Tigers Get Physical While Preparing for UK

A report on Auburn's football practice features comments from the Tigers as they prepare to play the Kentucky Wildcats.

Auburn, Ala.--Once the season started and with concerns about depth, Auburn's game-week practices have not featured a lot of contact in full pads.

That changed on Tuesday evening as head coach Gene Chizik had his Tigers put on the full pads for a full-contact session matching the first team offense vs. the first team defense.

"Both sides of the ball were up-tempo tonight," sophomore wide receiver Darvin Adams said. "Both the offense and defense were making plays. Coach Chizik said not only could he watch practice, he could hear it. We really went at it today. Coach Chizik said it was the first time we had a great practice instead of just a good practice. I thought it was fun."

Linebacker Josh Bynes also said he liked what he saw on Tuesday night. "Practice was very intense," he pointed out. "It was the type of practice we were having prior to the start of the season. It was very physical as well as intense.

"It was (first) offense vs. the (first) defense and we were just getting after it," Bynes added. "We got back to doing the same things we were doing to get our season off to a 5-0 start."

Joining Bynes and the other linebackers in the session was redshirt sophomore Eltoro Freeman, who missed the Arkansas road trip because he was dealing with "issues," according to Chizik, who has not specified what the issues are. Freeman, who was limited in the preseason and early in the year with a hamstring injury, was a starter at weakside linebacker prior to Adam Herring taking over the starting spot last week.

Eltoro Freeman

Offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn said he liked what he saw at the practice that lasted two hours. "It was good to see they had some energy, some renewed focus. They practiced well. We need to have that all week."

Malzahn, whose offense struggled in the first half in Auburn's loss at Arkansas, said the Tigers worked on the basics at Tuesday's practice. "We just went back to base fundamentals from day one, just doing the little things right. We focused on ourselves and correcting the things we need to correct--just getting our minds right, our approach right, that physical, hard-edge mentality that Auburn expects."

The offensive coordinator said that there were plays to be made against Arkansas last Saturday in Fayetteville if the Tigers had just executed properly and taken advantage of what was there. "Overall we were sloppy and that is my responsibility," Malzahn said. "I have got to make sure our guys are focused. I have got to make sure our guys are ready to play and we protect the football. That is the number one thing."

Senior cornerback Walt McFadden, who reinjured his knee while making an interception vs. Arkansas, said he isn't sure if he will be able to play this Saturday vs. the Wildcats. "It is still very sore," he said of the sprained MCL. "I tried to run today and it is still very painful."

If McFadden is unable to play on Saturday, Demond Washington will likely be the starter.

"It was tough because I really wanted to play," McFadden said in talking about hurting his knee at Arkansas and not being able to return to the game. "It was tough because I really wanted to play," he said. "I wanted to come back out. I was on the sideline trying to run on it, trying to do whatever I could do just to get back on the field, but I couldn't go."

In other news and notes:

*Mario Fannin and Travante Stallworth have both gotten some work at quarterback in the wildcat formation. Both played QB in high school. That gives Malzahn more options at the position with Kodi Burns being at less than full speed in the past two games with a thigh injury.

*Malzahn said that true freshman tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen is making progress and could see more action the second half of the season.

*The Tigers are tied for 15th nationally in first downs per game with an average of 22.7.

*Chris Todd's current quarterback rating of 149.45 is on pace to be the third best in Auburn history for a single season. The AU record is 172.89 by Jason Campbell in 2004. Ben Leard is rated No. 2 at 170.78 in 1999.

*With Kentucky starting quarterback Mike Hartline out this week, and possibly unavailable for the rest of the season, UK could start one of three different players at QB on Saturday night. Possibilities include backup Will Fidler, a six-foot-four junior who filled in last week after Hartline was injured at South Carolina, or true freshman Morgan Newton or sophomore Randall Cobb, a wide receiver who runs UK's wildcat formation package.

Cobb was a star quarterback in high school and played that position part of the season as an All-SEC Freshman last year. Newton is currently available to be redshirted because he has not seen game action.

*This will be the 14th time the Wildcats have played in Auburn. The Tigers have won 12 of those 13 contests and take a 15-game winning streak in games vs. Kentucky into Saturday's contest that will kick off at 6:30 p.m.

*ESPNU will televise the game with Eric Collins and Brock Huard calling the action. The game will also be televised on channel 200 on XM satellite radio and 216 on the Sirius "Best of XM" package.

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