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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Late practice notes: Tigers practice in the rain

AUBURN, Ala. — With the weather forecast calling for scattered thunderstorms and a 40 percent chance of rain Saturday night, Auburn head coach Gene Chizik didn’t mind practicing during a downpour Wednesday night.

“We were able to play in some sloppy conditions and had to focus more and do the things that you don’t normally get to do,” Chizik said. “This is the first time we’ve really had to practice in any weather conditions that weren’t conducive to game day.”

The Tigers spent most of the preseason practicing in sweltering conditions, but rarely did they do so in the rain. On a few occasions when it rained, they moved indoors to the John H. Watson Fieldhouse adjacent to the outdoor practice fields.

Tuesday and Wednesday showers gave them an opportunity to focus on several issues.

“Ball handling and ball security issues,” Chizik said. “Then when you’re out here and it’s raining, you’ve got to focus. You can’t be thinking about the rain or how wet you are and all those things. From a focusing standpoint, too, that was good.”

Chizik doesn’t want a potentially damp field to change anything Auburn does, especially on offense.

“The pace should stay the same,” he said. “Again, those are the focusing issues that I’m talking about. There shouldn’t be a change in any way, shape or form at all if they’re focused.”

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  3. Then read some other notes ...
  • Tight end Tommy Trott remains day-to-day after injuring his right knee in the first half last Saturday, although Chizik said the senior “felt good (Wednesday) in terms of just kind of moving around.”
  • Safety Drew Cole will not play. The sophomore had to be carted off the sideline after injuring his left ankle on a kickoff in the first quarter against Mississippi State.
  • Although he hasn’t gone full speed, wide receiver Tim Hawthorne has expanded his role in practice. The junior has been sidelined since the end of summer with a broken bone in his right foot. “He’s getting better,” wide receivers coach Trooper Taylor said. “My big deal is him having confidence in landing on it, jumping on it and coming out of breaks. ... When the trainers and doctor turn him loose, I’m going to put him back out there and see what he can do."
  • Defensive end Antoine Carter, meanwhile, continues to recover from a knee injury that’s kept him out of action so far. The junior has practiced, hoping to get build up his endurance for when he’s cleared to play in a game. “I’m hoping that he comes in and hopefully he can pursue to be an every-down guy,” defensive line coach Tracy Rocker said. “That’s the deal. It all depends on how everything holds up and the mental thing of taking on blocks and the banging and the practicing. It’s going to be a challenge, but yeah, I’m hoping as we get on down in the thick of the season he can help us win.”
  • Chizik said WR Philip Pierre-Louis is both "week-by-week" and "day-by-day." I'll be honest, I have no idea what that means.
  • Chizik on TE Gabe McKenzie: "We have moved him around a little bit, playing some different spots because athletically he can. We're still catching him up to speed just because he's missed so much from the spring and we're having to move him around to help us at different spots. We know he can play. We've just got to make sure that assignment-wise and things of that nature that he's doing what he needs to do. We're hoping he can help us."
  • Offensive line coach Jeff Grimes commented on West Virginia's unique 3-3-5 defense. "It can be a real challenge, just because it's different from what other people do. For me, when I was at Boise State and BYU, there were several teams that played it. In my three years at BYU, we saw it every day in practice. We played New Mexico every year. I found there are just certain answers you to have, certain adjustments you have to make in the run game. And the more you do it the more you understand what the defense is trying to do when they're attacking this gap or attacking that gap. I learned as a coach how to handle it and hopefully that will help us. At the same time, you don't want to be making a ton of adjustments and keeping yourselves from playing as fast as you would like to. It is a challenge because it is different, especially the way they run."
  • Auburn hasn't allowed a sack if you haven't heard. Grimes says it's for a number of factors. "One, we've run the ball a whole lot. When we've thrown it, we have protected well. No. 2, I think our pace really helps. That we're operating at a fast tempo helps wear down the defense and slows down their pass rush. But we're going to see the best pass-rushers that we've seen this week. These guys have some guys that can really, really run and chase the football. We'll have to be much further along in terms of our protection and technique or we're going to get the quarterback hit. Hopefully we'll be up to the challenge."
  • Grimes has been pleased with how his guards, Mike Berry and Byron Isom, have pulled on a number of runs. "You can pull both directions and feel really good about those plays," he said. "They may wish we didn't run quite so many of them, because they get worn slick if we do that a whole lot of times in a row. But that's a real advantage for us having two guards that can run and pull and operate in space and they're both doing a nice job of it."
  • I'm also going to start using "worn slick" in my daily conversation.
  • Mike Blanc is the No. 1 defensive tackle next to Jake Ricks. Junior college transfer Nick Fairley is the backup, although he didn't play much against Mississippi State just because of the situation. "In the second game, the thing was to get those twos in there early but the deal is when you have a couple of three and out early, and that's the way it went, and there was nothing we could do about it," Rocker said. "All of sudden it was 'Here we go.' Guys it's your turn and everything. But we had three and out, three and out. You'd like to get them in there early but hey, I'm all for three and out too. Ones are ones, that's the way it works. If you're a one, you play. Twos are going to come in at the time of the rotation."
  • Rocker had great things to say about West Virginia quarterback Jarrett Brown: "The thing is you see this guy throw people off him. The football doesn't look like it's college sized. It looks like a little miniature ball in his hands. I'm going to assume the guy has gigantic hands, just the way the ball looks in his hands. He's so strong, he's slinging people off and the thing you see is he can run. We got a big challenge there. I definitely respect his play. You see people putting pressure and they look like they're about to sack him and he goes. First down. Or he scrambles out and he'll make a little ... he makes throws like when you're in the front yard with your kids. He'll lob something out of nowhere. It's going to be important for us up front. Our four guys against their five. The most important thing is going to be tackling. Tackling and playing fast."
  • Special teams coordinator Jay Boulware was (ticked) about the special teams breakdowns the team has had so far. I won't spoil it here because I wrote about it for tomorrow's paper.
  • Morgan Hull is doing kickoffs and looking good, Boulware said. "Morgan, going into the first game, he was our leader in kickoffs, and he had been the leader all summer. He strained his thigh and I didn't kick him on Thursday and I didn't feel comfortable starting him in the game. We got up on those guys and I felt like he could go in there and get it done. And he showed the same consistency that he had shown all summer. He's worked really hard, guys, just so you know. He deserves all the accolades that he can get right now, because he did a tremendous job this summer working on the consistency. Last spring, I didn't think that he was very good at being consistent. I knew he had a strong leg and I told him to focus on kickoffs this summer and the offseason and he did."
  • DeAngelo Benton and Emory Blake, as you may have noticed, haven't been doing all too much in the receiving game. Benton figured to have a bigger role last week but missed part of practice because of a death in the family. Taylor said they'll have a bigger role when the situation warrants it. "They’ll be involved when they earn it," he said. "They’ve got to make plays. That’s pretty simple. Right now, two guys are making plays and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Those two guys have really stood out. I think Darvin (Adams) and (Terrell Zachery) have really earned what they’re getting. Until something changes in practice or one of those guys goes down or doesn’t make plays, then they will."
  • Taylor said Anthony Gulley could have a bigger role this week, playing the "2" behind Zachery at wideout.
  • A couple fans have had "Trooper Towels" in the crowd last Saturday, mimicking the receivers coach's towel waving tactics. "The student guys had called me and talked to me about it," Taylor said. "I thought he meant five or six of those guys were going to copy me with a towel and some of the things I did. I didn’t know they were actually going to print up towels and actually sell them. But it was flattering and I think my children were more impressed than anything. They had it up on the Jumbotron, they said, and some people were trying to get them to me to autograph. The guys are really nice guys. They’re students. I tip my hat to them that, No. 1 they were trying to do something different and No. 2 they were trying to get the student body involved. That’s kind of the thing we’ve been doing. We’ve been trying to make sure we show the fans appreciation for coming and make sure they feel a part and we give them something to cheer about and feel proud to be an Auburn Tiger."
  • Taylor said the students are going to donate some of the towels' proceeds to a charity of his choosing. "We’ll figure it out," he said. "It might be several. Why limit it to one?"

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