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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Late night practice notes: Arkansas game more meaningful for a few Natural State natives

When he was being recruited, Fort Smith, Ark., native Kodi Burns felt some pressure to attend his homestate school.

He picked Auburn, but every year’s matchup with the Razorbacks is a special one for him.

“It’s pretty important to me being from there,” the quarterback-turned-wide receiver said. “I always love to beat them, but I love to beat any team. It would be good to go out with a win my senior year.”

Four current Tigers hail from the Natural State: Burns, left tackle Lee Ziemba, running back Mike Dyer and tight end Dakota Mosley.

Dyer, the No. 1 recruit in the state last year out of Little Rock, whose decision came down to Auburn and Arkansas, said he knows “probably the whole (Razorbacks) team.”

“It’s a big game, but you play normal,” he said. “It’s always fun to play against someone that you know, and it’s, ‘I grew up with him.’”

Ziemba, a Rogers, Ark., native, doesn’t have many ties to the state anymore. His parents moved to Nashville after he graduated high school, so he rarely goes back.

“I know just as many people who play for Georgia or LSU as at Arkansas,” he said. “Coaches have changed up there. It’s not like it was.”

Auburn continues to make inroads in the state where offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn gained his reputation as an up-tempo guru.

Kiehl Frazier, a dual-threat quarterback from Springdale, Ark., committed to Auburn in May. He is the No. 2 recruit in the state.

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Here are some other notes and quotes from the late round of interviews Tuesday:
  • Malzahn didn’t sound thrilled with Tuesday’s practice, calling the effort OK. Perhaps that only applied to the offense. “He’s on the offensive side of the field, so I don’t know how his practice went over there,” linebacker Josh Bynes said. “But defensively, we did pretty good.” Bynes said the defense did “better at communicating and trying to pick up their routes and trying to dictate how they run their routes in this space or that space,” things that will be crucial when the Tigers face Arkansas’ offense, which ranks second in the SEC to Auburn’s.
  • Malzahn, meanwhile, thinks there was some carryover on the offensive side from Saturday’s last-second win against Kentucky. “I have extremely high expectations,” he said. “We took a lot of emotional energy out of Saturday’s game, so we got to find a way. And our guys will. We’ll come back tomorrow, ready to go.”
  • Interesting stuff today from Gus on Cam Newton, which I plan to turn into a story later this week. Malzahn has had five different quarterbacks in five years as a college coordinator, but none quite like Newton. He's catered the offense to Newton's specific skills, something he started doing in the spring after first seeing his abilities. "You recruit someone on film and all that and you get them in person and compete for the job, and then they win the job and I guess it goes back to my old high school background," Malzahn said. "I'm used to building the offense around the strengths of the quarterback, so we knew a bit coming out of the spring and the fall camp. We kind of had a good idea of what we were going to do. And we learned each week. I think we learned a lot about him. And like I said, I think we've got a good grasp of his strengths and what he does well and trying to build around the things he does well."
  • This will be in the story too: Malzahn said he always strives for a 50-50 split in pass-run. The Tigers have run the ball 284 times this year to 117 passes (70.8 percent). They have 1,656 rushing yards to 1,242 passing (57 percent). So they're not quite there yet. It'll be interesting to see how the offense plays out the rest of the year. "I really feel like at the end of the year that we'll be pretty balanced," Malzahn said.
  • Malzahn, like Newton, was disgusted by last year's Arkansas game, comparing it to last year's Kentucky game. "I think they're very similar," he said. "Both of those were very bad days offensively, and they played well, we didn't play well. It's good to see that and try to correct it."
  • Arkansas' defense is improved, ranking third 19th nationally by giving up only 302.4 yards per game. "You can tell that they've been together with that defensive coordinator for three years," Malzahn said. "You can tell they really understand what they're doing. They play extremely hard. I think they're very good tacklers in open spaces. I think they're safeties really do a good job in run fitting and doing the things they need to do."
  • Malzahn's take on Auburn long, game-winning touchdown drive against Kentucky: "We're trying to win the game. Whatever gives us the best chance of winning. At the first of it, we were just trying to make first downs. We were trying to get first downs and get out of that hole. Once we got a few, then you start thinking, hey the clock's running down. We were in field goal range with about three minutes left, so the thinking kind of changed a little bit. Our offensive line did a good job opening up some holes, and Cam did a good job protecting the football."
  • Gus had a nice reaction to Newton's off-balance pass while going out of bounds. "We teach our guys to throw it where our receivers can catch it or nobody can catch it," he said. "It was one of those plays that ... you know ... it was ... I was right there by it, it was pretty ... unusual."
  • WR Emory Blake was similarly impressed: "On the sideline I didn’t notice he actually left his feet before he threw the ball. I saw on SportsCenter right when we got on the bus, and I and was like, 'Dang, I don’t know how he made that throw. It was all with his wrist. It was pretty amazing.’"
  • Redshirt freshman Clint Moseley is mimicking Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett on the scout team this week.
  • WR DeAngelo Benton was seen on a crutch at the athletic complex Tuesday. Benton injured his left ankle late in the Kentucky game. Head coach Gene Chizik called him “day-by-day.”
  • Bynes knows what Auburn's defense is up to this week against Arkansas' defense, calling it one of the toughest one they've face. "You have an outstanding quarterback, but you got receivers that go full speed each and every down," he said. "You watch film, those guys are running all over the place. There ain’t not one of them jogging or trotting, they’re running full speed. We were talking today about how on the crossing routes, it seems like it takes their receivers one second to get from one side of the field to the next side, that’s how fast they were running. We see that we have to get our pass defense down pat. Of course, we have to be efficient stopping the run, making them one-dimensional, things like that. But we know that the quarterback is going to be the man to beat.”
  • Bynes called Mallett "7-feet tall," [Note: he's actually 6-6], adding, "You let him stand back there like he’s a Statue of Liberty, he’s going to make it happen." Pass rush will be key. "We’re just going to go out and play football, try to rile him maybe," Bynes said.
  • Despite that, Bynes said stopping the run is still the defense's primary focus. “It ain’t even about last year," he said. "It’s about every game you play in the SEC. If you can’t stop the run, it just leaves them the opportunity to do play-action, do this, do that, and that’s how you lose games. If you can’t stop the run at all, you ain’t going to win in this league. Towards the end of the season, like we’re at midseason now, it’s about running that clock, being efficient with the ball, clock management, pounding the football. If you can’t pound the football and you have to try to survive with passing, you ain’t going to win no games like that in the SEC. This is a downhill league. At the end of the season, you’ll see how many runs everybody does and how many passes and I bet you it’ll be more runs than passes.”
  • Bynes owned up to missing a sack on Kentucky quarterback Randall Cobb, but gave credit where credit is due. "Obviously, I can’t really knock it," he said. "I can’t just say it was our fault, because he made a play out of nothing."
  • An outspoken critic of Auburn's tackling lately, Bynes couldn't help but give himself a demerit for the play. "Yeah, I don’t want to say all this about missed tackles and not say nothing about myself," he said. "He had a nice little fake going and I just didn’t want to miss him, miss the tackle. But he had some speed on him, he knew what he was doing. I missed the tackle. I ain’t finna say I didn’t.”


AUsome04 said...

Ah yeah, ah yeah AB. Great job as usual. I told ya'll earlier I thought this game would come down to defending Ark run game moreso than the passing. You have to stop the run in the SEC just like my boy Bynes said. Not withstanding what the QB did last year, but Arkansas has torched us BOTH years with Bobby Petrino in the run game (In fact we seem to be the only SEC team they can run against). We have to shut that down this weekend to stop that play action and oh yeah please hit that QB A-lot.

Clint Richardson said...

Hey AB, once again an outstanding job. We all know that USC has good, tall WR; how tall and physical are the Ark WRs?

How do I get a press pass like yours, haha??? You've got the best job in the world- being in Auburn and around these guys. I'd love to just spend a day with those guys.

One more thing. I bet you beat writers, and any writer at that, were the best note takers in school. Do you all record the entire interviews and then go back, or do you write it down right there, right then? I don't take the best notes in class and was just curious.

AUsome04 said...

Wow just read another one of your articles. Didn't know they ran for 221 last year. I knew it was bad but I didn't know it was that bad. I think two years ago one RB had 221.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, Arkansas has had a field day running the ball in the past few years on us at home, between McFadden/Jones, that Michael Smith guy, and whoever it was last year (maybe still him). We did stone McFadden/Jones at home in what, 2007? But yeah recent history has not been good against the run. That said, didn't they have a Rimington award winner on the OL?
But, anyways, if Bama, who is garbage at pass rushing and gave up 95 to Lattimore, can get pressure on Mallett in 2010 and keep Arky from running, I think we will be OK.

Anonymous said...

Oh one more thing. If Mallet runs a damn draw up the middle for 10 yards I'm going to kick a hole in my TV for real this year.

tptoomers said...

I think arkansas is a bad match up for our defense, maybe even more so than LSU or Bama. I am very nervous.

Moose said...

I think AU fans have to face the fact we can't stop Arkansas. We CAN beat them but it will be accomplished by scoring, scoring, and much more scoring.

I think you'll see Malzahn and Roof really open it up scheme wise in this game. This is the worst matchup for our defense all year I think.

I think AU wins, but Mallett will throw for 400 yards and 3+ TD's. I think thats just a given.