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Sunday, October 4, 2009

Late practice notes: Pierre-Louis' role not expanding; no word on starting RG

AUBURN, Ala. — Philip Pierre-Louis returned punts in a pinch for Auburn at Tennessee. That doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll do it again.

Pierre-Louis, who has been in head coach
Gene Chizik’s doghouse for most of the year, replaced Anthony Gulley as the team’s punt returner Saturday night after Gulley got dinged up covering a kickoff in the first quarter.

Pierre-Louis had two returns for nine yards and successfully made three fair catches, a positive sign for an Auburn punt return unit that’s had trouble in that area.

Alls we asked was just let us keep the ball,” Chizik said. “Just don’t turn the ball over, and then he started feeling a little bit comfortable enough to take them and get some return mileage out of them as well, so that was good to see.”

Chizik didn’t say who will return punts at Arkansas this Saturday.

It was Pierre-Louis’ first action since suffering a season-ending knee injury in last year’s opener. He had issues this August that kept him away from the team for part of training camp in August and is still working his way back into
Chizik’s good graces. He did not dress for the Tigers’ first four games this season.

Chizik didn’t promise anything about future playing time for Pierre-Louis, who has not practiced in any offensive packages yet.

“Philip is going to continue to work with us as a punt returner,”
Chizik said. “Whether he plays or doesn’t play, that will be kind of day-to-day. We’ll see where that goes. It will be a work in progress as well.”

Follow the blog on Twitter. After you'd do that, I'd appreciate it if you read these other notes ...
  • Chizik offered no specifics as to who would start at right guard for the Tigers next week. Byron Isom, who started the first three games, missed his second straight game Saturday because of a team-imposed suspension. Chizik has given no timetable for his return. “If you see him back he’ll have done the things we’ve asked him to do,” Chizik reiterated Sunday.
  • Freshman John Sullen started against Ball State, but junior Bart Eddins got his shot against Tennessee. Eddins, who has had three knee surgeries in his career, played nearly the entire game and held his own against a strong Tennessee defense. “Really, really proud of Bart,” Chizik said. “No. 1, because he’s really overcome some health issues and he played with them Saturday night; they didn’t just go away.”
  • Running back Ben Tate was so appreciative of the holes his offensive linemen made for him against Tennessee that he’s taking the whole group, including H-back Eric Smith, out to dinner sometime this week, following through on a promise he’s made in the past. The restaurant choice? Definitely some sort of buffet. “They all like to eat,” Tate said. “That’s too much money. I’ll probably take them to Golden Corral, something like that.”
  • Tate ranks 13th nationally and second in the SEC in rushing, averaging 108 yards per game. He ran for 128 yards Saturday against a solid Vols defense that was allowing only 87 yards a game on the ground entering the night. “That just lets everyone know that we’re for real,” Tate said. “It kind of gives us confidence in ourselves too. They are one of the best defenses in the country with one of the best defensive coordinators in the country. That just shows us that our hard work is paying off.”
  • Linebacker Craig Stevens came away from the Tennessee game pleased with the way the defense played. "I think it's one of the best performances we've had this year, other than the first play," he said. "Other than that, I think we did great. After the first play, they didn't score after that and we just basically stopped the run like we wanted to and basically just played well overall. So I think that it ranks toward the top -- probably No. 1."
  • Tennessee gained 207 yards and scored 16 points against a soft Auburn defense in the fourth quarter. Here's what defensive coordinator Ted Roof hadto say about that: "In the fourth quarter, when you start managing the game, which the situation dictates, they moved the ball and scored some points through the air," he said. "The last play, that’s something doesn’t leave a great taste in your mouth, and you have to go back to work. But the good news is all those mistakes are correctable, and we’ve got to get them eliminated before we go to Arkansas."
  • That "last play" was a 32-yard Tennessee touchdown pass at the final gun that only made the game seem closer on the scoreboard. "You would have preferred not to see that," Chizik said. "I know some of our DBs were very disappointed in that. And you would have liked to have not seen it and obviously you never want anyone to score on any play, much less the last one. It is what it is. Again, we've got to take our defense to a new level for four quarters."
  • CB Walt McFadden was the one who got beat on the play: "Oh man. It was on me. My leg was bothering me but no excuses. Great catch by the receiver. It was my second career touchdown caught on me. It sucks to see that play happen to us. If we didn't get that field goal it could have been tied up. That's something that I'm very upset with but I have to get over it and move on to next week."
  • Injured QB Barrett Trotter (ACL) made the trip to Knoxville, mostly to help relay offensive signals. “We want to keep him around the offense,” Chizik said.
  • DT Nick Fairley made a nice block on a PAT after Tennessee scored just before halftime. "Let me tell you now, every day we're in pads, we work the heck out of that," Chizik said. "That is not a down off."
  • LB Adam Herring caught some flak from teammates. He picked up the blocked PAT and appeared to have open field to run for a 2-point conversion the other way, but he got tackled by the holder.
  • In case you didn't notice, Herring's been getting the vast majority of snaps at weak-side linebacker over Eltoro Freeman, who started for the third straight game but quickly gave way to Herring. "I don’t know if I want to get into what’s holding kids back, but he just needs to keep working," Roof said. "It’s a tough position, and because of the depth situation, there is no learning curve, or time for you to season. You’ve got to come play. So, we’ll just keep working him and I’m sure things will work out."
  • Roof on Herring, who missed all of the spring and a good portion of August because of heel surgery: "It’s been critical. He’s performed well, especially considering the guy missed spring practice and six or seven practices in the fall, and to go right into game mode. He missed all the fundamental work and things of that nature, but, to his credit, he stayed with it. Some players when they get hurt have a tendency to drift mentally, and he hasn’t done that. He stayed with it, and that’s part of what enabled him to stay productive once he got healthy."
  • Herring, by the way, sat out the Ball State game because of that sore heel. He said he's fine now.
  • Chizik on Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino. The two were on the same Auburn staff in 2002, with Chizik as defensive coordinator and Petrino as offensive coordinator: "He's very very precise. He knows exactly what he wants, he knows exactly how he's setting you up for the next thing. He coaches those guys in minute details. He knows exactly what he wants. He knows how to run the ball, he knows how to throw the ball and he knows what he's looking from you defensively to take advantage of what he does. He's really good at it, really good at it."
  • Roof hasn't done too much film work on Arkansas yet but knows the Razorbacks have an explosive group, led by cannon-armed quarterback Ryan Mallett, who affects how a defense plays. "Guys with big arms make you defend the entire width of the field – they’re able to throw the out-cut to the field and also the guys who are good throwing the deep ball," Roof said.
  • Chizk on Eric Smith's reaction once he found out he could come back from a team-imposed suspension: "When we told him he was going to come back, of course he was elated. He loves football and he loves Auburn. As I said, he’ll be a better Auburn man if you see him back and he’s a better Auburn man than he was then. I still believe that."
  • WR/Wildcat QB Kodi Burns knows he lost a touchdown pass when it bounced out of RB Onterio McCalebb's hands. "I talked to him a couple times. But we joked about it," Burns said. "Those kinds of things happen. I'm not mad at him, and he knows that. And I know he'll make the play next time."
  • Auburn’s game at Arkansas this Saturday will start at noon ET. It will be televised by ESPN.

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