AU Looking to Be Fresh And Healthy for Opener

Comments from Auburn football coaches are featured in this practice report with updates on the health of the Tigers and other news heading into the season opener.

Auburn, Ala.--Gene Chizik said after Wednesday night's Auburn football practice that having a veteran dominated starting lineup is a good thing, but it isn't good enough.

"There is a comfort level in that, but again this is a new year and new guys," the head coach said following a light workout at the football complex.

"We have a lot guys who have to step up to the plate whether they have played or not and the guys who played for us last year have to play better than they did last year," Chizik added. "Yes, it is good to have guys with experience because there is no substitute for it, but we are starting all over."

One of the young guys the Tigers are hoping to see in action on Saturday night vs. Arkansas State is freshman receiver Trovon Reed. He is nursing a bruised knee and Chizik said that it will be a "game-time" decision on whether or not the elusive newcomer will play.

Redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Derrick Lykes, who suffered a knee injury, is definitely out for the opener and won't be back anytime soon, the head coach said.

Offensive tackle Roszell Gayden is still bothered by a knee injury and is not expected to play. It is not known when he will be able to get on the field. The junior college transfer has a redshirt year available if needed. His position coach, Jeff Grimes, said that Gayden is working to try to get ready to play this year.

Freshman fullback Ladarious Phillips, who hurt his ankle in the fourth scrimmage, is not expected to play in the opener, but could be back in action soon, according to his position coach, Curtis Luper, who noted that Auburn's other freshman running back, Michael Dyer, is pumped up about playing his first college game on Saturday.

Ladarious Phillips, a 6-0, 288-pound fullback, make an early splash in preseason drills.

Junior linebacker Eltoro Freeman, who has missed a significant amount of practice time after injuring an ankle in a scrimmage, is likely to play in the opener. Freeman was able to run in Wednesday's workout, which Chizik called a "good" one.

"We are trying to sharpen everything up," the coach said. "Tomorrow we need to be sharper. Tomorrow we need to be more crisp. It's game time for our guys. They are excited. They are ready to play as well as the coaches."

Chizik noted that the light practice on Wednesday is all part of a strategy with the Tigers opening the season with two games in five days. "I feel like we have been very prudent in how we have preceded in the last week or so," he said. "That was the plan. The plan was to back off and let them be as fresh as they can be at game time.

"Two games in five days is challenging," he added, noting the Tigers play at Mississippi State on Thursday after their opener. "I think our plan is right."

Jeffrey Whitaker (54) will be counted on to contribute immediately this season.

One of the freshman who is expected to see plenty of playing time on defense is Jeffrey Whitaker. Chizik said he really likes the big tackle who overcame a challenging home environment to excel at Warner Robins, Ga., High School.

"He is one of those kids that you feel like you just have to have in your program," Chizik said. "He is everything that Auburn stands for. He is everything we stand for. He is a great young man. He has had a challenging last few years of his life. Taking that into consideration, just talking to him you can see he is a phenomenal young guy not to mention him being a very good football player."

In other news and notes:

*Offensive line coach Grimes said after practice that he is pleased with what he is seeing from A.J. Greene at right tackle and the coach added that he expects the redshirt junior to play well on Saturday night.

*Sophomore tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen, who is scheduled to make his first college start on Saturday night, is expected to line up next to Greene on a large number of plays this season. Lutzenkirchen said that Greene is excited about working with the first team, but said the redshirt junior seems to be taking the promotion in stride and has been performing well in practice.

*The number two left offensive tackle, juco transfer Brandon Mosley, has made a lot of improvement since spring training, Grimes said. Whether or not he or any of the backups will play vs. Arkansas State, Grimes said it isn't sure about that.

*Linebacker Eltoro Freeman, who rolled his ankle in a scrimmage, is doing better and could see playing time on Saturday night.

*Tickets are still available for Saturday's game and will be on sale at ticket office at the new Auburn Arena from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. on game day and starting at 4 p.m. from the stadium. Arkansas State is not expected to bring a big crowd of fans with the Red Wolves requesting just 400 tickets for the contest.

*Auburn's game will be televised on Fox Sports South with Bob Rathbun doing the play by play and Tim Couch the color commentator. Jen Hildreth will be the sideline reporter.

*Freshman receiver Trovon Reed is still trying to get to full speed with his bruised knee. He is likely to play on opening night, but it is not a given.

*Auburn is 1-0 all-time in games vs. Arkansas State and 14-0 all-time playing teams from the Sun Belt Conference.

*Arkansas State, which recruits heavily in the state of Alabama, has 13 players on its roster from the state with four coming from Prattville High. Four Auburn players are from Arkansas--seniors Lee Ziemba and Kodi Burns and freshmen Michael Dyer and Dakota Mosley. Burns and Ziemba are expected to start and Dyer will see action as a reserve tailback. Mosley, a tight end, is expected to redshirt this season.

*Running backs coach Curtis Luper said that sophomore tailback Onterio McCalebb is ready to have a strong season.

*Freshman Kenneth Carter, although he is not on the defensive tackle depth chart, is expected to play on Saturday night, according to his position coach, Tracy Rocker.

*Auburn enters the season with a streak of 56 consecutive wins when the Tigers have managed to score 30 or more points. The last time the Tigers lost with that many points was a four-overtime setback vs. Georgia won by the Bulldogs 56-49 in 1996.

*Eight Tigers head into the season on a watch list as a candidate to win a national award. The group includes junior Darvin Adams seniors Josh Bynes, Wes Byrum, Mario Fannin, Ryan Pugh, Craig Stevens, Demond Washington and Lee Ziemba.

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