Tigers Focus On Execution at Practice

A report on Auburn's football preparations for Saturday's road trip to Arkansas are featured.

Auburn, Ala.--The Tigers spent more than two hours Tuesday evening working on the kicking game and installing the offensive and defensive game plans for Saturday's SEC football road game at Arkansas.

Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn, who will be returning to his home state, said he wasn't particularly pleased with what he saw.

Malzahn noted that he really liked last Tuesday's big installation day practice, but was not as enthusiastic this Tuesday night. "It probably wasn't up to what last Tuesday's was," he said. "We have to come out tomorrow (Wednesday) and Thursday and we have got to really focus in. At the same time, we threw a lot at them. Arkansas gives you a lot of different looks and we want to make sure we are prepared."

Malzahn said because he coached in a game at Arkansas last season when he was at Tulsa, his Homecoming there this year won't be as big a deal and he called this week's game a "business trip." However, junior H-back Mario Fannin said he could tell the offensive coordinator is especially serious about his return to Reynolds-Razorback Stadium where Malzahn was offensive coordinator in 2007.

"He is more intense," Fannin said after Tuesday night's practice. "He is more energetic. You can tell it is a matter of he wants everything to be perfect. We understand that and we have some guys from Arkansas who are the same way. We are just working hard for that.""

Commenting on the offense's performance in Auburn's 26-22 victory vs. Tennessee, Malzahn said the Tigers didn't execute as well as they needed to, but added, "One thing that stood out was that our kids played extremely hard. We protected the football. We had two balls on the ground that we have got to correct, but we didn't have any turnovers. We had two penalties that we are working on. Just from an execution standpoint we are always trying to improve."

Malzahn had praise after Tuesday's practice for sophomore running back Eric Smith. "He is very versatile. We are asking him to do a lot of things. We are asking him to kick out on powers, go through on counters, and also catch the football. He is also getting to run it some, too. He is very versatile. We move him around. He allows us to put him in a lot of different positions and gives us a lot of flexibility."

Smith's 17-yard reception in the closing minutes vs. Tennessee helped set up a field goal that put the Tigers up by 10 points.

Also at Tuesday's practice, the Tigers worked on special teams. Head coach Gene Chizik said his team made strides in that area during the victory over Tennessee and he hopes to see that continue this week.

In other news and notes:

*Arkansas has struggled on defense, giving up 29 points per game, but Malzahn said the Razorbacks feature a talented defensive front and good speed.

*Malzahn had praise for the play of junior offensive guard Bart Eddins, who made his first start vs. Tennessee. "The thing about Bart, he was extremely physical and we needed that physical edge to us playing on the road against a great defense like them." The coach said no decision has been made yet if Eddins will start again this week. He was filling in for Byron Isom, who head coach Gene Chizik did not allow to play the past two weeks due to a suspension. Chizik has not said when Isom will return to game action.

*Arkansas comes into the game ranked seventh in passing offense averaging 329.2 yards per game, which leads the Southeastern Conference.

*Auburn's kickoff coverage has been shaky through five games, an area the Razorbacks may be able to exploit. Arkansas is averaging 29.3 yards return, which is second in the SEC and sixth nationally.

*Auburn, which is ranked 17th and 19th this week in the major polls, is the third Top 25 opponent the Razorbacks have faced. They lost 52-41 to Georgia and 35-7 to Alabama. The Razorbacks are 2-0 vs. unranked foes winning 48-10 in the opener vs. Missouri State and 47-19 vs. Texas A&M last Saturday night at the new Dallas Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Tex.

Following their game against Auburn, two more ranked teams are next for the Razorbacks with road games vs. Florida the following week and Ole Miss on the schedule Oct. 24th.

*In addition to the game being televised on ESPN, the Auburn at Arkansas game will be on ESPN's national radio network with Bill Rosinski, Dennis Franchione and Joe Schad calling the action from Razorback Reynolds Stadium.

*The television announcing crew features Bob Griese, Chris Spielman and Dave Pasch.

*Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett has thrown 11 touchdown passes and totaled 1,148 yards through the air. In the Arkansas record book he has as many or more touchdowns than a Razorback quarterback threw in 35 seasons. The Arkansas passing records only date back to the 1947 season.

*Mallett has a 5-2 record as a starting college quarterback. He was 3-0 at Michigan before transferring to Arkansas after the Wolverines changed head coaches.


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