Tigers Turn Their Attention to the Vols

A report on Tuesday evening's Auburn football practice features comments from players and Gus Malzahn as the Tigers prepare for an SEC road trip to Tennessee.

Auburn, Ala.--The Auburn football Tigers returned to the practice field for a full pads workout on Tuesday evening that looked back and looked forward.

Offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn said the Tigers devoted part of the session correcting mistakes from their 54-30 victory over Ball State and the rest of the time preparing for the team's first road trip this Saturday to face the Tennessee Volunteers.

Commenting about taking his offense on the road for the first time, Malzahn said, "Each individual team is different, but it shouldn't be that big of a factor. But, at the same time, it is the first one. We just need to experience it. Our kids need to experience it. Hopefully, we will handle it well."

The Tigers worked on using a silent count for their offense in case the more than 100,000 fans expected at Neyland Stadium on Saturday evening make it difficult to for the offense to hear the quarterback's signals.

"We do have some guys who have experienced these SEC road games, which is big," Malzahn noted. "Then the fact that Chris (quarterback Chris Todd) is a senior has to help, too. Hopefully, these young guys who do not have the experience will be able to handle it, too."

This week's trip to Knoxville will be Auburn's first game at Tennessee since the unbeaten 2004 Tigers played impressively at Neyland Stadium in a dominating win. Auburn head coach Gene Chizik, who was the defensive coordinator for the Tigers, said that 34-10 Auburn victory gave the 2004 Tigers a lot of confidence and momentum for the rest of the season and he is hoping a victory over the Vols in 2009 will also be a confidence builder

Commenting on Tuesday's workout on a cool, clear, autumn-like evening, Malzahn said, "It was a basic practice. We are worried about us getting better and at the same time presenting the different looks the opponent gives you. I thought our focus was okay. We need to have a better practice tomorrow."

Senior offensive tackle Andrew McCain said after practice on Tuesday night that he can tell the team should be ready to play its first SEC road game, particularly at Tennessee. "We couldn't be more excited," he said. "You couldn't ask for a better venue in all of college football so we are excited to go up there, but we have a lot of work to do between now and then. Right now we aren't trying to focus us much on that (the game) as we are on the preparation."

McCain and the Tigers have played their first four games at home and haven't had to worry about crowd noise on offense. "Especially since we go out of shotgun the majority of time the noise can be a factor," he said. "One, the quarterbacks have to do a good job of being loud. If it gets to the point where it is too loud to hear them, we will just have to go to a silent count where we are going off the snap of the ball.

"You lose a little bit of the advantage as far as the snap count goes on offense, but at the same time over the course of the week you kind of start to get a feel for the timing of it where you don't have to really look at the ball any more," McCain said. "You see the center's head come up and you know when to go. It is just another thing you have got to get used to. I feel if we work on it throughout the course of the week we will be able to handle it with no speed bumps."

The Tigers, 4-0, are unranked going into their game vs. 2-2 Tennessee. Asked if that is a point of contention for his team, McCain said, "I think it has been brought up nonchalantly in conversations amongst the guys, but that is one of those things we know will take care of itself if we keep doing what we do, winning ball games and putting our best out there."

Auburn's coaches note that the Vols have good looking athletes across the board on offense and defense. Junior safety Zac Etheridge agrees and points out that the coaches are making it clear to their players that the Tigers need to be ready to play a good game on Saturday night.

Etheridge said that on Tuesday the defense continued to work on tackling, repeating a theme from last week. The safety predicted a physical game with the Vols likely to run straight at the Tigers trying to establish the ground game before attacking the secondary with play-action passes.

Antonio Coleman

Another member of the defense, senior end Antonio Coleman, said the Tigers aren't playing up to their potential on his side of the football. "We are a much better defense than that," he said. "To give up 30 points to Ball State, that's just bad...We are making a lot of small mistakes.

"Guys are not fitting like they supposed to and leaving guys wide open," Coleman said. "You get into the SEC you can get blown out. They can hang 40 on you just like that. We can't go down to Tennessee like that or any of these other games we have left."

Ryan Pugh

Center Ryan Pugh led the Tigers in knockdown blocks last week with a dozen vs. Ball State said the Tigers need to play better this week than they did against Ball State. "We didn't play as well as we wanted to."

Commenting on Tuesday evening's practice, the junior said, "It was a good practice with a lot more intensity and a lot more urgency. We just have to practice a little harder and a little better tomorrow."

In other news and notes:

*Junior wide receiver/quarterback Kodi Burns, who bruised a thigh vs. Ball State, is expected to be ready this week to run the wildcat formation if the Tigers decide to use it in Knoxville. Burns was able to practice on Tuesday evening.

*Saturday's game in Knoxville will feature three of the SEC's top four rushers. UT's Montario Hardesty is running for a league-leading 121.2 yards per game at 5.8 yards per carry. Auburn's Ben Tate is third behind Mississippi State's Anthony Dixon. Tate is averaging 103 yards per game and 5.7 yards per carry. Onterio McCalebb is averaging 6.8 yards per carry and 91.2 yards per game. Tate is 17th nationally and McCalebb is 31st. McCalebb, who hurt his ankle vs. Ball State, is expected to play against the Vols this week although head coach Gene Chizik said the freshman is "day to day."

*McCalebb is getting a look as a punt returner this week after fellow freshman Anthony Gulley fumbled the football twice in that role last week. His first one set up an 18-yard touchdown drive for Ball State. His second fumble was recovered by the Tigers. The Tigers spent the opening periods of Tuesday's practice working on special teams.

*Todd is second in the SEC passing statistics with 253 yards per game. He trails only Ryan Mallett of Arkansas who is throwing for 292.3 per game.

*Darvin Adams is third in the SEC this week in receiving yards per game with 83.5. Georgia's A.J. Green is the leader with 107 per contest.

*Adams is averaging five catches per game, which is also third in the conference.

*Malzahn said except for the interception, backup quarterback Neil Caudle did a solid job in Auburn's win over Ball State.

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