Matthews Back As Focus Turns to Louisville

The Auburn football Tigers have a key performer back for the secondary as they continue to prepare for the season opener.

Auburn, Ala.--The Auburn football Tigers turned their focus to working on the offensive and defensive game plans for the season opener vs. Louisville in a full pads practice that lasted more than two hours on Tuesday evening.

“I think both coordinators were pleased with our kids' attention and their approach to practice,” Coach Gus Malzahn said. “Obviously, there are going to be some things to clean up when you start putting in your game plan and all that, but overall I think it was a positive day.”

Several of Malzahn’s players said after Tuesday’s practice that they believe the team is ready to play a game after nearly a month of practice. The Tigers will open the season Sept. 5th at the Georgia Dome.

The coach said all of the Tigers who started preseason camp should be ready to play vs. the Cardinals, including safety Tray Matthews, who has missed a significant portion of preseason drills with a hamstring problem.

Matthews practiced full speed on Tuesday and said he feels ready to play a game, something that Malzahn noted that he was encouraged to see.

“I’m doing well--just had a little setback," Matthews said Tuesday night. "They just wanted to take a few necessary precautions so I’m ready for the game. I’m doing fine right now, 100 percent, ready to go.”

Commenting on the transfer from Georgia, Malzahn said, “He's back this week, he's full throttle. He has been back doing limited stuff up to this point, but today he was full throttle and looked good out there running around.”

Commenting on the preseason, Malzahn said, “We were very physical. We strained our guys very hard, and when you do that you always worry about losing a player or two. We are a little banged up, but it's a good banged up. I think we will be fresh and ready to go and should have all hands on deck, at least at this point, going into the opener.”

Malzahn noted that knowing when to back off on the intensity of preseason to make sure your team is fresh for an opening game is something he and other coaches take into consider this time of year. “Every coach in the country has that question. You've just got to have a feel for your team.

“Really, we only had two full weeks of fall camp,” he said. “Then we started school pretty early. Last week was a regular...our kids went to class and we practiced. Today was really the first day full force that we started preparing for our opponent. So far so good. I like where we're at. I think we'll be in good shape going into the first game as far as health is concerned.”

Blake Countess, a graduate student transfer from Michigan, said he believes the Tigers are “absolutely” ready for a game situation. “I think we have had a great camp. We still have some little things to iron out as far as the game plan, but as far a development standpoint I?think we are ready to play.”

Redshirt junior offensive lineman Will Adams, a backup at right guard who can also play tackle, said the offense is ready for a game.

Adams, who is spending most of his time as a backup behind Braden Smith, said, “We are ready right now. We could go play them today. We are looking really good, really solid. We just have some fine detailed things to clean up and we will be definitely ready next week.”

In other news and notes:

*After practice Carl Lawson was asked if he talked defensive end Byron Cowart, who showed freshman frustration with preseason practices with his comments on Twitter last week. Asked about that, Malzahn said, “He is a young guy and he is going to be fine. He is going to be a very good player for us. He is a young guy that will learn.”

Braden Smith started the last game of the 2014 season at tackle.

*Commenting on the move of sophomore Braden Smith from left tackle to right guard, where he is expected to start, Malzahn said, “Braden is getting more comfortable inside. He's extremely strong, extremely powerful. He's a very good athlete. Playing inside just takes a while. They communicate with the center and communicate with the tackle on all the calls we have. I think he's in a real good spot going into the season. He's got a chance to be a really good inside guy.”

*The left guard spot continues to be a competition between two players with starting experience, junior Alex Kozan and senior Devonte Danzey.

“Both those guys are really getting equal reps,” the coach said. “They're both veteran guys. Alex looks like the same ol’ guy he was before. Devonte is a guy that's really improved and he did a solid job for us last year. There's nothing better than experience, game experience, and he's very confident. That's a good thing that we have two guys at that spot, and both of those could play the right side if they needed to.”

*Asked about playing the opener in the Georgia Dome, where they should be a majority of Auburn fans in the crowd, Malzahn said, “My experience when we've played there before we've had a home field advantage. Our fans are very loud, they come out and I think our fans really like us playing there too. I know our players and coaches look forward to playing there. Our goal is to start there and finish there. Our kids are looking forward to playing a very good team to open the season.”

*Freshman running back Kerryon Johnson, who suffered a pulled muscle in a scrimmage, returned to practice today.

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