Ivan Already Affecting Auburn's Game With LSU

Coach Gene Chizik talks about Auburn's preparations for LSU and the practice schedule the remainder of the week.

Auburn, Ala.--With hurricane Ivan bearing down on the Gulf Coast, the Auburn Tigers took advantage of some sunny weather to get outdoors before Saturday's game against LSU. Practicing for over two hours in full pads, the team worked on all phases of the game with an added emphasis on special teams. Coach Gene Chizik said that it was a good practice day for the team as they prepare for a tough opponent in LSU.

"We certainly have to get a lot better to play with these guys," Chizik said. "Today I thought we had a pretty spirited practice for the most part. It was just preparation as usual. We've got to really do a lot better job of coaching the little things, much more so than we did last year at this time. We just have to go out there and play the game hard and do what we're coached to do.

"Just being able to get out there and see some of their pass game, those are the things you can't get when you practice indoors," Chizik added. "It was big to get out there today and hopefully we'll be able to get out there tomorrow for one more day. We'll just see what happens."

After playing well last week following a tough week of practice, the Tigers got after it again in practice on Tuesday with a very physical day of drills and team work. Coach Tommy Tuberville said it was a tough day, but one that was needed as his team gets ready for what could be the strongest test of the year.

Offensive tackle Marcus McNeill said Tuesday's practice was a very physical and good practice that featured the one offense versus the two defense and vice versa. He said it was a good day and one with a lot of energy.

Because of the threat of serious weather in the Auburn area, classes have been cancelled beginning Wednesday morning. That will allow the Tigers to practice once more before the rain is expected to hit Auburn sometime Wednesday afternoon or night. Auburn will practice at 11 a.m. on Wednesday and play it by ear after that Tuberville said.

"We're changing the schedule and practice in the morning because it's supposed to rain in the afternoon," Tuberville said. "With school out we'll have a normal practice on Wednesday and just get it out of the way so we can concentrate on getting prepared for the hurricane coming Wednesday night. We'll try to do something Thursday depending on the weather. School is out and we want to make sure the team is safe and prepared for the hurricane as well as everybody else."

Auburn Athletic Director David Housel said that there will be a final decision made on the game, but it could be as late as Friday before Auburn knows whether the game is still on. They are going to take all factors into account before deciding one way or another.

"There has not been a decision made on the game," Housel said. "We are going to wait until the storm goes through, assess the damage, assess the number of people we can have here with police officers, to help us put on the game. If we have enough people and the damage isn't so severe where we still have power and the essentials, then we intend to play.

We want to wait until we have all the nformation we can, so we can make the right, educated decision, not a quick decision that might be wrong. People will be inconvenienced, there's no doubt about it. People will have to work together. Everybody is going to have to work together and be tolerant of one another and come earlier and understand that it is not going to be a normal gameday. But, we intend to play the game if it's playable and we can get the resources we need to do it. LSU has been most cooperative in this. All the rumors about them trying to force the conference office to play on Nov. 6 are in my opinion, unfounded. The people I've talked to down there have said, 'You just tell us when to play, we'll be there.' They, like us, are looking at various options in terms of travel which you have to do. There has been no consideration at this point to move this game to any other date. We're just going to get all the information and assess the situation."

Chizik said that without classes it will give the team a chance to get more work in by watching films and becoming more acquainted with the LSU team. "As far as I know it's going to be business as usual," Chizik said. "As far as I'm concerned we're going to prepare like we always prepare and if we have a little extra time to do some things I'm sure we'll take advantage of it."

True freshman defensive tackle Pat Sims returned to practice on Tuesday and took part in drills on the day. Still showing signs of a limp after spraining his ankle eight days ago in a tough Monday practice, Sims is still doubtful this weekend, but could return in time for the Citadel game in two weeks. Defensive end Marquies Gunn was riding an exercise bike on the side during Tuesday's practice and should be back for this weekend.

After watching the tapes of Auburn's easy 43-14 victory over Mississippi State from last Saturday, Chizik said that he was pleased with the overall effort of his team. Despite giving up two last scores with the second and third-teamers playing exclusively, he said that things are pretty much on schedule for this defense heading into the LSU game.

"I was proud of the way our guys played," Chizik said. "I thought they played hard. I thought they tried to play within what we were trying to do. We gave up two at the end there, but for the most part our defense as a whole was trying to execute our defense, play hard and execute the game plan as called for. I was happy with that."

Through two games Chizik has been able to see many of the young players in action because of the leads Auburn has had in each. Because of that several players have caught his eye as guys he wants to get in the games as much as possible this season as the Tigers try to build the depth necessary to compete in the SEC.

"I think I probably should have played Eric Brock more on Saturday," Chizik said. "Eric is really coming on and doing some good things, which is very pleasant. Tony Bell is a guy that I have to try to work in there a little bit more probably. Those are the two that jump out there right now at me. Wayne Dickens had a good game, but we play him a good bit. That was good to see as well."

The depth up front is limited with just four players in the rotation at tackle and noseguard for Coach Don Dunn. Because of that true freshman Neil Brown has worked at both defensive end and tackle this week and saw some action at tackle against MSU. Chizik said he's an unusual freshman, but one that can help them this season.

"We're in game two and we already see what happens when you get in games," Chizik said of the 250-pound Brown. "Your defensive line gets tired, beat up and all that. You have to have some extra guys in there. He'll be able to swing both ways. He's a fighter. He's going to be a really good football player here. He's just a guy that we know, toughness-wise, can go in there and play both. Mentally, believe it or not, as a freshman he can handle it."

Auburn will practice Wednesday morning at 11 a.m. and Thursday play it by ear as Ivan moves closer to the Plains. Saturday's kickoff is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. and can be seen on CBS television.

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