Junior linebackers Cassanova McKinzy and Kris Frost went down with injuries vs. LSU as did junior offensive tackle Patrick Miller. The coach said the trio was present and accounted for at Wednesday’s workout, but did not say whether or not any of them would miss Saturday’s game vs. LSU or how close to full speedy they are.
“They were all out there--some of them participated, some of them watched,” Malzahn said. “It is still day-to-day. We are hoping we have all of them (for Saturday's game). They are all out there locked in. If their bodies let them mentally they are there.”
Malzahn added, “Every situation is a little bit different, but they are all veteran guys and they have a lot of reps and all of that. They are kind of mature guys who can handle playing after not getting a lot of reps.”
Cassanova McKinzy led Auburn in tackles last season.
Junior Anthony Swain and freshman Tre Williams are the next guys up at the linebacker spots. Both saw extensive playing time vs. Louisiana Tech. “I think they have handled it well,” Malzahn said of the extra practice time they have been receiving this week.
“The good thing is Coach (Ellis) Johnson is giving those guys a lot of reps anyway up to this point,” he added. “They have had some reps in the game so it definitely helps in that area.”
Asked what it would be like to play LSU without one or both of the team’s top linebackers, Malzahn said, “Well, it’s not the best case scenario, obviously, but it is what it is. As a coach you put your guys in there and get them prepared. The good thing is we do have more quality depth than we had last year. That is the positive.”
Tre Williams arrived at Auburn this senior as a highly-regarded linebacker prospect.
Malzahn said that another linebacker who played last week, Khari Harding, is making progress after moving from safety in the spring. “I think he is more comfortable in the box than he was at safety,” the coach pointed out. “He has battled some injuries throughout spring and early fall camp, but he is getting better. If called upon we feel confident in him.”
In addition to Harding coming off the bench as a third-stringer last week so did Javier Mitchell, who won praise for his work earlier from Johnson.
Another Tiger who was signed as a linebacker, Cameron Toney, is getting work on offense as an H-back. Malzahn said there are no immediate plans to move the redshirt freshman back to defense.
Commenting on the offensive line, Malzahn said, “Obviously, Pat is the starter. In the best-case scenario we get him back, but we have a lot of confidence in the guys who finished the (Louisiana Tech) game. We have a little more depth up front than we did last year, which is a good thing now that we are experiencing some injuries.”
Backup guard Jordan Diamond is out for the season with an injury.
The coach said that junior Sam Coates is still working to get back to full speed after being slowed by a knee injury this year and said “at times” he looks like his old self. “I think he is getting healthier each week and we are trying to be smart with him with his progress--bring him along in practice and stuff like that.”
Commenting on the team’s overall progress, Malzahn said, “It was a solid day of practice. Like all Wednesdays, we stressed third downs as a point of emphasis on both sides. I thought our guys flew around with a lot of energy. I feel like we got better.”
Except for the redshirt seniors, nobody on the Auburn roster has been on a team that defeated LSU. Several seniors have mentioned they don’t want to leave AU without a victory over the Bayou Bengals.
Malzahn said he has seen leadership from the group this week at practice. “You definitely can. The seniors have led our team so far and you can tell they are setting the tone in practice.”
Defensive coordinator Johnson said he hopes to see his group put more pressure on opposing quarterbacks without blitzing. The Tigers have nine sacks so far this season, but the front four has only been credited for 4 1/2. Newcomer Davonte Lambert has 2 1/2 at end while Gabe Wright and Montravius Adams, who have played both tackle and end, have one apiece.
Adams, a sophomore who is primarily playing tackle going into game five, said he believes the front four is improving. “Really, I just think we are getting better day by day and every game,” he said. “There is just nothing like somebody stepping up to make those big plays that we need. I just think that is what we need to keep doing.”
Adams, who has made 11 solo tackles with two assists this year, is the team leader in tackles behind the line of scrimmage with five for 20 yards in losses. Last season, playing as a true freshman in his first SEC road game, Adams was in on three tackles at Baton Rouge as Auburn fell 35-21 to LSU. Auburn has not lost a league game since that night.
Adams said Saturday’s matchup is a big one personally and for his teammates, who are trying to end a three-game losing streak in the series.
“I?have been thinking about that a lot,” he said when asked about last year’s game in the rain vs. the Bayou Bengals.
After Auburn took care of Louisiana Tech last Saturday the lineman pointed out that his attention immediately turned to this week’s matchup. “After the game I went home and I just went straight to LSU,” he said.
The 6-4, 306-pounder said he began watching video of LSU “because they beat us last year, and I don’t want to happen, and I don't think I played as well as I could to help my team get the win so I just want to be better and be ready.”
Montravius Adams has been a major contributor since joining the Auburn team last year.
Adams set up Auburn’s first touchdown last week with a 36-yard interception return. The lineman also set up another score with a fumble recovery late in the second quarter to become the first Auburn player to intercept a pass and recover a fumble in the same game since Nick Fairley did it in 2010 vs. Mississippi State.
In other news and notes:
*Heading into the LSU game Malzahn has an 11-0 record as head coach in contests at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Counting his one season at Arkansas State he is 16-1 in home games as a head coach. In those home games Malzahn’s teams have scored an average of 40.2 points per outing while allowing 18.3 points. Counting Malzahn’s three seasons as Auburn’s offensive coordinator, the Tigers are 32-3 in games he has coached in at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
*Auburn is looking to extend a 12-game home winning streak, its longest since winning 12 in a row in 2000 and 2001. The school record is 30 that started in November 1952 and lasted until November 1960.
*While Auburn’s Daniel Carlson has struggled with his punting Jamie Keehn has been one of LSU’s top performers. Keehn is averaging 46.6 yards per punt with a net average of 44.2. Auburn is last in the SEC in net punting at 35.4 yards per punt.
*If the trend continues Auburn should have a good chance to win on Saturday. The home team in this series has won 10 of the last 12 matchups although the Bayou Bengals took a 12-10 decision two years ago at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
*LSU leads the series 27-20-1 and Coach Les Miles is 7-2 vs. Auburn and 99-25 as head coach in Baton Rouge, where his record is 54-23 in SEC games.
*The strength of LSU’s defense this year has been playing against the pass. The Bayou Bengals are giving up just 130.6 yards per game through the air, which is the lowest total of any SEC team and fifth nationally. LSU is 12th in the league in rushing defense, giving up 161.6 yards per contest.
*Saturday’s game is set for a 6 p.m. CDT start with TV coverage on ESPN. Brad Nessler will do the play-by-play with Todd Blackledge the analyst.
*The Auburn Network radio broadcast can be heard on Sirius and XM channels 84 in addition to local stations. Rod Bramblett will do the play-by-play with analysis from Stan White and sideline reporter Quentin Riggins. Paul Ellen is the studio host and Andy Burcham does the locker room report.
*The game will also be carried on the Westwood One radio network with Jason Benetti and Derek Rackley calling the action.
*Fans attending soldout Jordan-Hare Stadium will want to dress warmly. The forecast is for temperatures to be in the 50s during the contest and dropping into the low 40s late Saturday night.