Photo by Jason Caldwell

Auburn Putting the Finishing Touches On Preparations for the 2016 Football Season Opener

News, notes and quotes from the Tigers are featured as Auburn continues preparations for Saturday's home football game vs. Clemson.

Sean White (above) is Auburn's No. 1 quarterback to open the season.

Auburn, Ala.--With Saturday night’s Clemson game just around the corner, the Auburn Tigers worked out for approximately two hours on Wednesday evening rehearsing the offensive and defensive game plans for their 2016 football season opener.

“They are tired of practicing, there is no question, but the focus has been very good, which you expect it to be coming up your first game and you get closer to game time and they know it,” Offensive Coordinator Rhett Lashlee said. 

“They are locked in,” he said. “It hasn’t been perfect, but the focus and the urgency has been good. We have got to go out and play. It is one thing to do it in practice and another thing to do it in a game.”

Lashlee, who doubles as the position coach for the quarterbacks, said that starter Sean White and his backups, Jeremy Johnson and John Franklin, have had solid weeks of practice.

“I have liked the way he has carried himself,” the coach said of White, a redshirt sophomore who closed the 2015 season as the starter. White won a three-player competition to direct the No. 1 offense that ended when he was named the starting QB six days ago. 

“There is just a natural sense of confidence that comes with that, when you know you’re the guy and you can kind of have that release to go ahead and prepare that way,” Lashlee said of White. “He has done a nice job. Really, all those guys have done a good job this week with the level of focus and attention to detail. We have just got to carry it over to the field.”

Lashlee noted that having new offensive line coach Herb Hand spotting from the press box is a good thing for the Tigers. Hand had previously been a co-offensive coordinator with current AU head coach Gus Malzahn when that pair worked together at Tulsa in 2007 and 2008.

“I think it will be huge,”?Lashlee said of having Hand’s expertise watching from above. “I think it is something he has done in the past.”

Hand made the move to Auburn this season from Penn State to reunite with Malzahn. 

“It is probably unusual to have an offensive line coach doing it,” Lashlee said of Hand working from the press box during games. “He is very comfortable doing it.

“Herb is a great football mind,” the offensive coordinator added. “He thinks the game like we do. He is good at situational stuff.

“The way we run our offense you like to be on the field in terms of playing the game and calling the game. I know for me I like to be down there with the quarterbacks to be able to look them in the eye, feel things--all of those things. To have somebody up there that knows the offense and knows how we do things will be big for us.”

Photo by Jason Caldwell

Herb Hand spent the previous two seasons at Penn State where he coached the offensive line.

Lashlee noted that one of the biggest challenges for the offense on Saturday night will be dealing with an aggressive Clemson defense that features a lot of good athletes. His boss, Malzahn, pointed out on Wednesday that the challenge is a major one in defending Clemson’s offense, which is led by Heisman Trophy candidate Deshaun Watson, who Malzahn noted the Tigers tried to sign. Malzahn called Watson a “phenomenal” player.

Auburn’s head coach said another junior on the Clemson offense, running back Wayne Gallman, has caught his attention. A 6-1, 205 junior from Loganville, Ga., Gallman rushed for 1,527 yards and 13 touchdowns last season. “The running back is very, very impressive and sometimes is getting overlooked in the big picture,” Malzahn said. 

Gallman will likely be highly motivated to do well. He was very interested in attending Auburn, but did not get an offer from the SEC program.

John Bolton

Wayne Gallman is shown in action during last season's national championship game.

Auburn’s head coach had high praise for his team’s opening night opponent. “They may be one of the best offenses in college football,” Malzahn said of Clemson.

“Defensively, they do a very good job of taking away what an offense’s strength is,” Malzahn added. “It ought to be a good one. First games are always about adjustments and I?am  looking forward to watching our guys perform.”

In other news and notes:

*Freshman wide receiver Kyle Davis, who was finally cleared to practice last week after missing spring training and much of preseason with injuries, is “coming along,” according to Lashlee.

“I?have been pleased,” the coordinator said. “After the first day or two back I think his conditioning has really improved, which is kind of the number one concern. I?haven’t really seen any side effects to the injury (foot) so he is coming along nicely and doing some good things.”

Photo by Jason Caldwell

Kyle Davis is a four-star signee in Auburn's 2016 recruiting class.

*Clemson is the first of nine opponents on Auburn’s schedule that played in a bowl game last season. Auburn has an all-time record of 34-13-2 vs. the ACC team and is 20-4 vs. Clemson in games played with AU as the home team.

*Auburn is 121-75-9 all-time vs. teams that are currently members of the Atlantic Coast Conference. Clemson was undefeated in the ACC last season.

*Auburn’s record is 95-26-2 in season openers as the Tigers head into their 124th year of college football. Gus Malzahn is 3-0 in openers as Auburn’s head coach.

*Clemson, which defeated Coach Gene Chizik’s team 26-19 in 2012 in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic in Atlanta, was the last opponent to defeat Auburn in a season opener.

*Malzahn’s team opened the 2015 season vs, an ACC opponent, defeating Louisville 31-24 in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic.

*Kickoff for Saturday’s game is scheduled for shortly after 8 p.m. CDT and it will be televised by ESPN. Brent Musburger will do the play by play with Jesse Palmer the analyst.

*The Auburn Network’s radio broadcast can be heard locally in Auburn at a new location this year, 93.9 FM. It is also available on Sirius channel 146 and XM 191. The broadcast crew is the same except for Ronnie Brown handling the sideline reporter duties in place of Quentin Riggins, who decided to retire from that role. Rod Bramblett will do the play by play with Stan White the analyst, Paul Ellen the studio host and Andy Burcham the locker room show host.

*The game will also be carried by the Touchdown Radio network.

*At No. 2 nationally, Clemson is the highest ranked opening day opponent for Auburn along with the 1952 Maryland Terps, who won that matchup 14-7 in a game played in Birmingham.

*Auburn’s all-time record vs. ranked non-SEC opponents is 14-17 overall and 10-6 in games played at Auburn.

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