McNeill Wary Of Wounded Razorbacks

All-SEC offensive tackle Marcus McNeill discusses the Tigers and their first road trip of the season.

Auburn, Ala.--Despite an embarrassing loss by the Razorbacks at Southern Cal, Auburn is taking its road trip to Arkansas quite seriously.

That is the contention of a variety of Auburn players, including senior offensive tackle Marcus McNeill, whose Tigers are off this weekend, but will be back in action for their first road trip of the season in Fayetteville next Saturday evening.

"We are definitely looking at Arkansas as another SEC team, another hard team to play against," McNeill says. "Even though their record might not show it I have noticed that their run stopping ability is very, very good. They stopped the run well against Alabama, and they really got after Alabama.

"We know going to Arkansas it is a hard place to play in Fayetteville," McNeill adds. "They are going to be amped and it is going to be a good game. We have really focused knowing that we have to prepare for Arkansas."

The Tigers have played six games in Fayetteville and have a 3-3 record at Razorback Stadium. McNeill remembers it being a tough place to play when the Tigers came away with a hard-fought 10-3 victory two seasons ago.

The Tigers played in Fayetteville two years ago after UA expanded its stadium to 72,000 seats and did upgrades throughout the facility, changing it from one of the worst stadiums in the league to one of the best.

McNeill, a 6-9, 338 senior, says he remembers his sophomore year road trip to Arkansas very well. "They kind of surprised us when they got the high definition jumbotron up there. That was crazy. I have never seen anything like that. That was probably one of the nicest stadiums I have ever been in in my life. We had a good game up there. We knew they were going to bring the crowd behind them because that is anywhere you go in the SEC."

Overall, Auburn is 8-5-1 vs. the Razorbacks following last year's 38-20 victory at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

"The key to being successful on the road is you definitely like to jump on them first," McNeill says. "We can't let the crowd get behind them, let them feed off the crowd and catch that momentum, then have to try and fight back into the game. You just want to jump on them early and get the crowd sitting down a lot and just really take it to them."

Marcus McNeill earned first team All-SEC honors as a junior.

Auburn is 4-1 overall and 2-0 in the SEC going into the 6 p.m. game at Fayetteville. The Razorbacks have a game this weekend at home vs. Louisiana-Monroe at War Memorial Stadium and will bring a 1-3 overall mark into the non-coherence game. In the league the Razorbacks have a 28-24 home loss to Vanderbilt and a 24-13 road loss to Alabama.

The Tigers have won four straight since a turnover-plagued opening night loss to Georgia Tech. In their last outing, the Tigers walloped South Carolina 48-7 and McNeill was named Offensive Player of the Game by the AU coaching staff.

McNeill says the Tigers are now a better team than they were vs. the Yellow Jackets.

"Every phase of our team has gotten better since opening night and that is the way it is going to be," he says. "The first game is going to be a real rusty game because you are not really back into game shape and stuff like that, but we really feel like we are coming along right where we need to be, and if we are going to be the offensive line is going to have to continue to produce."

The Tigers are expected to have a change in the starting offensive line group for the Arkansas game. Fifth-year senior Steven Ross, who had knee surgery late last season and a preseason hip flexor injury in August, is getting healthier and is expected to start at center ahead of Joe Cope.

"Steven is phenomenal athlete," McNeill says. "He went to center and has played guard and tackle so he is going to be able to play regardless of where you put him. Coming off of an ACL injury, he is doing a fantastic job." Ross has also played tight end for the Tigers.

McNeill, who first broke into the starting lineup on a part-time basis as a freshman in 2002, says he is still working to become a better tackle. "I am just trying to continue to work on my fundamentals, my technique and my footwork," he says. "Little things like that I feel can take me a long way, especially for an offensive lineman.

"You have to have fundamentals and technique to play this game as an offensive lineman. It is not all about athletic ability out there and that is what I am trying to work on. I know I have the athletic ability, but sometimes I have got to cancel the athletic ability part out and pay attention to my technique and fundamentals and that is really what is going to make me a great offensive lineman."

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