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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Late night practice notes: Chizik doesn't sound encouraged by Bates' shoulder injury

Auburn head coach Gene Chizik didn’t say whether or not injured linebacker Daren Bates would play at Ole Miss or not. But it doesn’t sound promising.

Chizik said Bates, who missed the second half against LSU after injuring his right shoulder with an awkward fall, has done “not much” at practice this week.

The sophomore was seen yesterday with his right arm in a sling.

“We’re continuing to obviously try to get him healthy,” Chizik said.

Bates, a converted safety, is third on the team with 40 tackles. He is from Memphis but played his senior year at Olive Branch (Miss.) High School, which is a little more than an hour from Ole Miss’ Oxford campus.

“He’ll be disappointed if he misses any games,” Chizik said. “He’s a competitor and he loves to play. So we’ll just kind of keep monitoring that.”

Sophomore Jonathan Evans (strong-side) and junior Eltoro Freeman (weak-side) are potential replacements for Bates as Auburn’s third linebacker. Evans had three tackles last week, getting in on part of a TFL. Freeman didn’t make a tackle in limited playing time.

Senior Craig Stevens can play both the weak- and strong-side positions, giving the Tigers flexibility in their lineup.

“It’s almost been a three-man rotation,” Chizik said.

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Here are some more notes and quotes from Wednesday's interviews:
  • Chizik said cornerback T’Sharvan Bell (hamstring) will be a gametime decision. Bell didn’t dress out last week.
  • Auburn faced bad field position all afternoon against LSU, pinned inside its own 2-yard line by three different punts. Wide receivers coach Trooper Taylor said there was only one occasion when punt returner Quindarius Carr should have fielded the ball. “He shouldn’t have caught any of them but the first one,” Taylor said. “We went punt safe and he was told the most important thing was to field it and we have to have the ball at the end of that play.”
  • Carr, who is averaging 6.8 yards per return this year, eighth in the SEC, didn’t field a single punt against LSU. Taylor’s rule of thumb? “Anything that hits inside the 10, he’s told not to catch,” he said.
  • Auburn stuck with two safeties in its base defense for all of the LSU game: Zac Etheridge was in his usual starting spot, while Mike McNeil played exclusively in place of the injured Aairon Savage. McNeil finished with five tackles. “He did a pretty good job last week playing with a lot more confidence,” safeties coach Tommy Thigpen said. “With playing so much more now he has stepped up his play. He’s in there in the morning, looking at tape and when you come back there in the afternoon, he’s asking all the right questions, taking notes.”
  • Walk-on Ikeem Means, the next safety on the depth chart, plays on the nickel package. Thigpen realizes the need to get the backups up to speed on the regular defense. “They are one play away,” he said. “Savage’s was just a freak (injury). He got hit from behind, got clipped, and in one play he was done. It could happen to Zac. It could happen to Mike. So my challenge to all of them is to be ready when your number is called.”
  • Thigpen said Savage is doing well after having surgery for a broken bone in his right ankle. “What we keep telling him is he might be back before the Alabama game,” Thigpen said. “Definitely for the bowl game.”
  • Count Thigpen as someone incredibly impressed by the ability of Ole Miss quarterback Jeremiah Masoli. "He’s the most athletic quarterback we’ve faced," Thigpen said. "We thought (Jordan) Jefferson last week was pretty good as far as escaping the pocket and getting out in the open. But (Masoli) is the best I’ve seen as far as a guy who can avoid the sacks, fake like he’s going to throw it and tuck it down and run it. Believe it or not, he’s probably more accurate when he’s on the run than when he’s in the pocket.”
  • Masoli can draw defenses in with his running. "What usually happens, when he gets out one time for a 25-yard gain, guys drop shorter and all of sudden the ball gets thrown behind you," Thigpen said. "Sometimes just looking at it you can get mesmerized and the next thing you know there are two or three receivers behind you. So you’ve got to keep your focus on making sure you don’t stare at the quarterback so those guys don’t come up. He does a tremendous job of getting out and taking something that looks like it’s going to be a four or five-yard gain and the next thing you know it’s 45 yards. So we’ve just got to try and bottle him up best way we can.”
  • Offensive line coach Jeff Grimes said his team will have its work cut for itself with Ole Miss' defensive tackles, led by Jerrell Powe. "They do present a challenge because they’ve got several guys in there who can play; and they do a good job of rotating guys in," Grimes said. "They play hard. They’re not just big guys who fill a gap and don’t make plays. They make plays. They get off of blocks. There are some guys who are just big and eat up blocks and let the linebackers make plays. These guys aren’t that way. They’re agile, too, and play hard."
  • Grimes liked the 440 rushing yards Auburn had against LSU, but he was extremely satisfied with how the Tigers did it. "But there is something different about lining up and saying, 'Here we come and we’re going to keep on coming until you stop it,'" he said. "There’s something very enjoyable about that."
  • Auburn hasn't had a bye week, which has led to the typical bumps and bruises at this time of year. Grimes said he hasn't seen it affecting anybody, though. "I think when you’re winning and you’re able to have some success, it’s a whole lot easier," he said.
  • Nor does he think the Tigers will have a problem with motivation now that they are the No. 1 team in the BCS rankings. "We’re not in a position that some other teams have been in in past years where they’ve been up in the hunt every year," he said. "This is a bunch of guys who have to fight and scratch and claw and go through a lot of ugly parts to get to this point. I think, and I hope, they appreciate it and they’re not going to grow complacent and give in because they’ve been to that other place of disappointment. Now, they have a chance to really do something."
  • Trooper said it starts with the head coach: "He really is on top of it. Even with things that happen to other teams, he’ll cut the tape off, or if something happens to another conference team or one that may be in the top five or No. 1, he’ll show it to our team to make them see, ‘Here are the different things that have happened. Just like it happened to them – if you allow it to – it can happen to you.’ I think he does a great job because they’re visual learners. They can see it happening to a team they respect and think, ‘Whoa. This team was able to beat them and we better be on our P’s and Q’s.’"
  • LOTS of stuff about Auburn's wide receivers blocking, which I think I'll turn into a story for Friday's paper. So I'll hold most of that material for then, but here's a sample of how Taylor makes it an emphasis during practice: "If you wait until after practice, or try to do it pre-practice, it’s not in the body of practice, so it’s not as important in their mind," he said. "I always try to make time in individual periods to start off with blocking. The guys have bought in."
  • Auburn occasionally catches a movie on Friday nights before being sequestered in the hotel room in Montgomery. One reporter made the assumption that the players don't usually go watch something like "The Bridges of Madison County," quickly realizing how dated the reference was. "Hasn't that passed by?" Chizik said, playing along. "That's been a while. But when we go to the movies, we give them options."
  • And lastly, the word is that Ole Miss will wear white on Saturday and has asked Auburn to wear its blue jerseys, according to AuburnUndercover.com.


Tar Heel Tiger said...

Mr. Bitter,

Simply superb, yet again. Thanks so much for all the info. I bet you'd make a darn good sportswriter if you ever decided to give up this blog gig.

Tar Heel Tiger said...

I'll be stuck at work tomorrow and unable to enjoy the live blog live. But I'll be sure to catch up on the live blog via replay when I get home from the BuyMore around midnight.

Anonymous said...

Any thought to the idea that Ole Miss wants us to wear blue since they have asked their fans to do the same thing, thus making it a "tougher' background for Auburn to find players (ala Super Bowl III and the Colts missed TD pass)?

Andy Bitter said...

That would be crafty. It would also require Auburn to throw the ball more than it runs it. Probably not the best bet.

scottie burns said...

so the visiting team wears navy and the fans do too? what a bunch of weirdos. silly bears.

Anonymous said...

Well at least we know that the last few teams to try uniform gimicks have failed miserably in their upset bids. Sorry but I don't think anyone is fearing the all blue bear cave.

MikeP said...

Weird idea, first ask your fans to do an "all blue" game, then decide to wear white and the visitors have a blue uniform.
Somebody said that Ole Miss's uniform company wanted them to wear a new style white uniform for this game because they are playing #1 and there will be a lot of folks watching on TV.

Jerrod Moll said...

All white eh? Hoods and all I assume...