Practice Report: Tigers Focus on LA Tech

Comments from Auburn coaches and players are featured in this football practice report.

Auburn, Ala.--The Auburn football Tigers put on the full pads and did 11 on 11 work on Thursday evening as they continue to put in the game plan for the Sept. 5th season opener vs. Louisiana Tech.

Much of the focus of the practice was working with the scout teams to prepare for what the Tigers expect to see from Louisiana Tech.

"It was a good day today," says Chizik of the 90-minute practice, which he notes had a good tempo.

Commenting on the news about senior wide receiver Montez Billings being ineligible for the first four games for academic reasons, the head coach says, "Obviously, we would have liked to had a decision that was a little more favorable, but it is what it is and we are moving on. He has been great. He is looking forward to getting back for the fifth game of the year."

The head coach, who says he can't comment on the specifics of why Billings will be sidelined for four games, says that he believes the senior wide receiver will continue to work hard with the team and attend meetings so he will be ready to go full speed when the Tigers make their first road trip of the season to Tennessee.

Wide receivers coach Trooper Taylor says that freshman DeAngelo Benton and sophomore Darvin Adams are likely to be the starters at the spot where Billings was pushing to be number one at the nine (X receiver) spot. Adams has been less than full speed, too, during parts of preseason due to injuries, but should be ready to go on opening night, Taylor says.

Another freshman, Emory Blake, has been getting extensive work at the nine spot and could see action there on opening night. "He is really sharp, a tough kid and he does what you ask him to do," Taylor says. "Then Quindarius Carr--this is an opportunity for him."

Taylor says he isn't ready to name his playing rotation yet. The receivers coach notes that junior Tim Hawthorne (broken bone in his foot) is making progress and will be in the mix for playing time as soon as doctors clear him for contact. Taylor says he is not sure when that will be.

Defensively, depth at linebacker has been a major issue for Chizik's first Auburn team. Getting Adam Herring back this week has been a plus, the coach notes.

"It is good to see him running around out there," says Chizik, who notes there is a possibility that the sophomore will be ready to play vs. Louisiana Tech.

Herring says he will should ready to play on opening night if needed. The sophomore notes that he is stiff and sore coming off his foot injury, but it is nothing that can't be solved with treatments before and after practice.

Herring points out that it has been very frustrating watching for so long after missing all of spring practice and most of the August workouts. The son of Dallas Cowboys linebacker coach Reggie Herring is working exclusively at weakside linebacker this week after preparing to play middle linebacker in the summer.

Adam Herring

Sophomore Eltoro Freeman came into preseason as the projected starter at weakside linebacker, but has been limited in practice by a hamstring problem and a wrist injury. Freeman was at practice on Thursday, but did not participate in the full contact work.

The injuries to Freeman and Herring have given sophomore walk-on Wade Christopher plenty of opportunities to work at weakside linebacker and he has a good chance of seeing significant playing time.

"We got a lot of things accomplished," Chizik says of Thursday's practice. "The tempo was higher today. I think the weather helped us a little bit. We're working towards the goal of Louisiana Tech, and getting on both sides of the ball the looks we need to get us ready for September 5th."

The Tigers will work out in Jordan-Hare Stadium on Friday and will continue to fine-tune gameday procedures and other areas of the operation that make things running smoothly in a college football game.

In other news:

*Chizik says that the coaches have not set a timetable on picking a number two quarterback behind Chris Todd, but says a decision should be coming soon.

*Left offensive tackle Lee Ziemba is having a good preseason, says Chizik, who says the junior has a chance to be improved over his 2008 season.

*Freshman running back Onterio McCalebb says that he expects to play a good bit on opening night at both tailback and thinks he could be returning kickoffs.

*Junior running back and tailback Mario Fannin has a good chance to be the other deep kickoff returner this season, a role he has played in the past for the Tigers.

*Special teams coach Jay Boulware says the starting punt returner has not been decided. He will say that he is pleased with how the punt coverage team has adapted to the spread punt formation.

*Boulware also says that field goal kicker Wes Byrum is having a real strong preseason and has improved significantly since spring training. Byrum has made technical changes in his form that have so far improved his accuracy.

*Chizik says that so far this week the Tigers have not been seriously affected by flu, something that has bothered the local high school teams as well as teams around the state of Alabama. "We have been pretty fortunate up to this point," he says.

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