Tigers Eager to Get Back on the Field

A report on the football Tigers is featured as Auburn opens preseason practice.

Auburn, Ala.--With Auburn scheduled to hit the practice field for the first preseason workout on Wednesday evening, a variety of Tigers say they are excited to be moving into the final phase of preparations for the 2009 season.

Head coach Gene Chizik notes that he is glad that the players are excited and says he and the rest of the new Auburn coaching staff feel the same way.

"It is kind of an eight months of waiting type of situation," Chizik says. "I think our guys are very focused and very ready to get this going. It has been eight months of a lot of preparation and a lot of hard work, and they have done that for us."

Gene Chizik addresses his Tigers on Tuesday evening.

Last year the Tigers were the favorites to win the SEC West, but struggled to a 5-7 record with only two conference victories. This year the expectations outside the program are significantly lower. However, veteran Auburn players like Ryan Pugh say their goals are just as high as ever.

"I think if we can keep everybody healthy, this can turn into a special season," says Pugh, who notes that he is up to 6-3, 295 pounds. That is 22 pounds more than he weighed at this time last year going into the 2008 season during which he split time between center and right tackle. This season he is hoping to be a full-time center.

"I think the extra weight will help me and I think the other guys (on the offensive line) who have gained weight will be helped by that, too," Pugh adds. "I think it will help us stay healthy, it will help our endurance in the long run and will help us get some movement up front."

Ryan Pugh and his teammates hope to have more victories to get excited about this season.

Senior defensive end Antonio Coleman is being counted on to be a key player as a returning All-SEC performer. Like Pugh, he is eager to get back on the practice field.

"I think we have a lot of athletic defensive ends so we are going to be a multiple defense," Coleman says. "We are going to run a 3-4 and we are going to run a 4-3. Coach (Ted) Roof has a lot great things in store for us."

Antonio Coleman will be counted on to pressure quarterbacks again this season.

Roof is Auburn's new defensive coordinator, who made the move from the University of Minnesota earlier this year. He will also coach the linebackers.

Coleman says the Tigers will hit the practice field in good condition on Wednesday evening. "Coach (Kevin) Yoxall has worked us hard the whole off-season, the hardest since I have been here. I think we are in top-notch shape."

The Tigers are scheduled to work out every day until they take a break for Fan Day on Sunday, August 16th. The first two-a-days workout is scheduled for Monday.

One of the newcomers to the 2009 football team is juco transfer Demond Washington from Tallassee, Ala., who spent one season as a running back in junior college and the next playing cornerback. He just wrapped up his classes and got the word from the NCAA Clearinghouse on Tuesday that he can join the team for practice on Wednesday.

"I got the call about 1 o'clock and I was glad to hear that," says Washington, the subject of a recruiting battle between Auburn and Ole Miss.

With injuries to the secondary, Washington says the plan is for him to play cornerback for the Tigers. During recruiting he noted that he preferred to play on offense. "I don't have any problems with playing cornerback," he says. "I am just ready to get out there and play football."

Auburn's other junior college cornerback signee, Taikwon Paige from Georgia Military, has not qualified yet and final word is not expected on his status until after practice has started.

A pair of defensive line signees, Terrance Coleman and Josh Jackson, have not arrived on campus yet and Chizik says he isn't sure when there will be final word on their status. Another signee out of high school, Izauea Lanier, did not qualify and will attend East Mississippi Junior College.

News and Notes:

*Freshman defensive end Nosa Eguae, a 6-3, 245-pounder from Mansfield Summitt, Tex., High, has looked good in voluntary summer workouts, according to a variety of Auburn players.

Neil Caudle

*Quarterback Neil Caudle says he is excited about his opportunity to compete for the starting job. He finished the spring neck and neck with Kodi Burns for the No. 1 spot. An additional challenge is expected from senior Chris Todd, who missed spring drills while recovering from shoulder surgery. Caudle says that Todd is throwing the ball with good speed and accuracy this summer.

*Tight end Tommy Trott continues to work on getting back to full speed after having knee surgery last year. The senior says he feels like he is "90 percent."

*Defensive tackle Nick Fairley, a redshirt sophomore transfer from junior college, is a player who has caught the attention of veteran players during summer workouts.

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