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Sunday, August 29, 2010

Late night practice notes: Different feeling for Auburn as Arkansas State opener approaches

Nearly two full days away from the field and colder weather brought a noticeable change to the tenor of Auburn’s football practice Sunday.

Although neither probably had as much of an effect as the sobering thought of the fast-approaching season opener against Arkansas State on Saturday.

“You get to the grind of the everyday practice and all the things that go with pre-fall camp,” Auburn head coach Gene Chizik said. “And at some point it’s like there’s no end in sight, and now they’re finally seeing for the next 14, 15 weeks, we’ve got games. ...

“I think it changes mentally the whole outlook for those guys.”

It’s only six days until the No. 22 Tigers kick off the season at Jordan-Hare Stadium against the Red Wolves, ending an offseason of rising expectations in Year 2 of the Chizik regime, both externally and internally.

“It’s way more confident than we were last year,” linebacker Josh Bynes said. “We feel it, not just from media but we feel it within ourselves, that we don’t see anything less than an SEC championship year. And that’s the feeling from the get-go.”

“It’s put up or shut up,” quarterback Cam Newton said. “Go hard or go home. That’s words I live for before the game. If you’re not going to give your all, why are you out here?”

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There was plenty of other ground to cover from tonight. Let's get to the bullet points:
  • One more quote on how different Sunday compared to the rest of August, courtesy of DE Antoine Carter: "It’s like the clouds moving out of the way and the sun coming out to shine."
  • Freshman wide receiver Trovon Reed didn't practice Sunday, instead doing conditioning drills on the side because of a bruised knee cap. He injured himself last week diving for a pass. It's a different knee injury than the one that kept him out of practice earlier this month. He hopes to be ready Saturday. “I’m not going to rush anything, because I was taught if you rush, bad stuff happens,” Reed said. “And I go by that motto. So I’m not going to rush it and I’m going to know my role.”
  • If he can’t go, Reed has different goals. “I’ll cheer my team on,” he said. “I’ll be the biggest cheerleader on the sideline.”
  • Chizik had great things to say about sophomore cornerback T'Sharvan Bell, who has built off his two-interception performance in the Outback Bowl. "Top option at nickel, top option at both sides," Chizik said. "He's right on the brink. The way he's played so far in the first month, he can very well, you might as well pencil him in and say he's a starter as well. He's played as good as anybody out there in the secondary."
  • Defensive coordinator Ted Roof seconded that motion, saying Bell has improved most on being consistent. "He’s become a dependable football player, and I couldn’t say that about him this time last year," he said. "To his credit, he’s just kept his mouth shut and gone to work."
  • The coaches were brutally honest with Bell last year that he wasn't physical enough. That aided his transformation. "I took it personally," he said. "I didn't want anybody thinking I was soft out on the field. It was a personal thing. They say: Don't take anything personally. Them telling me that I'm not being a physical football player -- I took it personally." And now? "They don't tell me that anymore," he said.
  • There's been a lot of cross-training at the safety spots between strong and free. "We'd like them to be interchangeable parts," Chizik said. Zac Etheridge and Aairon Savage have enough experience to play either. Mike Mcneil has worked mostly at free. Ikeem Means has been mostly at strong.
  • Chizik estimated that 10 to 20 freshmen could play right away, although he didn't want to get locked into a number. “It’s going to be important that we get these guys in the game, whether we have the lead or not,” he said. “It’s hard as a coach right now to say, ‘Hey, I’ve got to get my guy in in the middle of the second quarter,’ but you’ve got to force yourself to do that. That’s where you’ve just got to bite the bullet and let all the young guys play regardless of where you’re at.”
  • No decision yet on a starting punter between Ryan Shoemaker and Steven Clark. "Hopefully early in the week," Chizik said. "I don't know how early it is. That's my druthers, but again, both of them are really doing a nice job, so it's a nice competition."
  • The Wildcat job appears up for grabs too. Incumbent Kodi Burns said he’s worked there, but he’s also helped out “the young guy,” a reference to Reed. Burns said he still throws every day. "I haven't stopped doing what I've done since I've been here," he said. "You never know what's going to happen in a game."
  • Burns is working at the "5" receiver spot, a slot position. It's an eclectic group, with him, Emory Blake, Philip Lutzenkirchen and others. "It's a very versatile spot," Burns said. "How I fit in there is exactly how you said -- Emory is a little guy and Lutz is a bigger guy and I'm somewhere in the middle. I feel like I'm pretty versatile. I can play slot and I can go outside and have a new role this year. I feel like I'll be on the field a lot."
  • Some fans might be concerned about Newton driving a moped around campus. Chizik thinks his starting quarterback drives responsibly. "I'm going to hope that he's very cautious when he proceeds on that moped, which I'm sure he is," he said. "We trust him. He's got to drive carefully."
  • Burns was asked about Newton's moped. "I know what that deal is," he said. "Scootin' Newton? I've seen him a little bit." Asked if he ever wanted one himself, Burns poked a little fun at Newton with his answer. "Back in the day … when I was in fifth grade," he joked. "I just walk. No umbrella when it rains. Man stuff."


Anonymous said...

Kodi Burns. Man Stuff.

MikeP said...

As always, a very nice report, thanks!

Tar Heel Tiger said...

wonderful report. Thanks, AB!

Anonymous said...

scootin' newton? How hard can it be to get a pic up on this blog?

Anonymous said...

How's Ladarious's foot?