Working on all phases of the game, both the offense and defense used Tuesday as a day to improve. While much of the weeks leading up to games is spent on game plans for the opposition, Coach Gene Chizik said days like Tuesday are when teams can get truly better on the field and eventually better on game days.
"Days like these, it's like we tell these guys, this day can not be a "let's get by day"," Chizik said. "It's hot out there and nobody likes Tuesday's because it's contact and it's hot and it's full pads and you're out there forever. But, you can't be counting the clock. You can't be counting the minutes. You're going to be out there. When you're out there it's a day of preparation because on Saturday it's all about how you prepare during the week. They have to get out of the funk if they're in a funk because everybody has different days.
"They have to get out there on Tuesday and make it a day committed to getting better and learning the opponent and not just saying that. Don't be clock watching and counting the minutes because you don't get anything out of that. Football practice isn't fun all the time, but I think they understand it's a necessary evil because you have to get out there to get better and practice is the only way to do it. They try to push through it and do it right. I think they're trying to do it better than (any team) I've been with, even the last two years here."
This season Auburn's defense has been outstanding through five games. First in the SEC in scoring defense, second in total defense and pass defense and third against the run, the Tigers have been solid in all phases of the game. Auburn is just one of three teams in the country, along with Nebraska and Wisconsin, that hasn't allowed a rushing touchdown this season. Despite the lack of starting experience returning for this season, Chizik said he felt like all along this unit had a chance to be very good when all the pieces fell into place.
"I really thought all along, once we got the continuity, that once we got the players that were going to play on Saturday in the right spot that we would be good," Chizik said. "The problem was I never knew from one minute to the next who was going to be in there and who wasn't (during preseason practice). I felt like once we got everything established we had a chance to be good. We're not great by any stretch of the imagination at all. We've been playing good at times. I think the correct word for us right now is opportunistic. We don't play great all the time, but I think we play good at the right time. I think that's probably more important."
Steven Ross snaps to Wesley Hill at an earlier practice. Ross could see lots of action this Saturday against the Bulldogs.
Chizik's defense will need to be good this weekend when they square off with the dangerous Louisiana Tech Bulldogs Saturday afternoon in Jordan-Hare Stadium. Led by standout runner Ryan Moats, they have been dangerous on offense this season and are coming off an upset win over 17th-ranked Fresno State on Saturday. Chizik said his defense will have its hands full with the Bulldogs this weekend.
"They're really a very dangerous team," Chizik said. "I'm not trying to be cliche-ish or any of that stuff. They are a very, very good offensive football team. Everybody knows about their tailback. He's the real deal and can play at any level. He'll be the best running back we've faced to this point this year, in my opinion. He's rushing for 185 yards a game and when he gets his hands on the football he's dangerous at all times.
"That's going to be the target for what we're trying to do this week. You have to stop him and the play-actions and boots off of what they do with him. Their offensive line makes holes for him and he's got great vision. They don't even have to make holes for him. Even when things aren't there he makes positive things out of potentially negative things. It's going to be a tough football game. It's going to be a knock down, drag out. It will have to be the best tackling football job we've done all year."
Auburn's injury situation is about as good as you could hope for through five games of the season. One question mark is center Jeremy Ingle. He injured his left shoulder in Saturday's 34-10 win over Tennessee and didn't have any contact on Tuesday. His status will be evaluated throughout the week before a decision is made on whether or not he'll play against Louisiana Tech. If he's unable to go then Steven Ross would likely get his first start at center.
Running backs Tre Smith and Brad Lester again sat out of practice, Smith with a sore shoulder and Lester with a foot injury. Coach Tommy Tuberville said that Smith is day-to-day with his shoulder and is questionable for this weekend. Lester is doubtful to play any more this season and could be a candidate for a medical redshirt season.
The continued emphasis on special teams play was apparent during Tuesday's practice as Coach Eddie Gran put the team through the paces on punt protection and punt returns. Already this season the extra work has paid dividends as the Tigers have gotten better each week in all phases of the kicking game, culminating with an outstanding performance against Tennessee last weekend.
Auburn will practice Wednesday and Thursday and have a short walk through on Friday in preparation for Saturday's contest. Kickoff is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. and there is a Pay-Per-View telecast available in Alabama and Louisiana to cable subscribers and small dish owners who subscribe to Dish Network and Direct TV. Contact your local cable company or dish provider to order the game. Home dish owners contact 1-800-TV-STARS to order the game.
Tiger Ticket Extra:
The parade of NFL scouts continues at Auburn practices this fall as five teams were represented at Tuesday's practice. Representatives from the Buffalo Bills, Chicago Bears, Houston Texans, New York Giants and the Pittsburgh Steelers were all on hand to check out Auburn's talent in preparation for the NFL Draft next year.