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Sunday, October 18, 2009

Late practice notes: LB Freeman still trying to get grasp of defense

AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn linebacker Eltoro Freeman dressed Saturday against Kentucky, but he didn’t have much of a role.

The sophomore returned after missing the Arkansas game for personal reasons, but he didn’t see any action in the regular defense, only getting on the field in a special teams capacity. For the time being, that might be the norm.

“We’ve got to work toward getting him a better grasp of what’s happening,” Auburn coach Gene Chizik said. “And you’ve got to remember, he missed a lot of football through two-a-days and through the beginning of the season, so he’s just got to get caught up, and really that’s it.”

Freeman, who transferred to Auburn from junior college last winter, missed part of preseason practice with hamstring and wrist injuries. He started against West Virginia, Ball State and Tennessee but has had limited production. He has seven tackles this season.

The Tigers are hurting for linebacker depth.
Josh Bynes, Craig Stevens and Adam Herring played the entire game against Kentucky, with Herring coming off the field only in nickel situations. Still, Freeman was never an option.

“If we felt like that was the best thing for our team, we would have done it,” Chizik said.

Nevertheless, Chizik thinks his development is very important for the success of the defense moving forward.

“And he’s willing to do it,” Chizik said. “He’s just got to stay healthy and out there long enough to really make some strides, and when he does that he’ll help our football team.”

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  • Defensive end Antoine Carter got his second career start against Kentucky because Michael Goggans was dealing with a minor, undisclosed injury that limited him during practice. The junior did well, making five tackles and getting credited for two quarterback hurries. Carter is still getting back to full strength after having offseason surgery on his right knee. He could feel it getting fatigued Saturday in what was his most extensive action this season. “I felt I did good,” he said. “I got a little tired in the fourth quarter — well, not physically just like my knee really got a little tired. I’ll get stronger and stronger every week, so I don’t think it will be a (problem) next week.”
  • Auburn defensive coordinator Ted Roof thought his unit played well for three quarters against Kentucky before having “an epidemic of missed tackles” in the fourth. “I think that we were in position to make some plays and we didn’t,” he said. Auburn has struggled all season with missed tackles. Kentucky did nothing to make that easier. Randall Cobb, working out the Wildcat formation, was a shifty threat who the Tigers struggled to corral all game. He finished with 109 rushing yards, including a 61-yard run that set up his own game-winning score. “We’ve got to give them credit too,” Roof said. “(Cobb) does that everybody he plays. But we’ve got to find a way to make those. It’s all of us together and we’re going to keep working to get that done.”
  • The Tigers have done wholesale substitutions on the defensive line. Saturday night, it was Goggans, tackles Derrick Lykes and Nick Fairley and end Gabe McKenzie coming in on the second shift. "Well, we want to keep our first unit as fresh as we can at the end of the ballgame, to try to win a close game at the end," Roof said. "And at the same time to develop some depth -- and that's happened. You see Nick Fairley and Lykes -- you see those guys making plays and showing up. That's going to do nothing but help us as we build our defense."
  • Roof thought the team responded well in practice Sunday. "You can tell it ripped their guts out," he said. "At the same time, we can't let Kentucky beat us next week, too. It hurts because they put so much into it. At same time, we've got to move forward and understand what we've got to do to get better. That's the goal each and every day. That's the only approach I know -- go to back to work and constantly evaluate what you're doing, how you're coaching it, all those types of things that you do to try to make it as good as you can make it."
  • I included plenty of stuff in my main story about Auburn penalties. It was a big focal point in practice Saturday. Here's a taste of what Tommy Trott had to say: "It's going to lose you football games. ... It just kills you. It's real tough to play behind the chains. It allows the defense to really put the pressure on you and you've got to play to what the defense is giving you, because they know what you're trying to do. And they have the advantage at that point. So yeah, we definitely need to cut out those penalties."
  • I'll be using this for a story later this week, but Trott said Arkansas did a good job of taking away Auburn's bubble screens, but Kentucky simply played a base defense. He said the Wildcats blitzed all of two times on the night. "They decided that they were going to make us earn whatever we were going to get," he said. "They were just going to sit back and play defense and make us earn everything and weren't going to let us burn them in blitzes or any deep balls. We still had some opportunities downfield and we're going to need those opportunities. We've got some really speedy receivers who are able to make plays down field. Unfortunately, we it just didn't click last night."
  • Trott was wide open on one play and quarterback Chris Todd missed him, although Trott couldn't come down too hard on him. "I know the progressions and that he's told," Trott said. "I'm not going to fault him for not finding me. That's just the way it goes sometimes."
  • I'll be writing more about Todd's recent struggles for my newspaper story on Tuesday, but Trott said the quarterback bounced back well Sunday. "He's fine," Trott said. "He's a tough kid. Great leader and he bounced back already today at practice. He's a very vocal leader and he was doing just great today."
  • Chizik thought the punting game was a major factor in the game that got overlooked. Kentucky's Ryan Tydlacka had an average of 41.0 yards on six punts. Four were downed inside the 20. In the third quarter, Kentucky downed punts at the Auburn 5- and 3-yard line.
  • Chizik said RB Onterio McCalebb is still working through an ankle injury. "Sometimes it's hard for him to cut, as you can see," he said. "He's a tough guy. He plays through everything. If we had a wish list, he'd be perfect right now. He's a little dinged up."
  • Lots of interesting stuff on backup LB Ashton Richardson, who plays mostly on special teams. His dad, Al, starred at LSU from 1979-82, earning All-American honors and first-team all-SEC recognition. He still holds LSU's record for most tackles in a game and a career. Richardson also was displaced from New Orleans to Baton Rouge because of Hurricane Katrina. I definitely plan on writing more about this later this week.

1 comment:

WokDontRun said...

I hope we see Eltoro on the feild soon...Adam Herring is NOT an SEC LB, he should only be playing on special teams...Did anyone else see him run himself out of the play most of the night?...Or when he had KU's RB tackled in the backfeild and the RB overpowered him...It is shameful...Glad we are signing 5 to 6 LB in this class, we need them.