SEAN WHITE (PHOTO BY JASON CALDWELL)

Auburn Coach Gus Malzahn Says He's "Hopeful" On His Football Team's Health

News and notes on the Auburn football Tigers are featured as they prepare for Saturday's road game at Alabama.

Sean White (above) is a redshirt sophomore quarterback for the Tigers.

Auburn, Ala.--As Auburn returned to the football practice field on Monday preparing for Saturday’s road trip to face No. 1 Alabama, Coach Gus Malzahn used the word “hopeful” to describe his team’s injury situation.

The offense has been without its leading rusher, Kamryn Pettway for the past two games.

The starting quarterback and top passer, Sean White, missed Saturday night’s 55-0 victory over Alabama A&M and was limited in throwing the ball a week earlier vs. Georgia.

“It is really about him being healthy enough to run the offense and protect himself,” Malzahn said about White’s situation as he tries to recover from a shoulder injury. “It is really as simple as that. Hopefully, we can make a call on that sooner rather than later in the week. We have a plan for both.”

The plan in the home finale as White watched from the sidelines was to start senior Jeremy Johnson and play junior John Franklin as the backup.

The only offensive player ruled out this week who has played regularly in recent games is senior wide receiver Marcus Davis, who has a broken collarbone. Defensive Coordinator Kevin Steele noted he is hopeful the Tigers will have most of their guys ready for Saturday’s game in Tuscaloosa.

Kickoff is set for 2:30 p.m. CST as Auburn looks to improve on its 8-3 overall record and 5-2 SEC mark.

Commenting on the big picture health-wise, Malzahn said, “I will put it this way--we’re hopeful. We really won’t know until probably after Tuesday’s practice and possibly Wednesday’s practice. Thursday we will have a very good idea.

“We have some guys that we held out, we have guys who are little banged up,” he added. “They have been in the training room 24/7 trying to get back on the field. Later in the week we will have a better idea.”

Auburn’s coach had praise for Alabama’s defense. “Their pass rush is very impressive. They have really disrupted a lot of things and created a bunch of turnovers, and created a bunch of touchdowns on defense. That is really what stands out.

“Offensively, I think it really starts with their quarterback (Jalen Hurts),” Malzahn said. “He is like a running back. He has done a super job. He has made good decisions. That is real impressive for a true freshman. What he has done this year, he has thrown the ball pretty efficiently, too, and they have got some playmakers at wide receiver.

“Overall, it is a very solid team,” Malzahn added. “Their kicker is solid and their punter is one of the best in the country. They are deserving of their ranking.”

The Tigers head into Saturday’s game with 65 deflected passes, which leads the nation. One of the reasons for that is defensive linemen have been getting their hands into the passing lanes.

In last Saturday night’s game tackle Dontavius Russell deflected a pass off the helmet of Alabama A&M’s quarterback and the ball bounced to Montravius Adams for an interception. That set up Auburn’s second touchdown in the 55-0 victory.

Steele said part of the reason for the deflections is because Tigers have “active, athletic guys” playing at the line of scrimmage and they are taught to knock down passes by their position coach, Rodney Garner.

“Rodney does a good job of working with pressuring the passer, the pass rush,” the defensive coordinator said. “Obviously, we’re working for sacks, but more importantly, we’re working to affect the quarterback, and one of the ways to affect the quarterback is to get your hands up and bat balls.”

In other news and notes:

*On Monday junior Daniel Carlson was named one of three finalists for the Lou Groza Award that goes to college football’s top kicker. Carlson continues to lead the nation in touchback percentage at 84.1 percent. He has hit 22-25 field goals this season. His career field goal percentage of .829 ranks No. 1 in Auburn history and No. 4 in SEC history.

DANIEL CARLSON (PHOTO BY JASON CALDWELL)

Daniel Carlson is in his third season as a starter for the Tigers.

*Saturday’s game will be televised on CBS beginning at 2:30 p.m. from Bryant-Denny Stadium.

*Alabama leads the series 44-35-1 and has won the last two matchups. The Tigers have won seven of the 10 times the teams have played in Tuscaloosa.

*The Tigers lead the SEC in fewest penalty yards going into Saturday’s contest at 35.73 yards per game, which ranks No. 7 nationally.

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