The players most likely to see action vs. Clemson on opening night went full speed with the ones vs. the ones and twos vs. the twos, but there was no tackling allowed in those four five-minute periods in which the Tigers worked on down and distance situations.
At the end of practice there was 11 on 11 work with tackling for down the line guys on the depth chart. The Tigers also spent time on the kicking game.
“First games you are always concerned about special teams,” Malzahn said. “You look at the history of first games, there is always a big play or two on special teams that usually has a direct outcome in the game.
“I think as you are narrowing things down and you start to game plan the little things, the timing and everything usually gets a little cleaner, especially with the young guys,”?he said. “The young guys that will be on the field helping us this first game, as we condense things down, I’m really looking for those guys to get more confidence and be more reactive instead of having to think.”
The Tigers practiced both indoors and outdoors on Saturday after spending a lot of time indoors recently due to rain and lightning.
“I thought our energy was really good,”?Malzahn said. “It was good to be outside again. It was pretty hot, which we are starting to get used to the heat. You can tell the difference with our guys as far as focus and energy level.
“The first game, obviously I know it’s at night it will be extremely humid. I think we are in really good physical condition as far as that goes.” The Tigers will take on a Clemson team on Sept. 3rd that will come to Jordan-Hare Stadium ranked No. 2 nationally.
Malzahn used the word “good” to describe the practice and noted Auburn’s focus will turn more towards the game planning to play the visitors from the ACC.
The coach said he is seeing signs his Tigers will be improved on defense this season. “I just think it's understanding their assignments,”?he said. “I just think it's understanding what their responsibility is within the defense and making adjustments.
“Every year first games are usually about adjustments. They have all summer and spring to kind of plan, and you've got to have a system in all three phases that is able to adjust.
“Our defense gets more and more confidence each day just understanding their responsibilities and how everything works together, and that's really been one of the positive things from my standpoint from what I have seen. I thought they did a solid job in the spring, but we have improved in fall camp.
In other news and notes:
*The Tigers will practice on Sunday and be off on Monday.
*Graduate transfer cornerback Marshall Taylor is expected to join the team in the coming week, the head coach said. He started last season at Miami of Ohio and has yet to practice yet due to what Malzahn said are personal reasons. I don't exactly what day, but we expect him to be back,”?Malzahn said.
Taylor did work out with Auburn players over the summer prior to the start of formal team practices. Asked how long it would take to get the cornerback ready to contribute, Malzahn said, “We will just have to wait and see how everything progresses. It's hard to say right now.”
*Malzahn noted that the coaches gave quarterbacks Sean White, John Franklin and Jeremy Johnson reps with the first team on Saturday. “All three are rolling their sleeves up and competing,” noted Malzahn, who has yet to give a specific time on when he will announce the starter for the Clemson game.
*Freshman running back Malik Miller earned praise on Saturday. “Malik has been one of our more improved guys from spring to fall,”?Malzahn said. “ He is a leaner. He is faster. The physical part of the game, he enjoys, and that's always important for young guys. He will be in the mix for helping us on special teams and he's getting more and more comfortable playing the tailback position.
*Malzahn confirmed what offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee mentioned on Thursday that the starting five on the offensive line are Alex Kozan and Braden Smith at guard, Xavier Dampeer at center with Robert Leff and Austin Golson at tackle.“That's a group that's gelling,” Malzahn said.