Tigers Put on the Pads to Prepare for Tide

A report on Auburn's Monday evening practice features comments Tiger coaches.

Auburn, Ala.--Monday is normally an off-day for the Auburn football Tigers, but Coach Gene Chizik put his squad through a full pads practice session Monday evening as it prepares for a Friday home game vs. Alabama.

"I feel like we had a good practice," said Chizik. "I feel like we had a physical practice and got a lot accomplished out there today. I think we are on the right track. The kids were enthusiastic and excited about practicing and preparing so again we will need every minute we can get. Up to this point we are pleased where we are at."

The Tigers are matching up against a defense ranked number one nationally. Auburn has had its struggles on that side of the football at times this year. The Tigers are ranked 56th nationally giving up 359.18 yards per game while Alabama is allowing 225.18.

Chizik said he has seen improvement in some areas on defense this season. "If you just look at earlier in the year, in terms of third down production and being able to get off the field, I?think we struggled with that a lot early,"?the coach said. "I think we have gotten better as the season has gone on.

"We have been a little sporadic when it comes to the turnovers, but as you can see in the games we have won we have been able to get turnovers and get the ball back to our offense.

"We have been really good, at times, against the run, but at times it has been disappointing," he added. "There are a lot of small victories in there, I think. It is going in the right direction."

Chizik said the defense's ability to create points has been a positive, too. "We have scored a lot of points this year on defense whether it is blocked kicks returning them for touchdowns, blocked extra points returning those for two points. We scored several time defensively on interceptions and things of that nature. We have done some nice things."

As has been the case in other areas of the team, "inconsistency" has been an issue for the defense, Chizik added. "It hasn't been good all of the time."

In other news:

*Commenting on linebacker Eltoro Freeman, who injured his foot and suffered a concussion in the Georgia game, Chizik said, "It is day by day. He is mainly taking mental reps out there and that is where we are at. I am sure that will come right down to game time."

*Fans coming to Auburn for the game can begin staking out their tailgate spots at 6 a.m. on Thursday. The university will close the central part of campus to traffic beginning at 5 p.m. on Tuesday in an area surrounded by Samford Avenue, Wire Road, Magnolia Avenue and College Street. RVs can arrive beginning at 10 a.m. on Wednesday. Kickoff for the game is 1:30 p.m. CST on Friday with TV coverage on CBS.

*Chizik said he showed players a video of the 1989 Alabama at Auburn game, the first time the game was played at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Alabama was unbeaten and ranked No. 2 nationally in that contest, but lost 30-20.

*Wide receivers coach Trooper Taylor said he can tell how intense the rivalry is. "It has gone to another level," he said of the advice the coaches have been getting on how to beat their archrival. Taylor noted that he has been impressed with the general level knowledge of Auburn's fan base.

Taylor noted that he is impressed with the Alabama secondary the Auburn receivers will face on Friday. "They do a great job of playing the football," he noted. "You very rarely see a receiver running scot free."

*The senior member of the Auburn coaching staff, Phillip Lolley, said he has talked to the new coaches about the intensity of the Iron Bowl. "A lot of coaches who have come in here new, whether they have been coordinators or whatever through the last 10 or 11 years I have been associated with here, everybody talks about their rivalries everywhere else. I just kind of smile and laugh because there is really no way you can explain the atmosphere in an SEC game period, but when you look at it being an SEC game with two teams from the same state that is a great football state--to me the greatest football state in the country.

"There are no pro teams," Lolley added. "Everybody is either Alabama or everybody is Auburn. It is great for college football. There is no atmosphere like it whether you play here at Auburn or you are playing in Tuscaloosa. There is not another game like it. It is great to be a part of it. You try to explain it to everybody, but you have to play in it.

*Aairon Savage, a cornerback who missed the entire season with an Achilles injury, is itching to play again, Lolley said. Savage is expected to play for a hardship sixth year of eligibility. Lolley notes that Savage intently studies what is going on at practice every day. The coach plans to sit down with Savage and Chizik after the season to discuss Savage's future. "What a great kid, what a great leader," Lolley said.

*Lolley noted the week off after the Georgia game has been important for the Tigers. "It is big," he said. "I think everybody understands if you look at our roster the depth problems and the things we have had. To go that many straight weeks without a break is tough in this conference. It has been huge. You are beat up in every game. Everybody goes through it, but I think Auburn has gone through it a little more with our depth. I can just tell a difference in the way our kids are responding in practice."

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