AU Battling the Clock in Game 2 Preparations

Comments from coaches and players are featured in a report on Auburn's Monday night football practice.

Auburn, Ala.--With the day off from classes on Monday the Auburn football Tigers spent time in the video rooms and on the practice field as they continued their accelerated preparations for Thursday night's Southeastern Conference opener.

Working under the lights the Tigers practiced for 2 1/2 hours in shorts installing the game plan for their conference opener vs. Mississippi State.

Commenting on practice, offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn said, "It was pretty good. I really like our players' urgency mentally.

"Of course, we needed to be urgent," he added. "This was like a Wednesday practice so we had to do a lot of things a little faster than normal that can kind of get you out of your comfort zone a little bit, but our guys were really focused in and hopefully that will pay off on Thursday."

The offensive coordinator said that the Labor Day holiday with no classes probably helped Auburn's preparation for game two with two less days to prepare for the contest than normal.

Malzahn, who doubles as Auburn's quarterback coach, said that the Mississippi State game will be a challenge for SEC Offensive Player of the Week, Cameron Newton, who will be starting for the first time on the road in a major college game and for the first time in SEC play.

"He is in a new offense and we are asking him to do a lot of different things,"?Malzahn said. "I really feel like he will get more comfortable the more he plays in it and gets used to his teammates and all of that.

"He has got a good work ethic and understands you have got to continue to get better because the defenses each week are getting better and better," Malzahn added.

The coach said that communications between the sideline, Newton and the rest of the offense will be important with a loud, sellout crowd expected in Starkville. Something that should help the Tigers is that plays are sent in by signals from the sideline instead of being sent to a huddle and relayed to the players there.

A player who missed the opener, freshman receiver Trovon Reed, will likely see action in game two for Malzahn to put in his schemes.

Wide receivers coach Trooper Taylor said that Reed is making strides and based on Monday night's practice he should be ready to contribute in game two.

Reed's play was one of the highlights of preseason, but he suffered a bruised knee diving for a pass and was held out of the Arkansas State game.

Taylor said that in addition to Reed he expects to play more receivers in game two. Commenting on game one, he said the best thing he saw from the receivers group was how well they blocked on the perimeter helping set the stage for 608 yards of total offense.

Auburn's game on Thursday night is a good opportunity to showcase the program, Taylor said. With coaches allowed to call recruits once a week during this time frame, Taylor, who is also Auburn's assistant head coach, said that has been a topic of conversation with Auburn's coaches and recruits this week.

Offensive tackle Lee Ziemba, who will go in to the Mississippi State contest with a consecutive games started streak that is up to 39, gave Auburn's offensive unit mixed reviews on their performance in Saturday night's 52-26 victory over Arkansas State.

"I think we did well in some areas," he said. "I think we made plays. We did fairly well for our first game, however, I think there is tons of room for improvement and we are going to have to improve in those areas to beat Mississippi State."

Ziemba said the Tigers will try to be more physical on offense in game two. He also noted that the communication needs to improve. "Sometimes we weren't quite on the same page, but that is going to happen in the first game," he said.

In other news and notes:

*Thursday's game will be televised by ESPN with kickoff set to begin shortly after 6:30 p.m. CDT at Davis Wade Stadium. Auburn's record in games played in Starkville is 11-4-1.

*Running backs coach Curtis Luper said he liked what he saw from freshman Michael Dyer, who rushed for 95 yards in the opener and got more carries than first-stringer Mario Fannin. Luper said he held Fannin out of action for a series after the senior fumbled, but added that Fannin is still the number one tailback. Luper said with the game under control, he decided to play the reserve tailbacks, Dyer and walk-on Davis Hooper, to finish the game.

*Freshman fullback Ladarious Phillips is still recovering from his ankle injury suffered in the final preseason scrimmage and is unlikely to play in game two. Luper said that the 6-0, 288-pounder is making progress. "He is moving around well and we will make some decisions about him."

*To bolster depth at the fullback spot, versatile walk-on Chris Humphries has been getting some reps at fullback. Humphries can also play defensive end and linebacker and he plays on special teams.

*Thursday's game will be the first SEC contest of the 2010 season. The Tigers have a 43-28-5 record in league openers including wins in 16 of their last 17 first conference games.

*Malzahn had praise for wide receiver Quindarius Carr, who caught a touchdown in the opener. "He is really learning to be a complete receiver," the coordinator said.

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