At Tuesday’s practice the Tigers will work on third downs and red zone plays and defense, Malzahn said.
In other news and notes:
*Redshirt sophomore Gimel President was in on five tackles vs. San Jose State, something that got the head coach’s attention. “I like the fact that President is coming on,” Malzahn said. “He has paid his price and is really coming on and playing good football.”
*Another end, juco transfer Davonte Lambert, is improving, too, the coach noted. “He has got a chance, we really think, to be a very good player,” Malzahn said.
*Auburn leads the series vs. Kansas State 3-0 and is 13-10-1 vs. current members of the Big 12 Conference. The Tigers are 3-5 vs. Texas, 1-2-1 vs. Baylor, 0-1 vs. Oklahoma, 0-1 vs. Texas Tech, 1-1 vs. West Virginia, 3-0 vs. TCU and 2-0 vs. Kansas.
*Thursday’s game will be televised by ESPN with radio coverage featuring The Auburn Network on Sirius/XM channels 84. Rod Bramblett, Stan White, Quentin Riggins, Paul Ellen and Andy Burcham will handle the coverage. The game will also be carried on ESPN Radio with Bill Rosinski, David Norrie and Joe Schad calling the actin at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.
*Auburn’s leader on the offensive line, center Reese Dismukes, has started 39 games for the Tigers. Kansas State’s center, B.J. Finney, has started 41 games for the Wildcats. Like Dismukes, Finney is a preseason all-league pick and on the watch list for the Outland Trophy.
*One of Auburn’s biggest challenges defensively will be containing Tyler Lockett, who caught 81 passes for 1,262 yards last year. Both numbers are the second highest in school history for a single season.
Johnson notes that Lockett is a “really good player” and adds, “He is on both sides. You can’t always match up on him with who you want, and you can’t necessarily put a designed defense on him. You start double-covering him and that leaves all those quarterback lead runs open. That is what is such a big challenge with him.
“They are going to run the quarterback (Jake Waters) with the lead blocker, and when they do that base defenses don’t have enough people on that chalkboard to make the plays,” Johnson points out. “Now, we may be able to whip them and get off to go make a play, but you are taking a chance when you take all those people out of the box.
“If you are going to line up and play him one-on-one with nobody over the top, well, he is a really good athlete,” Auburn’s defensive coordinator says. “Their routes are designed to take advantage of that--a lot of stop-and-gos, lot of hitches, lot of fades--things you normally run against corners who don’t have any help.”