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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Pre-practice notes: Bates set to start at safety

Auburn didn't release its depth chart publicly until Tuesday, but freshman safety Daren Bates has known for 2½ weeks that he would start the season opener against Louisiana Tech.

Bates, who didn’t get approval from the NCAA Clearinghouse until shortly after August practice began, quickly impressed teammates and coaches, leaping Mike Slade and Drew Cole on the depth chart after the second scrimmage to gain a spot in the starting lineup opposite junior safety Zac Etheridge.

"If you want to name anybody else (he's like), it’s Junior Rosegreen," cornerback Walt McFadden said, referring to the former Auburn safety who stood out on the undefeated 2004 team. "A big-time hitter."

"He did some things that kind of make you go, ‘Wow,’ and he has continually gotten better every practice," head coach Gene Chizik said. "There are some challenges for any freshman that plays at this level in this league, but we just thought he could handle it. He’s going to make his share of mistakes, and there will be growing pains with that, we know that. But all the indications that we get from a young guy, we feel confident about it."

Chizik said he and safeties coach Tommy Thigpen "force-fed" Bates football once he got on campus to see what the freshman could handle mentally.

"I'd get here at 7 o'clock in the morning and wouldn't leave until midnight during camp," Bates said of his time with Thigpen. "We'd watch film. He'd give me quizzes on the plays and what La. Tech was doing. He kept on me and got me to where I needed to be."

As for Saturday, Bates has a few goals in mind.

"Just not getting beat," he said. "The first thing is not getting beat or run over."

Here are some other news and notes from before practice ...
  • Chizik was not too clear about DE Antoine Carter's situation. Carter was not on the depth chart released and will not play Saturday. Chizk said he doesn't expound on injuries but did not say definitively that Carter is in fact injured. Weird situation. Here's what DE Michael Goggans had to say: "I'm not sure when he's going to come back, but he's out there every day, he's just trying to get mental reps and I know he's eager to get back out there."
  • That leaves the Tigers with two true freshmen as their top reserves at defensive end — Nosa Eguae and Dee Ford. Eguae is raw but a quick study. Ford, meanwhile, weighs in at only 214 pounds, about 50 less than starters Antonio Coleman and Goggans, which might limit him to pass-rushing situations. “(They're) both young guys who we think have bright futures that are different kinds of players — one’s a little bit bigger, one’s a little bit more sleek and brings a little bit more of the speed element to the game," Chizik said. "But we feel good about both of those guys."
  • Center Ryan Pugh on the importance of a strong start: "We've got to get started fast on offense. There's no time to play around and feel your way around. You've got to come out firing, because we need to start good. We have a chance the way our schedule sets up to start good early. If you catch fire early, you never know what happens later in the year when you get into conference play."
  • Count Pugh as one who's impressed by Louisiana Tech's no-frills defense. "Overall, they're just a sound defense," he said. "They don't do a lot, but what they do they're good at."
  • Pugh didn't really buy into the notion that playing in front of a stadium full of fans has too much of an effect on young players because, honestly, you don't notice it too much. "Sometimes you get down there on the field and you play and you don't really notice the 90,000 people in the stands," he said. "Some people would find that hard to believe, but you really don't notice it as much as you notice the 6-7 coaches that are on the field at all times. What's really weird is during the game, it's almost like you can hear their voice on the sideline even with all the 90,000 people screaming. It's something that you just get used to playing. Yeah, we'll feed off their energy as much as we'll feed off theirs."
  • Pugh deadpanned the biggest understatement of the day: "There'll be some coaches jumping around probably, coach (Trooper) Taylor mainly."
  • Running back Eric Smith will not play, Chizik said.
  • McFadden, a first-team Media All-American, had this to say about his advice to young players on the eve of their first game: "A lot of guys just can’t wait to get to the hotel because there will be a lot of great food there. They’ve been talking about the chicken wings lately, so I’ve been giving them advice how to eat a couple of wings, and take a couple to your room, a couple for snacks after that." Very wise words from a very wise man.
  • McFadden also legitimately said he thinks Auburn shouldn't lose to anyone it plays. We'll disagree slightly and say the Tigers will finish 6-6 this year.
  • Bonus Etheridge quote on Bates: "The first scrimmage, we were on the sideline watching him, like wow. Out of everybody, he had that motor, he didn’t stop at all. He was hitting everything. He's a person that will hit you full speed."
  • Etheridge on Aub urn getting its swagger back: "Yeah, that's one of the things coach has been trying to put to us: Forget about everything that happened last year. Right now, every team is undefeated. The only thing you can do is look forward. You can't keep thinking about last year. That was a hard season for us. We want to go out there and just prove to everyone that we know who we have and we can do some things around here."
  • We'll have more after a second round of interviews tonight.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am always delighted by how much more in depth your coverage is than that of the al.com reporters. Thanks.