Changes Abound For Tigers To Begin Off Week

Coaches Gene Chizik and Hugh Nall talk about the position changes in Tuesday's practice and the addition of offensive consultant Zeke Bratkowski.

Auburn, Ala.--Coach Tommy Tuberville talked about looking at some changes on both sides of the ball during the off week, but there were changes for Tuesday's practice that few expected to see.

Sophomore Tre Smith, Auburn's third-team running back, was working at safety and true freshman Courtney Denson moved to the secondary as well at cornerback. Defensive Coordinator Gene Chizik said the moves are an effort to get Auburn's best players on the field as much as possible, but they might not be permanent.

"It's a real hard position to pick up," Chizik said of playing in the secondary. "It's going to take time. We're experimenting around with the move right now and certainly if they can help us then we'll keep them there and let them help our football team. It's an experimental thing right now with both of them.

"It's certainly not anything permanent that we feel like down the road is going to stay that way," Chizik added. "We need help at certain positions and we're looking for anybody on our football team that can help us at either one of those positions. We're taking a shot in the dark with Tre and Courtney right now."

Tre Smith and Courtney Denson work in defensive back drills on Tuesday.

A talented running back and Auburn's starting punt returner, Smith has been getting little action in Auburn's first three games and that's something the staff hopes to remedy with the move to defense. In Saturday's game against Vanderbilt Smith was on the field just seven offensive plays and had four carries. Those numbers should be more for a talented player like Smith and thus the look on defense this week.

While Smith's move is something that wasn't expected, the move of Denson has been talked about since his signing in February. Given a shot at quarterback this fall, his future is likely at defensive back for the time being because of his combination of size and quickness and also the lack of big play ability at the position for the Tigers.

In addition to the changes, there was also a visitor to the Auburn practice in the form of former Georgia and NFL quarterback Zeke Bratkowski. A former NFL coach who specializes in helping offensive staffs pinpoint problems and weaknesses, he has been contacted by the Tigers and is on the job to help straighten out the offensive problems that plagued Auburn each of the first two weeks. Offensive coordinator Hugh Nall said his expertise is very welcome and has been a true learning experience for everyone involved.

"He's a class act and a great gentleman," Nall said. "I've really enjoyed it. He's helped me. I've asked him everything from the way we break down film to the way we set our practice schedule to the way we set our game plans. The man has been around a long time and he's seen a lot of football snaps. It has been a lot of fun to be around him just to listen to him. It's been good."

While he has helped to make some minor changes in the offense, Nall said one of the biggest things for him this week was a vote of confidence from Bratkowski regarding the offense. After watching the first three games on film and taking a lot at practice videos, he told Nall they were close to getting the job done.

Coach Tommy Tuberville and Zeke Bratkowski watch over Tuesday's practice.

"We were close on a lot of things that we were doing and what we wanted to do," Nall said. "I think he's helped us focus on some things from what he's seen. When somebody has been around that long and played that much football and coached that much football you better listen. He's helped us a bunch. I don't know how much it will change what we're doing. We might narrow what we're doing now more."

Following two days off to rest from Saturday's 45-7 victory over the Vanderbilt Commodores, the Auburn Tigers returned to the practice fields Tuesday for the first of three practices this week in full pads. With the off week, the team will focus on improving fundamentally this week, but Coach Chizik said things didn't get off to a good start in Tuesday's practice on defense.

"Actually it was kind of sluggish I thought," Chizik said. "It wasn't as sharp as I would have liked it to have been. I don't really know what the problem was today, but I was expecting it to be more crisp than it was. We have to get back out there and make some strides tomorrow because I don't think we made any today."

The team will practice Wednesday and again Thursday before taking Friday and Saturday off to enjoy the weekend. Auburn plays host to Western Kentucky on Sept. 27th with the kickoff set for 4 p.m.


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