Eye on the (Auburn) Tigers

CUTigers recently caught up with AUTigers publisher Mark Murphy for an inside look at the Auburn Tigers.

Where do you rank this game with other non-conference games Auburn's played in during the past five years?
Mark Murphy: It's as interesting a game as they've played over that timeframe. The last couple of years, Clemson games were pretty exciting in Atlanta, in the bowl games. There are a few guys left on the team who remember that overtime game, the Chick-fil-A Bowl. They thought that was an exciting game. Everybody around here is looking forward to it. They'd much rather see a game like this than Auburn play Arkansas State.

Now that we're two games into the season, what kind of identity have the Tigers developed to this point?
Mark Murphy: It's an unusual team in that there are a lot of veterans. There are more than 20 seniors on this team, but they're also backed up by a lot of young guys that haven't played a whole lot. It's a team that's dominated by seniors and freshmen, as far as key players.

It's a team that's got a lot of urgency to try to win this year because the seniors who came to Auburn have not really lived up to what's expected of Auburn football players in the three previous seasons. They want to go out there and have a really good senior year. Their goal is to win the SEC Championship. I don't think they're going to be happy with anything less than that.

Auburn expects to compete for the conference title year in and year out. Is this team confident that, moving forward this season is competing on the national stage realistic?
Mark Murphy: I don't think they have any doubt that they're good enough to do that. Alabama, the national champion last year, came to Auburn at the end of the season and Auburn was really down in numbers, on defense in particular, because of injuries. Alabama was very fortunate to get out of the stadium with a win. Auburn out-played them almost the entire game. Alabama pulled it ou there in the closing minutes. When you do that, it gives you confidence that you can play against any team in the country.

Auburn head coach Gene Chizik has his team ranked as high as No. 15 in the country after a 2-0 start. (Getty Images)
What are you hearing as the biggest concerns the Auburn coaching staff has for this weekend's game?
Mark Murphy: I just think they believe they haven't played as well as they want to yet. They think they can take it to a higher level. They're not as happy with the running game as you would think, just looking at the statistics. They're very high in the conference and national statistics. A lot of running has been done from Cameron Newton at the quarterback position. Some of it has been planned, some of it hasn't.

I think there's a big point of emphasis to get the tailbacks more involved. They've been OK, but not anything that's really wowed anyone. Mario Fannin went into the season as the No. 1 tailback. He hurt his shoulder against Mississippi State. He's not off to a good start at all. In this game coming up on Saturday, we might see more of the true freshman, Michael Dyer, from Arkansas. He played very well in the opener. He had limited duty in the second half. They put him in at crunch time against Mississippi State and he stepped up and played well.

What are they talking about with Clemson? What are you hearing everyone talk about when asked what they see with the ACC Tigers?
Mark Murphy: They say they see a lot of good athletes on each side of the football. One of the things I've heard from the coaches and players when looking at the front seven on defense, they're a good looking group. So are the linemen on offense. It's going to be a good game. Real physical. There are a lot of good athletes on Clemson's side of the field.

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