Tigers Have Long Practice Preparing for MSU

An Auburn football practice report features comments from players and coaches.

Auburn, Ala.--Auburn worked out in full pads with the offense and defense drilling against their scout teams in preparation for Saturday's SEC opener vs. the Mississippi State Bulldogs.

Senior quarterback Chris Todd says the Tigers don't have as much time to install a game plan as they did prior to the opener, but says he thinks his team will be ready to play against a Mississippi State squad that cruised to a victory over Jackson State last Saturday.

"We are getting a lot accomplished in practice," he says. "We know Mississippi State traditionally has a big, tough, physical defense and that is what we are expecting to see this week. We know we have to be ready for that."

After an in-depth study of the game video from Auburn's victory over Louisiana Tech, Todd says there was a lot to like on offense. "We did a good job of running the football," he says. "That opened up things in both our short passing game and our long passing game."

The Tigers finished their opener with 301 rushing yards and 255 in the air. "I thought the offensive line did a really good job," the quarterback says.

Todd notes that his Tigers focused on running their offense at a faster pace at a Tuesday evening practice that last two hours and 15 minutes. He points out that Gus Malzahn wasn't happy with the pace even though the Tigers ran 79 plays in their victory. The goal is to get that number into the eighties.

Like Todd, defensive end Mike Goggans says he saw some encouraging signs in the opening game on his side of the football. "I thought we played hard and did a lot of good things," the junior notes. "We are looking to improve and I think we will. I think we will have more of a rotation on the defensive front than we did in the first game."

The Tigers are hoping to get junior Zach Clayton back in action for Mississippi State after having him sit out in the opener trying to get back to full speed from injury problems. Clayton was pushing for a starting job at both end and tackle in the preseason.

Last year Goggans was a key player in Auburn's 3-2 victory over Mississippi State in Starkville. "I think a lot of effort went into that game," he says. "That is a game I thought the defense played really well in trying to defend your own territory, backs against the wall, but I think we stood up pretty good."

Goggans predicts the Auburn offense will have a better game this week than it did at Mississippi State last year. "They are kind of mad about that because they didn't play good at all, and everybody knows that," he says. "They will bounce back this year. They (Mississippi State) have got a different scheme, we have got a different scheme. We are just looking forward to getting out there."

Both Auburn and Mississippi State also have new head coaches with Dan Mullen taking over in Starkville and Gene Chizik in charge of the Tigers. Chizik said before the opener that Auburn would use a lot of young players this season and that there would be growing pains. There were a dozen freshmen in the two-deep for the opener.

"I think the second game is so much easier for them," Chizik says. "In the first game, I looked into a lot of their eyes and a lot of them were not all there, but it comes with the territory and we know that. With the second game, it becomes a lot easier for them.

"I am overall very proud of them," Chizik adds. "A lot of the young guys were in the mix covering kicks, which everyone might not see, but I did. I watched them very closely and I am really proud of some of those guys. When you run down to cover a kick as a true freshman, that gets your attention. I expect them to be even better this week then they were last week."

Malzahn says that Tuesday evening's practice focused on execution. "We had a long practice today," he says. "We concentrated on the things that we needed to correct from (the Louisiana Tech) ball game. We really tried to push our kids, tried to strain them a bit today."

Commenting on how the offense played in the opener, Malzahn says, "We were disappointed that we put the ball on the ground twice,. Those were big plays in the game. We also had two holding penalties that were critical on offense. Those are the things that stand out to me. We made some mistakes, but they are correctable, if we work hard."

In other news and notes:

*Auburn's running back depth is improved with Gene Chizik clearing sophomore Eric Smith to play for the Tigers in week two. The tailback/fullback, who was suspended for the opener after being arrested in connection with an off-campus fight at a fraternity party, will provide depth at both positions. Malzahn says it is still being determined on what Smith's role will be in the offense this week and in the coming games.

*Mississippi State's star running back, Anthony Dixon, was suspended for the opener, but will play vs. the Tigers on Saturday.

*Tickets are still available for the SEC game that will kick off at shortly after 6 p.m. with coverage on Fox Sports Net South, one of the SEC's new television partners.

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