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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Late practice notes: Bynes, Etheridge vying for team lead in tackles

Middle linebacker Josh Bynes and safety Zac Etheridge are tied for the team lead in tackles through two games with 16 apiece. Bynes hopes that’s not the case for long.

Etheridge, who was second on the team in tackles as a freshman in 2007, led the Tigers last year with 75 stops. Bynes had 53, although he only started eight games, taking over for Tray Blackmon after the LSU game.

“A safety leading the team in tackles two years in a row?” Bynes said. “I can’t let that happen again. I’ve got to take that reign from him.”

Although many football outsiders think a safety leading the team in tackles is a sign that the defensive front isn’t doing its job, Bynes disagrees.

“It just depends on how team’s run,” he said. “A lot of teams down at the end of the game last year started passing it more so it opened up a lot of plays for them to make tackles. Sometimes it’s how the cookie crumbles. I ain’t going to take it from them. They did their job and they made the tackles.”

As the two play-callers of the defense, Bynes and Etheridge have worked well together:

"He's very tremendous back there," Bynes said. "He speaks up a lot – of course me and him speak with each other just about every play and make sure we're on the same page because a lot of times he'll call something and I won't see it or I'll call something and he won't see it. He's very good at communicating and especially coming up in run support. That's where we've been doing good, especially the last two games."

Follow the blog on Twitter. Also, read these other notes and quotes from Tuesday's late interviews ...
  • If TE Tommy Trott can't go Saturday because of a knee injury (and coaches certainly made it sound that way), true freshman Philip Lutzenkirchen would be the top candidate to replace him. “He’s going to have to be (ready),” offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn said. “He’s got a lot of talent. He’s getting used to college football, and the demands from the physical and mental standpoint. He’s going to be a very good player for us, but we’re going to need him to step up very quick.”
  • The 6-foot-4, 262-pound tight end from Marietta, Ga., caught his first collegiate pass last week, a 13-yard touchdown from Kodi Burns out of the Wildcat formation. “It was probably the most nerve-racking catch I have ever had,” Lutzenkirchen said. “It was a good experience for me, and I’m ready to keep working and keep making plays.”
  • Lutzenkirchen on how his role is different in college vs. high school: "I was just a big slot receiver. I didn’t have to put my hand down for blocking. Since I’ve been here, they’re really preached that I need to get the blocking down, so I guess they are – I wouldn’t say comfortable, but more comfortable at where by blocking is at. That’s the main difference."
  • Quarterback Chris Todd admitted he might have gotten a little greedy last Saturday against Mississippi State, throwing a few of his passes into tight coverage trying to make a big play. That showed in his numbers. The senior completed only 10 of 23 passes (43 percent) for 186 yards last week after going 17-for-26 (65 percent) for 255 yards in the opener against Louisiana Tech. “They threw a lot at us early in the game, a lot of different looks,” Malzahn said. “He’s still learning his reads. He got a little greedy a couple of times. But all the things that happened are correctable. He made a couple of good plays, too, under pressure. I think the more comfortable he gets, I’m going to really get him to take what they’ll give us.”
  • Malzahn said he's starting to see what he wants to see out of his offense. "Our guys are starting to play fast," he said. "They're starting to understand what we're talking about, so I'm happy with our pace."
  • Malzahn was pleased with the job done by Bozeman, Mont., walk-on Jay Wisner, who has worked his way into the game as a slot receiver. He caught his first career pass for 24 yards against Mississippi State, but he's more valuable than that. "He does all the dirty work that gets overlooked," Malzahn said. "He's a physical player. He's football-smart. He understands defenses and leverages. He had a solid game for us."
  • Freshmen wide receivers DeAngelo Benton and Emory Blake, both of whom were expected to step onto the field and contribute immediately, have gotten off to a slow start. "They’re still learning," Malzahn said. "We throw a lot at them. We do a lot of different things. We ask them to adjust a lot. I feel like they’re getting more comfortable and more confident. We expect those guys to step up hopefully in the near future."
  • West Virginia has a unique 3-3-5 defense, with only three down linemen. It will present a challenge for Auburn's offensive line, particularly center Ryan Pugh, who has to make the line calls. "It's not too different," he said. "They're going to get to a four-down front somehow some way every play. It's different because that's what they do. Most teams do that as their second option but this is what these guys do and they're very good at it. Their linebackers are very fast and their secondary is good. Up front they're big and that's what you're not used to seeing is three big guys across the front."
  • Pugh on Malzahn's in-game demeanor: "He's probably the most focused person on the field during the game. He sees a lot more than most people see from the sideline. It's his offense. He created it. He knows it like the back of his hand. When he needs to make an adjustment, that helps. He knows exactly what to do. All the other guys in the box help out a lot. Coach Malzahn makes the right decision with the help of all those other guys. It takes more than one. It should."
  • Pugh thinks the drives just before halftime of each game was huge from a momentum sense. "That trickles down from (Malzahn) to us," he said. "We take the initiative there before the half. We stuck it in for a touchdown in one game. We got a field goal, too. Three points. If you go back and look at it, that changed the momentum of both games and allowed us to pull away in the second half. We need to keep doing that. Our philosophy is to keep pressure on the defense. That's what we do."
  • Auburn is one of 12 teams in the country that has not allowed a sack this season. Only seven teams have played two games are in that category (strangely, West Virginia is one of them). "It's something we take a lot of pride in," Pugh said. "We talk about it. We didn't realize we were one of seven teams in the country until today. It's something that … it becomes addicting to see how long you can keep that going. What it does it makes you go out to practice that much harder to become that much better to keep that going. As an offensive lineman, you don't get the touchdowns. The only thing you can get recognized for are things like that."
  • Bynes said West Virginia simply "out-physicaled" Auburn in the second half last year. I like that. I'm going to start using that word.
  • A win, on ESPN2 against a decent opponent, could put Auburn back in the national spotlight a little bit. Bynes doesn't care. "We ain't worried about that," he said. "They didn't want to talk about us so now I don't really care."


AUsome04 said...

"We ain't worried about that," he said. "They didn't want to talk about us so now I don't really care."

That's what I'm talking about. These guys are mad. And focused. Great job Andy! Funny I didn't get any of these reports from the state (Alabammer) media. Great notes from Pugh and Bynes.

Will4AU said...

AL.com and the rest of the media of the state should be shame. Every day the force some type of article out of Tuscaloosa, i've read more about Bama's 3rd string tight end than one should ever have to read. Thanks for your quality post.

TnTiger said...

I agree with the first two comments. This blog has become my favorite source for AU football news. Keep up the great work.

auballard said...

Best Auburn News site on the web.