Tigers Busy Getting Ready For Bulldogs

Coaches Gene Chizik and Hugh Nall talk about Tuesday's practice and getting ready for Georgia.

Auburn, Ala.–-With the No. 5 Georgia Bulldogs coming to town this weekend, the third-ranked Auburn Tigers (9-0, 6-0) practiced for two hours on Tuesday as they continue to polish the gameplan for Saturday's showdown in Jordan-Hare Stadium. Defensive coordinator Gene Chizik said the day was a good one for the team as it gets ready for the toughest test of the season to date.

"Today I thought it was a pretty crisp practice," Chizik said. "Certainly the weather helped. It was pretty cool. The week off obviously helps as we're trying to get their legs back underneath them. They were really attentive and really focused today. I just hope we can do that for the next two days, but right now they're in a good frame of mind."

There was good news for the offense on Tuesday as starting center Jeremy Ingle practiced with the first team and appeared to be moving fine in drills. The line spent much of the early practice on the blocking sleds and Ingle got through the drills without any problems. Back-up Steven Ross had surgery on Monday to repair and torn ACL. Senior Danny Lindsey worked as Ingle's back-up on Tuesday along with walk-on Joe Cope. Offensive line coach Hugh Nall said it was good to have Ingle back on the field to get everyone settled back in to their original line spots.

"It was good to have him back just from a leadership standpoint, having him up there making the calls," Nall said. "Not just him back, but Danny back at guard and the whole group back together.

"He (Ingle) seemed to be doing okay," Nall added. "When we look at the film we'll tell more. I don't know (how much they can count on him) until Saturday comes."

Defensively both Jay Ratliff and Tommy Jackson were moving well after taking some time off last week to rest minor injuries. Both went full speed on a day when the defensive line was very spirited and vocal on the practice field. Linebacker Kevin Sears is also close to 100 percent after bruising a shoulder two weeks ago against Ole Miss.

Gene Chizik and safety Junior Rosegreen hug after the Tennessee win earlier this season.

Georgia's offense will be led by quarterback David Greene, the general of an explosive passing game. The Bulldogs are capable of hitting big plays to receivers Fred Gibson and Reggie Brown as well as tight end Leonard Pope. Chizik said the concerns at cornerback make this a tough game for the Tigers, but he's hoping that the challenge thrown down in practice the last two weeks to Montae Pitts, Zach Gilbert, Patrick Lee and Kevin Hobbs will be answered on Saturday.

"We're still fighting it out," Chizik said of the starting job opposite Carlos Rogers and corner. "It's probably going to be a game time decision on what we do. I would say there's a good chance more than one will play a good bit. We'll get into the game and see if a rotation is better or if one guy gets hot and is playing well. We're really just playing that by ear at this point.

"I would just say that position hasn't met my expectations the last few weeks and I'm not going to live real long with that," he adds. "I'm not going to identify a problem and not try to solve it and I see a problem there. We're working to solve it and they're working to solve it. They're really approaching it very professionally. They understand what's on the line and they understand nobody is a shoo in for the job. They're working knowing that and having that in mind. They're all trying to work and be the guy and that's what I expected them to do."

With the uncertainty in the secondary Auburn will look to play its normal game against an opponent like Georgia. Since he's been on the Plains, Chizik has preached to stop the run and not get beat deep. Tuesday he said that's again the plan for facing a potent Georgia offense this weekend.

"Our main objective is don't get beat deep," Chizik said. "If we have to play off all day long so we don't get run by and scored on by a deep ball, in a game like this big plays break your back. Go back to the LSU game when they scored all those points, it was all on big plays. LSU isn't known for giving those up, but that day they did. I think that was a backbreaker. It destroys confidence and destroys the confidence of other people on your defense. That's my main objective. If they're going to score it's going to be a 15, 12, 14 play drive, that's what it's got to be. They can't go out there in three plays and score on us right now or we're in trouble."

The problem in that theory is trying to slow down an improving Georgia running game at the same time. Georgia enters Saturday's game averaging 174.1 yards on the ground per game with Danny Ware at 77.9 yards and Thomas Brown rushing for 75.1. The two have combined for 11 touchdowns this season and Chizik said that slowing down the running game is a must this week to help control Greene and the play-action passing game.

"They have a very, very good running game," Chizik said. "They've had some troubles trying to keep people healthy at that position, but it really hasn't seemed to affect their running game. They're running the ball well and it doesn't matter who's carrying it. The offensive line is blocking well. They're knocking holes in there for everybody. Obviously that's what complicates all their play-action game.

"You have to make a decision if you want to stop the run with eight. If you do then you're leaving your corners out there by themselves. If you want to try to stop the run with seven, are you good enough to stop the run with seven? That's what it boils down to. It's not hard. That's what it is."

Auburn will practice Wednesday and Thursday before heading out of town Friday afternoon. Kickoff for Saturday's game is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. and can be seen nationally on CBS Television.


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