Junior Demond Washington, whose playing time had been increasing in recent weeks at cornerback, made the move to safety on Tuesday as the Tigers prepare for a game vs. Furman in which they are heavily favored to win this week.
"That is a big relief," Washington said, noting he doesn't have to jump into his new role against SEC competition. The junior said the Homecoming game against a I-AA opponent should help him get the "feel of the game" at a position he has never played before.
The junior said he knows his assignments, but added, "I know it, but I am not in a spot where I can go out and play without thinking about it right now."
Washington was a quarterback in high school and spent one season in junior college playing running back and another at cornerback. He said the team is upbeat after snapping its three-game losing streak with a 33-20 win over Ole Miss.
"Everybody is excited and we feel like we came back as one," he said. "Nobody is all by themselves. It never was like that."
He also noted that the team was excited to see Etheridge out of the hospital and at the football complex on Tuesday even though the safety is wearing a neck brace to protect a cracked fifth vertebra he injured last Saturday. ‘"He had a big smile on his face," Washington said. "He got to be with the guys."
Washington added that he thought the Tigers had a good practice on defense and coordinator Gus Malzahn said the Tigers were "pretty crisp" on offense. "I think our guys are looking forward to Saturday and looking forward to finishing the season strong."
Malzahn said he saw some good things from reviewing the game video vs. Ole Miss, but noted the offense still has work to do. The Tigers have struggled converting third down and short yardage situations and came up shy on fourth and inches vs. Ole Miss.
"There are a lot of different things," Malzahn said when asked what the problem is on those plays. "The bottom line is we have got to be better in that situation. We do have a solid line with solid backs so we need to find a way to get that done." The coach said converting short yardage situations is a point of emphasis this week in practice.
Malzahn had praise for the practice work of redshirting freshmen quarterbacks Clint Moseley and Tyrik Rollison. Rollison was in a battle for the starting job in preseason. that went to Chris Todd and the backup spot won by Neil Caudle. The coach noted Rollison had a "lull" after not winning the starting job and being redshirted, but said "probably the last three or four weeks he has really come on. You can tell he is really mentally into it and starting to develop and do the things he needs to do to get better. I?have been very encouraged with that."
Another quarterback, Barrett Trotter, has made progress on recovering from his knee surgery that has kept him sidelined all season. "He is just now getting released (by the doctors) and is able to start doing individual (drills) and all of that and is coming along," Malzahn said.
Commenting on Mosley, he said, "He is on the scout team and the defensive coaches rant and rave about him. He is a big, physical guy who is going to be a very solid quarterback here at Auburn."
In other news:
*Malzahn said he isn't certain if Onterio McCalebb will play this week vs. Furman as the coaches continue to rest his injured ankle in an effort to get him back to full speed. "When he is 100 percent, he is a big weapon--no doubt," Malzahn said. "He is a speed guy and when you are a speed guy you need to be 100 percent."
*Auburn's offense was called for a delay of game penalty for snapping the ball too quickly after it had been set for play last Saturday. Malzahn said that has never happened to one of his teams and said "not really" when asked if the officials explained why they made the call
"Most are pretty consistent," he said of the officials on how they put the ball in play. "Most when the umpire gets away from the ball it is ready for play. For whatever reason, it wasn't the case this time. Most the are fairly consistent."
*Washington said he is looking forward to getting on the field as a safety because he will get to be physical, which is one of his favorite parts of the game. In addition to his new position, the junior will continue to return kickoffs and work on the punt return with the assignment of holding up the opposing team's gunners.
*Kickoff for Saturday's game is set for 12:30 p.m. and it will be televised on a pay-per-view basis. Andy Burcham will do the play by play with Cole Cubelic the color analyst.
*The Tigers are 22nd in scoring offense nationally this week at 31.9 points per game. Auburn is 26th in total offense with 427.6 yards per contest.
*Junior kicker Wes Byrum has 214 career points, which is eighth in Auburn history. He is two behind seventh place scorer Joe Cribbs (1976-79). John Vaughn (2003-2006) owns the school record with 312 points. Byrum has made 13-14 field goals this season and is 34-34 on PAT kicks.
*The Tigers will be playing Furman for the first time since 1956. Auburn is 3-0 vs. the Paladins.