Auburn, Ala.--Following an off day because of Monday's Labor Day holiday, the Tigers got back to work with an afternoon practice in shells as they begin preparing for the Mississippi State Bulldogs. Coach Will Muschamp says that while he was pleased with his team's performance in the opener they've got plenty to work on this week to get ready for SEC play.
"I think they were an explosive offense and through the year you're going to see that they'll score a lot of points," Muschamp says of Washington State. "They've got a lot of weapons at wideout and the quarterback and back-up quarterbacks are good players. They'll do a good job up front of covering their linemen up. They cut us in the second half and we had a hard time getting pressure on the quarterback.
"We had a good physical practice which is how you need to practice when you face Mississippi State," Muschamp adds. "It's good to get back in the SEC and play a familiar foe and a familiar team. We're looking forward to it."
While the defense did a great job shutting down the powerful Washington State offense there were some busts in coverage and several missed tackles, which are normal for a first game. "We didn't tackle as well as I wanted to," Muschamp says. "We missed 11 tackles but it is the first ball game. We gave up 20 yards after contact. That is disappointing but we'll improve. We've got to get better."
Singling out linebackers Will Herring and Karibi Dede as well as defensive tackle Pat Sims for their production in the opener, Muschamp says that he needs to get better play out of the entire defense and in particular at safety where Tristan Davis made a move on Eric Brock after his performance Saturday night.
"Tristan played well," Muschamp says. "When he was in there for 15 snaps he did some good things. He got dinged up on our sidelines on a big hit. We rewarded him for that. It was a big lick and especially being a third-down stop. Eric and Aairon (Aairon Savage) both had their moments. They did a good job of communicating for the most part through the night and we'll improve a lot from game one to game two.
"He (Tristan) and Eric are bracketed with the first team right now," Muschamp adds. "Whoever practices the best will start Saturday. The same thing (with Pat Sims). Whoever practices the best (between Sims and Sen'Derrick Marks) will start Saturday."
Offensively Coach Al Borges says he was pleased with the play of his unit on a night when the Tigers were determined to be the most physical team on the field. A decision made by the coaching staff to be more physical coming off last season's bowl loss to Wisconsin was apparent Saturday night as the Tigers pounded the Cougars on the ground.
Running back Kenny Irons pounded Washington State in the opener but will have a tough task matching his running total against the Bulldogs.
Borges says he was pleased with the play of quarterback Brandon Cox and the receivers despite a lack of production from the outside guys. It's a safe bet that the Tigers will be looking to get those players more involved this week against a Mississippi State defense that is very tough against the run.
The health of the team couldn't be better after one week of action as several players are banged up but with the exception of Steve Gandy and Darrell Roseman as of Monday no one is out for this week's game. Fullback Michael McLaughlin still hasn't been cleared but that could change this week.
The defensive coaching staff has some additional work this week with the injury to Mississippi State starting quarterback Michael Henig. He was replaced against South Carolina by athletic redshirt freshman Tray Rutland and he showed a strong arm and some elusiveness in the pocket. Muschamp says the Tigers will have to alter some of their preseason work on the Bulldogs because of the change at quarterback.
"I think this guy has a live arm," Muschamp says. "He's got good scrambling ability. He's got a good feel for the pocket. His first pass should have been a 30-yard completion on a corner route. He hit him right on the money. They've got a deep threat in number 9 (Keon Humphries) from Sidney Lanier. He's a kid that can vertically stretch the field. It's going to be a great opportunity over in Starkville."
The Tigers will practice Tuesday morning as they continue to work towards the first road game of the year Saturday at Mississippi State. Kickoff for the game is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. and can be seen on Lincoln Financial Sports. While Auburn used little depth in Saturday night's win, you may see more players in action this week because of the early start but Muschamp says it depends on how well those players perform in practice this week.
"The guys that are game ready are going to play," Muschamp says. "It's to our advantage that we practice at 9:30 in the morning. We're going to be out there about the same time we practice. We can use this to our advantage."