Auburn, Ala.--It’s fine-tuning time for the Auburn football team with the season opener almost here.
Offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee said Wednesday’s practice, which ran an hour and a half, was the “last really heavy day” of practice as the Tigers worked on the game plan in helmets, shoulder pads and shorts.
“We are putting the finishing touches on a lot of situations,” he said. “You have got third downs, redzone. Tomorrow (Thursday) will be kind of a polish day. At this point a lot of the physical work is done, it becomes more of a mental deal right now.”
The coach said the Tigers are really emphasizing their mental preparations as they get ready to play Louisville on Saturday in Atlanta. “I don’t want to call it stress, but we are really emphasizing right now...we have got a lot of guys who are going to be playing either their first game or their first extended, meaningful experience.
“We have a lot of inexperience that is going to be out there and we have just got to try to pound the game plan into their head between now and game time so they will know what to do,” the offensive coordinator added.
Lashlee noted that he is excited that the opener is almost here. “There are a lot of things that are unknown,” the coach said. “There are a lot of guys we are going to learn a lot about because it is one thing to do it on the practice field, you do it front of 70,000 or 80,000 and millions on TV and in a big moment, and consistently, some guys have that, some guys it takes them more time to get there so we’ll see.
“We do have a lot of guys who have played some,” he added. “There are still some who haven’t played at all. I don’t know. There are a lot unknowns. A lot of questions will be answered.”
Rhett Lashlee is in his third season as Auburn's offensive coordinator.
One of the points of emphasis as game time draws near is the hurry-up offense with Jeremy Johnson taking over as the starting quarterback. Lashlee, who coaches the quarterbacks, said he has high expectations for Johnson in that area and as a all-around performer based on what he has done in games the previous two seasons.
Johnson has not had a chance to lead the team in a do-or-die type of drive late in a game since he got to Auburn. “That’s what we’ve been working on the past couple of weeks-two-minute scenarios, last play of the game,” the quarterback said. “Coach Malzahn always says find a way to win and come in knowing we’re going to win. I feel really good about where I’m at and where the team’s at in handling those two-minute situation drills. We’re in a good spot.”
In other news and notes:
*Lashlee said he is expecting Louisville to put a strong defense on the field Saturday at the Georgia Dome. “It’s a Top 25 type of team in my opinion with a Top 10 caliber defense,” the coach said. “Last year they were. They were exceptional in a lot of categories. They feel, and I don’t disagree with them, they may have a better defense this year.
“They got some transfers in some certain places that are in key spots, and then they have got a lot of guys who played last year even if they weren’t starters so we expect it to be a really good challenge.”
*The only position on the offensive line where there isn’t a starter listed on the depth chart is at left guard, where 2013 starter Alex Kozan is competing with senior Devonte Danzey, who started seven times last season with Kozan out with an injury.
“That is something that Coach Grimes (J.B. Grimes), Coach Malzahn (Gus Malzahn) and I will kind of feel out as the game is going and kind of make those decisions as the game goes. We feel good about both of those guys. They are both going to play.”
*Kickoff time is slightly after 2:30 p.m. CDT and the contest will be televised on CBS with Verne Lundquist, Gary Danielson and Allie LaForce calling the action from the Georgia Dome.
*Radio coverage on the Auburn Network and Sirius Channel 81 features Rod Bramblett on play-by-play, Stan White as the color analyst, Quentin Riggins as the sideline reporter and Paul Ellen as the studio host.
*The game will also be carried by ESPN Radio with Dave Pasch doing the play-by-play, Brian Griese handling the color and Tom Luginbill the sideline reporter.
*Auburn leads the series vs. Louisville 1-0 with the Tigers taking a 16-3 decision in 1974 at Legion Field in Birmingham.
*The Tigers have a 6-4 all-time record in games played at the Georgia Dome and are 9-7-1 all-time in contests played indoors.
*Auburn has a record of 94-26-2 in season openers and the Tigers have a record of 120-75-9 vs. current members of the Atlantic Coast Conference. Louisville is 15-35-1 in games vs. SEC teams. The Cardinals will play another SEC team, the Kentucky Wildcats, to close the regular season.
*For Louisville the game on Saturday will mark the first time in school history the Cardinals have opened the season at a neutral site. The last time the Cardinals didn’t open a game on their home field was in 2005 when they won 31-24 at Kentucky.
*Bobby Petrino is the winningest coach in Louisville history with his record of 50-13 in five seasons, including four in his previous time with the Cardinals before returning for the 2014 season. Petrino, who was Auburn’s offensive coordinator in 2002, returns all of his assistant coaches from last season.
A total of 13 Tigers are on at least one preseason watch list for a national award. The group includes senior cornerback Blake Countess, junior safety Johnathan Ford, senior cornerback Josh Holsey, junior quarterback Jeremy Johnson, senior cornerback Jonathan Jones, junior offensive guard Alex Kozan, senior defensive lineman Davonte Lambert, sophomore buck Carl Lawson, senior receiver Ricardo Louis, senior linebacker Cassanova McKinzy, senior receiver Jonathan Wallace, senior receiver Duke Williams and junior offensive tackle Avery Young.
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