DaVonte Lambert (above) is a senior on the Auburn defensive front.
Auburn, Ala.--Auburn’s offense drilled with a wet football on a warm and dry Wednesday evening as the Tigers continued to polish their game plan for Saturday’s SEC road game at Arkansas.
Defensive Coordinator Will Muschamp said the preparation this week has been “pretty good” for the Tigers as they get ready to play an Arkansas team that is coming off of a bye week. Auburn has had extra preparation time this week, too, because the Tigers played a Thursday contest last week.
Asked if he is preparing the defense for a physical test on Saturday, Muschamp said, “In our league that is what it is about every week if you really want to look at it.
“They have a very physical football team, a massive offensive line,”?he said. “Alex Collins is a great back, not a good back. (Quarterback) Brandon Allen is an experienced starter in our league that can make all the throws.
Brandon Allen is a veteran quarterback for the Razorbacks.
“They have had their share of injuries on the perimeter, but they have certainly had guys step up for them,” Muschamp pointed out. “I think Hunter Henry is as good a player at the tight end position as there is in the country. (Jeremy) Sprinkle’s done a nice job for them, as well.
“They certainly have weapons, they have recruited well, they’ve got good players, they’ve got a good scheme and system,” the coach added. “They have all the play-actions off all the run plays that they have to create run-pass conflicts for you. We’ve certainly got our work cut out for us.”
Muschamp said that Carl Lawson got checked out by team surgeon, Dr. Jim Andrews, on Wednesday, but won’t be available for this week’s game. The redshirt sophomore defensive end has not played since injuring his hip in the first half of the opening game vs. Louisville.
Carl Lawson is a redshirt sophomore for the Tigers.
The defensive coordinator said he hasn’t been told when to expect Lawson back, but is hopeful the lineman will be ready for action this season. Muschamp noted that although Lawson isn’t cleared to practice, he has been at practices and doing drills with the trainers.
“They haven’t told me as far as specifically, but we certainly expect him to be back,” Muschamp said. “Unless we have some sort of setback, that’s why I don’t want to come out and say a date and then ‘well, what happened?’ because I think we’re dealing with a situation that will be resolved soon.”
Another defender working to return from an injury, junior cornerback T.J. Davis, had knee surgery after being hurt during spring drills.
“He’s still battling through it, and coming back, it’s seven months now, it’s still very early in the stages,” Muschamp said. “Each practice he’s going through all our stuff, and when we go through good on good against the offense he has been involved on all that. He continues to build confidence.”
Another player who has had to deal with knee surgery, senior defensive lineman, has been playing this season, but is still trying to get back to last season’s form. Muschamp said that Lambert showed in improvement in Auburn’s previous two games, wins vs. San Jose State and Kentucky.
“He’s played his best two games his last two ball games,”?Muschamp said. “He played better and more firm in the run game. I think certainly having been through ACL surgeries before with players it sometimes takes a little confidence to get back in the swing, through the grind, going through the soreness, battling through the scare tissue through practice.
“We were real careful with him, which we needed to be in camp. We’re still not a full year out of his surgery so especially with a big guy it’s tough to get back off that. I think he’s continuing to gain more confidence in his knee and his play has been better.”
Lambert said the Tigers are focused on extending their winning streak to three games on Saturday in Fayetteville. “It starts at practice,”?he said. “The whole demeanor has changed at practice. People are coming out with energy, ready to play and that carried over to the game as well. It hasn't been like that since last season.”
Commenting on the defense, the lineman said, “I have seen a lot of fight, especially this last bye week.”
Lambert is getting closer to full speed as he continues to make progress in his recovery from knee surgery, which prematurely ended his junior season. “I’m getting back to that point,”?he said of his health. “I kind of feel like I’m right there--not too far away from it.”
The forecast for Saturday includes a high chance of heavy rain. Asked about that, Lambert said, “The weather is something we don't have control of so whatever the weather brings that is what we have to play in and we have to deal with it.”
In other news and notes:
*Auburn is very familiar with Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen, who is the SEC leader in career starts at his position with 31. Allen has a streak of 28 consecutive starts. The senior is sixth in school history in touchdown passes with 44, fifth in pass attempts with 819 and seventh in passing yards with 5,559.
Last season he completed 18-31 passes for 175 yards in a 45-21 loss to Auburn. He threw two touchdown passes and one interception in that game. This season Allen has completed 108-173 passes for 1,536 yards with 10 touchdowns and four interceptions.
*Junior Alex Collins is 10th in Arkansas history for rushing yards with 2,808 and eighth in career rushing attempts with 519. This season he has rushed for 682 yards and six touchdowns while averaging 5.5 yards per carry.
Alex Collins is shown in action against Alabama.
*Junior wide receiver Drew Morgan leads the Razorbacks in catches with 27, receiving yards with 428 and touchdowns with four. Junior tight end Hunter Henry is the second-leading receiver with 21 catches for 286 yards and one score.
*Kickoff time is set for shortly after 11 a.m. CDT as the Tigers take on Arkansas at Reynolds Razorback Stadium. TV coverage is on the SEC Network.
*The Auburn Radio Network broadcast will be carried on Sirius Channel 83 and XM Channel 190. Rod Bramblett will handle the play-play-play with Stan White the analyst, Andy Burcham the sideline reporter and Paul Ellen the studio host.
*The Tigers lead the series 13-10-1 and have a 6-4 record in games played at Fayetteville.
*Auburn walk-on Kevin Phillips heads into the second half of the season with an average of 43.5 yards per punt. Eleven of the junior’s punts have landed inside the 20-yard line and only three have been returned.
Arkansas has punted the ball 22 times for an average of 38.3 yards with one blocked. Opponents have seven returns with an average of 17.6 yards.
*Sophomore Daniel Carlson, who is 9-12 on field goals with the longest of 56 yards, has kicked off 29 times this year. Opponents have only four kickoff returns vs. the Tigers, the fewest of any team in the country.
Cole Hedlund of Arkansas is 5-8 on field goals with the longest a 27-yarder. He has had one kick blocked. The Razorbacks have kicked off 27 times this year and have just five touchbacks so there should be opportunities for the Tigers on returns. Auburn is second in the SEC in kickoff return average at 29.4 yards per attempt.
*The Arkansas offense has allowed the fewest quarterback sacks of any SEC team this season at five and they are last in the league for sacks generated by their defense with six in six games.
*One of the team captains for the Razorbacks is a junior from the state of Alabama, JaMicahel Winston, a 6-4, 262 defensive lineman who played at Vigor High in Prichard. He has four solo tackles and five assists with no sacks and one quarterback pressure this season as a junior.