That's the case for Auburn this week as the Tigers went through a physical two and a half hour workout in full pads Tuesday evening in preparation for Saturday's road opener against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.
With so many things to work on, the focus of the coaching staff was fundamentals. Offensively, that meant blocking, throwing and catching while the line worked on coming off the ball stronger and lower. Defensively, there were several points of emphasis, but Spencer Johnson said it all comes down to one important key.
"It all goes back to fundamentals," Johnson said. "After a game you just go back to the basics to get better. We'll watch the game and see what we didn't do as well as we should have. That's the thing we'll focus on this week to try and correct going into this game."
One focus has been on forcing turnovers. Last week the Trojans were never really close to turning the ball over. A key player for the Tigers since his freshman season, Johnson knows that is the one area that can be the difference between winning and losing on Saturdays.
"That's one of the biggest factors in being a great defense, creating turnovers," Johnson said. "That really helps our offense and gives us a little momentum. As many times as they get chances to score helps us also. That's one of the things that we're focusing on, stripping the ball and getting interceptions."
A different challenge awaits the Tigers this week in Atlanta as the Yellow Jackets enter with an offense led by true freshman quarterback Reggie Ball. A speedy player with the ability to beat you running or passing, Johnson said that will be Auburn's focus this week in preparing for Georgia Tech.
"The defense has a challenge ahead," Johnson said. "A quarterback that can scramble and throw the ball downfield is a pain for a defense to contain him and have to worry about the running backs and him passing the ball. We have to stay disciplined on defense and play our technique and just run to the football.
"They are big guys and they are a physical offensive line," Johnson added. "They do a lot of double teams and get after you. We can't really focus on what they do though, we just have to know what they do and focus on what we have to do to play the run, play the pass and contain their quarterback."
Bothered by a bruised foot, Johnson took part in about half of Tuesday's practice before heading inside for treatment. His absence was one of few on the day as quarterback Jason Campbell returned to the practice field full-time on Tuesday after missing part of Monday's practice with soreness. Offensive tackle Marcus McNeill, still nursing a bruised shin, worked on the side with Auburn trainers and should be back practicing on Wednesday. The same is true of freshman safety Will Herring, who was on the side, but should be back this week after getting knocked out of the USC game early with headaches. Coach Gene Chizik said it was good to see almost the full squad on the field preparing for the Yellow Jackets on a muggy Auburn day.
"It was a hot day and we looked a little bit sluggish out there at times," Chizik said. "We're getting back into the swing of it. Yesterday was a pretty physical day. We ran them pretty good yesterday so today they were a little bit sluggish, but they were trying to push through it."
Practicing in full pads, the Tigers spent the majority of the day on Georgia Tech after working on special teams for the first 30 minutes of the practice. Continuing to get work at both punt and kickoff returner are both Carnell Williams and Tre Smith and it wouldn't be surprising to see Williams get a look on punts this week to give the Yellow Jackets something to think about.
Chizik said a lot of the focus of Auburn's defensive game plan will be on Ball because of his playmaking abilities. Comparing him to a young Joe Hamilton, Chizik said this week's game would test his defense because of his versatility.
"He's a very talented young man, very athletic," he noted. "They are a one-back, two-back (offense) that mixes it up pretty good. Very much a pro-style offense, which you would expect with Coach (Chan) Gailey being there. They execute the offense real well. For a freshman going into a place like BYU to play, I thought Reggie Ball did a real nice job directing the offense. They're going to play hard and are very well coached. We've got our work cut out for us for sure."
" The Tigers will practice Wednesday and Thursday in Auburn and have a short walk-through on Friday before departing for Atlanta. Saturday's kickoff is scheduled for 2:30 CDT and can be seen on ABC television.