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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Early notes: Auburn trying to avoid another letdown following second straight 5-0 start

Auburn knows what it's like to be 5-0. It also knows what it's like when that all goes wrong.

The Tigers, who are unbeaten through five games for the second straight year, will try to avoid the three-game losing streak that briefly derailed the team after their quick start last season.

"We know what can happen after being 5-0 if you let your guard down," left tackle Lee Ziemba said. "Last year, we got to 5-0 and then we fell off the face of the map. This year we're going to try to prevent that from happening by first acknowledging that we're not there yet and that we need to keep working."

Auburn's players think they're better for last year's experience. The Tigers were unbeaten and ranked No. 17 in the country before losing to Arkansas, Kentucky and LSU to drop off the national radar.

They'll try to avoid a similar fate when they travel to Kentucky this week.

What lessons did they take?

"Just to keep focused," wide receiver Emory Blake said. "Because when you get to the middle of the season, you start to get tired, some guys start to get banged up. You go out to practice and you don’t want to practice as hard or as long. It starts to take a toll on you, but you’ve got to stay focused when it gets to the rough part of the season.”

Although Auburn has a number of new players in major roles, the veterans have gotten the message across not to be content.

"They're fully aware," Ziemba said. "We're not acting like we've achieved anything yet."

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Some other news and notes from pre-practice interviews:
  • Ziemba said Auburn simply made too many mistakes in last year's Kentucky game, a surprising 21-14 loss. "Coach (Gene) Chizik, at the beginning of the year, he made a video of just body language and mistakes that we made that led to us not being great last year," he said. "And quite a big number of those plays came from that game last year. So we need to eliminate that."
  • The lesson: "Just the fact that you can't have stupid penalties and turn over the ball in this league," left guard Mike Berry said. "It's important that we don't go out there and shoot ourselves in the foot. We have to make our plays that we have to make."
  • Berry on last year's loss: "We really fought our butt off and lost the game. It's devastating."
  • Berry gets a good dose of DT Nick Fairley in practice. Here's his take on the SEC's leader in sacks and tackles for a loss: "Being a big guy, you wouldn't think he'd be that quick. He actually is. He's not more of a power guy. You have to take a really good set against him and not lean. You can't lunge at him because he'll be right by you."
  • Ziemba has seen steady improvement from RT Brandon Mosley. "He's getting more comfortable in there," he said. "It's been real good. He's learning a whole lot more about offense. He's got a lot less MA's. [edit: I assume that's missed assignments] He brings a physical nature to the football game, which I love to see. And he's doing a great job for us."
  • Blake was surprised to see Jay Wisner leave. The two were roommates last year. "It’s tough, but sometimes things happen and guys have to take care of stuff," he said. Blake declined to go into specifics, saying it wasn't his place to say anything, but he did offer some memories of Wisner. "Jay’s a character," he said. "He’s the one always making us laugh, always bringing jokes, always doing the crazy stuff. He definitely will be missed by the whole team."
  • Who will replace him? Blake said Derek Winter will fill his role.
  • Lexington isn't far from Cincinnati, where Blake lived for parts of six years while his dad, Jeff, was the Bengals' quarterback. The Blakes used to live wherever Jeff played during the season, then moved to their other home in Orlando during the offseason. Once Jeff played for New Orleans is when the family moved to Austin, where Emory spent most of his time growing up.
  • Blake doesn't have many memories of Cincinnati, other that some football stuff (he was quite young). It's reasonable that there might be some Jeff Blake Bengals jerseys around the Lexington area, though. "He was big up there when he was up there," Emory said.
  • Blake said Cam Newton doesn't fire the ball as hard as he can on every throw. “He has tried to put a little more touch on the ball at times," he said. "But he’ll still zip it in there when he needs to. He’s got me in practice a couple times, just surprising me. Me coming out of a short route, a break, and it’s just right there in my face."
  • Chizik mentioned it during his press conference, but Kentucky's Derrick Locke and Randall Cobb have combined to average 340.2 total yards per game. They're quick, shifty runners, which makes things a little different for a defense. “It’s a little bit about angles with those guys," defensive end Nosa Eguae said. "We know that as far as the defensive line goes, they’re trying to get to the corners and we know that we have to make sure that our angles are good, and pursuit angles are a must.”
  • RB Mario Fannin said his shoulder is 100 percent now. He consulted with Dr. James Andrews and got a thumbs up. He didn't wear his usual shoulder harness last week, instead using a different brace that allowed him to move his shoulder more. He ran for 89 yards on 10 carries, getting into the end zone once. "I went out there and got those carries, and after the first hit, I didn’t think about it anymore," Fannin said.
  • Fannin said the shoulder has been part of his fumbling problem. "Yeah, but you really can’t use that as an excuse," he said. "You still have to hold the ball. Hopefully, those issues are done now."
  • Fannin was the stylish cover boy for last week's game program, along with some other players. He said he didn't have to give any pointers to the other cover guys, especially Neil Caudle. "Neil kind of dresses like that," he said. "It’s kind of what their swagger is, too. It wasn’t too much for them."


michael said...

That picture is what is wrong with the secondary's tackling at the moment. Just launch yourself at the offensive player and hope for the best.

Andy Bitter said...

That's a good point. I think I'll use this picture for my story about tackling issues later in the week.

Anonymous said...

seriously, all the bitching about the D is a little overdone. This D doesn't get enough credit. They've really started to come on this year in the past couple of games. I'm OK with giving up lots of yards so long as we don't give up lots of points, and so far that's been our MO.

scottie burns said...

that's not a bad observation MJT. just bear hug somebody. show some luv & bring those fools to the ground.

i agree anon, the D is much improved. they've done a tremendous job. not every D can be the 1988 D. just not gonna happen.

AUsome04 said...

Well that play went for an incomplete pass; seems like that breakup worked out better than most of the other passes that have come their way. I'm not sure Aairon should be included on any discussions of missed tackles. So far this year it seems that when he gets his hands on an opponent they go down.

postermom said...

Thanks for posting the link to the cover shot I've been hearing about. I was kind of expecting something a little more GQ, like what Zac wore to Media Days. They look good, but the style looks more Tiger Walk than catwalk. Yeah, yeah, I'm such a girl.