Linebacker Doing Double Duty For Tigers

A report on the Auburn football team features news, notes and quotes as the Tigers prepare for their Senior Day.

Auburn, Ala.--Looking for reinforcement at the middle linebacker position, sophomore Justin Garrett is getting work there and is making progress, according to Tommy Thigpen, who coaches the position for the Tigers.

Following Wednesday's two hours plus practice in helmets, shoulder pads and sweat pants, Thigpen said, "I will tell you what, he has done a really good job. He is the most vocal I have ever seen him. At that position you have to be very vocal.

"He has been playing the dime and will (weakside) linebacker and that doesn't call for that much talking," Thigpen pointed out. "The mike (middle) does all of the talking. Watching him he has been natural at it. He is really quick-twitched and he has a great attitude about taking a leadership role this week.

Thigpen said that Garrett will definitely see action at middle linebacker on Saturday as the Tigers play Alabama A&M on Senior Day at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

The Tigers have had three middle linebackers on the depth chart. Jake Holland, a junior who missed last week's game with an ankle sprain, is not full speed, but is expected to start vs. Alabama A&M.

Freshman Cassanova McKinzy, who started last week, also has an ankle problem and was limping on Wednesday night.

Third-stringer Ashton Richardson, a senior, is expected to miss the game because he has two days of interviews with the Rhodes Scholar committee on Friday and Saturday and in Birmingham. Richardson said he doesn't know when he will be done with the sessions, which he called a potentially "life-changing" event if he earns a scholarship to study abroad at Oxford in England.

"He has a great attitude about taking a leadership role this week," Thigpen said about Garrett. "Jake is not 100 percent yet. He (Garrett) has got fresh legs and he has been coming in and watching tape. He feels comfortable making those checks. I would have thought he would struggle with it, but just watching him in practice he is really natural at what he is doing."

Thigpen said there is a possibility that Garrett will continue to play in the middle after Saturday's game.

The Auburn coach had praise for a player he coached as a safety in 2009 and is coaching at outside linebacker as a senior, Daren Bates, the team's second-leading tackler. Bates has 89 tackles with 37 solo stops.

"He has been durable," Thigpen said. "For a little guy, he has thrown his body around. You are thinking as a guy who is around 215 or 220 pounds and playing 70 or 80 plays in a game, you would think the durability would be a factor.

"Somewhere towards midseason you are watching him hold his shoulder and he is like Wolverine. One week he is down and right before game-time he looks 100 percent healthy."

Thigpen noted that Bates has been healthy in recent weeks. "He is a competitor, the ultimate competitor," the coach said. "He hates to be taken out of the game for a missed assignment or for even just taking a breath. You love his competitive edge. We need more kids like him."

Thigpen noted that Wednesday night's practice had some excitement. "It was intense, we had a couple of fights out there," he said with a laugh. "It was real intense. These kids are still fighting. They have never given up. Every day they come in with their hard hats on, ask a lot of questions and go out there and practice hard, and you watch them on tape they play hard."

Scholar And An Athlete: Ashton Richardson, a walk-on from Louisiana who earned a football scholarship, has a 3.94 grade point average in pre-veterinary medicine and is a student in Auburn's Honors College.

Ashton Richardson

Chizik, who wrote a letter of recommendation supporting Richardson to be considered for a Rhodes Scholarship, has high praise for the senior. "The gist of it was this is one of the most persistent, competitive, driven young men that I have seen," the coach said.

"I see a lot of it from the football end because I know how driven he is in that regard, and I think that tells the story of how he will be the rest of his life," Chizik pointed out.

He noted that the linebacker contributed to the Tigers winning the SEC and national championships in 2010 while excelling in the classroom. "He has got a big picture idea of what he wants to do," said Chizik, who added, "I?just think that everything you would be looking for quality-wise in a young man that you would consider to be traits worthy of that scholarship, he has got them."

Richardson played his junior and senior seasons of high school football in Baton Rouge after his family's house went underwater when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. The linebacker said it was tough starting over at a new school, but noted it helped him concentrate on his academics, which has opened a lot of doors for him.

Wounded QBs: Chizik said on Wednesday night that Kiehl Frazier is very close to being 100 percent physically and will be Jonathan Wallace's backup on Saturday. Clint Moseley was able to do a limited amount of work at Wednesday night's practice as he continues to recover from an ankle injury.

More Injuries: Defensive end Craig Sanders is questionable for Saturday's game, according to the head coach, who said that cornerback Josh Holsey should be ready to go after limping off the field on Saturday vs. Georgia. Another cornerback, Chris Davis, should be ready to play after missing time after suffering a concussion.

Devaunte Sigler

Another player who took a blow to the head, defensive tackle Devaunte Sigler, has not been cleared yet to play by the team doctors, defensive line coach Mike Pelton said.

Tight end C.J. Uzomah (broken bone in his hand) was able to come back sooner than expected to play against Georgia because the training staff found a way to protect the injury while he played last week, Chizik said.

PPV TV: Saturday's game is available on television on a pay-per-view basis across the state of Alabama. Those interested can contact their local cable provider or small dish provider for information on ordering the game. Andy Burcham will call the action with former Tiger quarterback Ben Leard as the analyst.

Radio Coverage: In addition to Auburn Network stations around the southeast, Saturday's game can be picked up on Sirius Channel 112 and XM Channel 198.

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