This time around it has been very different for the Auburn Tigers as a new offensive coordinator and numerous true freshman seeing action have changed the way practices have been run for the Chick-fil-A Bowl coming on New Year's Day against Clemson. Sophomore defensive end Antonio Coleman says things have been challenging for the team with some long and physical practices.
"It has actually been the same as we did in Auburn," Coleman says of the workouts in Atlanta. "We're going 22 periods. That's a lot compared to what we usually go. Maybe it's the offense or maybe they just want to work us hard. Going 22 periods lets us get a lot of work in.
"It's all good," Coleman adds. "We're preparing for a good team. There's nothing wrong with working two hours or two hours and a half. If it takes that to win a ball game then I'm all for it."
In order to come away with a victory over a talented Clemson team, Auburn will first have to stop the run on defense. That means handling the tandem of James Davis and C.J. Spiller, something Coleman says is easier said than done.
"Thunder and Lightning," Coleman says. "That name speaks for itself. They are two great running backs. They play a lot of different positions. You just have to recognize the formations and get out there and make plays."
Already this season Auburn has taken on a dominating ground game from Arkansas featuring a pair of running backs both among the national leaders in rushing yards. Facing Darren McFadden and Felix Jones Auburn more than held its own as the two combined for less than 100 yards. Coleman says this challenge is a little different because of the style of backs.
"McFadden is rare," Coleman says. "You rarely meet backs like that. He's a different breed. The two guys from Clemson are short and stocky guys that are real shifty. If you don't run straight through them they'll make you look like a fool. We saw that on film. You've got to put a hat on them and hopefully it will slow them down."
There will also be a change for the defense because of Auburn's new offensive philosophy for the bowl game. Out is the clock-chewing ground game employed by Al Borges and in is the spread attack of Tony Franklin. Coleman says that while it might mean more time on the field for the defense, the trade off of possibly getting more points to work with is worth it.
"If our offense gets out there and performs then they have the opportunity to put up a whole lot of points," Coleman says. "The defense gets on the field and we have the opportunity to make a whole lot of plays. When they score we get back on the field. That's what we're looking forward to."
An impressive performance could vault Auburn into the offseason and spring practice with a ton of momentum. That and the return of much of the majority of the team's talent on both sides of the ball could make for a fun time in 2008. Coleman says knowing that Pat Sims will be back to anchor what should be a stellar defensive line makes for good thoughts as the Tigers try to close out the season on a winning note.
"I didn't have to talk to him to know he's coming back," Coleman says of Sims. "He wants to play with us, me and Sen'Derrick (Marks). We're real close. There's no doubt in my mind he's coming back. I'm just glad to have him back."