Gene Chizik said he liked what he saw in the session that lasted nearly two hours under the lights. "We had a really good practice tonight," Auburn's head coach said. "I thought it was really up-tempo. We had a lot of energy, which we should have since we gave them a little rest over the weekend."
Working in helmets, shoulder pads and shorts, the Tigers spent part of the practice working the first team offense vs. the first team defense in situations regarding down and distances.
Chizik said with this being game week it is not surprising the Tigers were "energized" for Sunday night's practice. "At some points it is almost like there is no end in sight," Chizik said of the large amount of practices the players go through before finally getting to opening day. "You train all day, 365 days a year, to be able to play in 12 (games) that are guaranteed. I know as a team they are excited that those 12 games are here. I think it changes mentally the whole outlook for those guys."
Saturday's game vs. Arkansas will be the first of eight home contests for the Tigers, who have won 79.1 percent of their home games at Jordan-Hare Stadium, which is beginning its 71st year as the home field for the Tigers. Since 2000 the Tigers are 57-15 at home for a 79.2 winning percentage.
Chizik had high praise for sophomore cornerback T'Sharvan Bell, who finished the 2009 season with two interceptions in the bowl game. "He is right on the brink...the way he has played in the first month you might as well just pencil him in and say he is a starter as well because he has played as good as anybody out there in the secondary."
Bell said he is exciting about how things are going. "This year, hopefully, I will have a bigger role and can help the team more," the former high school quarterback said.
He said his time on offense has helped him develop as a defensive back. "You get a feel for the game playing quarterback," he said. "I think that gives me an advantage for getting a feel for the game that most guys playing defensive back don't get."
T'Sharvan Bell was a former two-way star at Florida's Osceola High.
Bell said that he believes he has improved considerably in the past year. "I know that I am a better player, but that has been a group effort because of all the help I have gotten my from my coaches and my teammates."
In other news and notes:
*Chizik said his three former starters at safety who are all coming off of injuries have been doing well in practice and will be ready to contribute. The group features seniors Zac Etheridge and Aairon Savage along with junior Mike McNeil. "I think we have been relatively lucky health-wise with our whole defense, but those guys managed to stay healthy the last month and they are all doing well."
Etheridge and Savage can play either strong or free safety and the other safeties are being cross-trained, too, to play both spots, Chizik said.
*Chizik said with more players to work this year the Tigers should be healthier and fresher for the start of the season. "We are working on getting them fresh," he noted. "We are still working on that, but health-wise I feel pretty good about where we are at."
*Wide receiver Trovon Reed was held out of practice on Sunday night with a bruised knee he got diving for a football, but the freshman said he should be ready to play on Saturday night.
*Saturday's game will be Auburn's second vs. Arkansas State. The Tigers won 27-0 vs. ASU in 2006. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. CDT and the game will be televised on Fox Sports Net.
*Auburn has a 90-25-2 record in season-opening games and has won the past four since falling 23-14 to Georgia Tech in 2005. Auburn's 90 season-opening victories is one win behind Alabama for the most among the 12 Southeastern Conference schools.
*The Tigers are in a major Top 25 poll to start the season for the seventh time in the past eight years with a 22 ranking in AP and 23 in the USA?Today Coaches Poll.
*Auburn's offense returns players who accounted for more than 91 percent of the team's receiving yards last season, 79 percent of the scoring and 55 percent of the rushing.
*Throughout preseason drills Chizik has pointed out that the Tigers are planning to use a lot of freshmen and juco transfers. He said on Sunday night that as many as 20 newcomers could see playing time before the season ends, but noted the number could be half that many.
"It is going to be important we get these guys in the game whether we have a lead or not and that is hard to do and we have talked about that," Chizik said of his newcomer group, which includes 26 freshmen and four juniors.
Commenting on having more depth this season, Chizik said, "I see a good bit of difference, but again that difference comes from young guys who have to step up in a role. You would love for them to have more experience and things of that nature.
"Obviously, you would love to get to the point on defense where our twos have a lot of good experience as well all the way across the board," the coach added. "We don't have that right now, but we do have some young bodies in there who have a lot to learn. They are talented so it is definitely different from last year in that regard, but we are not close to where we need to be down the road with this whole situation."
*Chizik said that freshman defensive end Corey Lemonier has continued to perform well in practice and will see action this season.