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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Late night practice notes: DT Nick Fairley named one of four Lombardi Award finalists

Nick Fairley’s monster season isn’t going unnoticed.

The Auburn defensive tackle was one of four players selected as finalists for the Rotary Lombardi Award, which is given annually to college football’s top offensive or defensive linemen.

Clemson defensive end Da’Quan Bowers, Iowa defensive end Adrian Clayborn and TCU center Jake Kirkpatrick were the other finalists.

Fairley, a 6-foot-5, 298-pound junior from Mobile, Ala., leads the SEC with 18 tackles for a loss and is second with 7.5 sacks.

Auburn coach said Fairley is deserving of the recognition.

“Absolutely,” he said. “But he’s got to go out there and play better than he has in all the others. Game by game, getting better and better.”

The winner will be announced Dec. 8. Auburn’s only other Lombardi Award winner is current defensive line coach Tracy Rocker, who won in 1988.

Georgia coach Mark Richt compared Fairley to another great defensive tackle.

“Nick is the closest thing I’ve seen to Warren Sapp in all the years I’ve been coaching,” he said. “He’s that big of a load, and you have to have some plan for the guy, and even that doesn’t always work.”

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Here are some more notes and quotes from Wednesday's interviews:
  • Chizik didn’t entertain questions about quarterback Cam Newton’s ongoing saga during the SEC teleconference in the afternoon, and he didn’t change his stance at night. Asked if he’s spoken with Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen at all throughout the ordeal, he changed the subject. “I know you guys have a job to do. I respect that,” he said. “But my job right now is Georgia this weekend. So really and truly, as I’ve said before, I’ll entertain questions that have to deal with that, because that’s really where my focus is.”
  • Wide receivers coach Trooper Taylor said the never-ending breaking news on Newton isn’t a distraction. “I can’t tell a difference,” he said. “A distraction? If it is, it hasn’t showed up out there.”
  • Chizik sounded optimistic that cornerback T’Sharvan Bell (hamstring), linebacker Daren Bates (shoulder) and tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen (undisclosed injury) would play this week after missing time with injuries. Bell has missed the last three games, Bates two and Lutzenkirchen one. “Just kind of lump them into one boat, because that’s kind of where they’re all at,” Chizik said, noting they’ve all progressed this week.
  • Cornerbacks coach Phillip Lolley was more definitive about if Bell would play. “Absolutely,” he said. “He’s had a good week of practice and that’s a good deal, a good sign.”
  • Lolley has frequently used Georgia’s A.J. Green as the standard for SEC receivers in his comparisons this year. Now he’s facing the real thing. “I’ve said all year, this guy is different,” Lolley said. “He’s the best we’ve played against. No bones about it.”
  • Green had to sit out the first four games for selling one of his jerseys for extra cash last spring, but he’s made up for lost time, making 32 catches for 510 yards and seven touchdowns in six games since. Chizik said the receiver’s return presents problems from a preparation standpoint.
  • “When they didn’t have him out there, defenses didn’t have to find ways to double him or find ways to pay more attention to him,” he said. “It let them play more on the run. When you have one guy that commands so much attention, you spend hours trying to figure out how you’re going to cope with him.”
  • Lolley said the entire passing game is a concern, identifying out Georgia's other receivers -- Kris Durham and Tavarres King -- by number (that's how he does things). "You look throughout their lineup, they've got tremendous speed, tremendous receivers," Lolley said. "No. 16, over there about 6-5, you know? No. 12 got deep on us last year a couple times, the King kid. Very fast. Very good football player."
  • Lolley knows Georgia will test the Tigers deep. “I look for no less than 10 or 12 deep balls,” he said. “No less.”
  • Ryan White, a freshman who moonlighted as a scout team quarterback for much of the year, got his first extended look at cornerback against Chattanooga on Saturday. He had mixed results. "He made some mistakes like they all do," Lolley said. "And thank goodness it was a game we could play through some of it, you know. But he made a lot of mistakes, but he also did some good things. And a lot of those deals that he was doing in practice that looked really good, in front of 80 some thousand people wasn't quite as good. And we expected some of that, and we hope the second go-around is better."
  • Georgia's base defense is a 3-4, but the Bulldogs have used plenty of even-man fronts lately. "They have the potential to do both on any given down," offensive line coach Jeff Grimes said. "It causes a little bit more in terms of headaches and preparation time in order to prepare for both, particularly in protection, because they can give you so many different types of blitzes from a 3-4 alignment."
  • One guy to be aware of on Georgia's defense: Justin Houston. The 6-foot-3, 258-pound outside linebacker leads the SEC with nine sacks and is second with 16.5 tackles for loss. “Any guy that’s got that many sacks and that many hits on the quarterback, you’ve certainly got to address that on any play you’re passing the football," Grimes said. "Whether you address it through your base system, or whether you do something to account for that, that’s a decision everybody’s got to make every week. But you’re certainly aware of a guy that.”
  • Grimes got on the Nick Fairley-is-good topic tonight, recalling a time when he was coaching at Arizona State. "I had Levi Jones who played left tackle for me who was the 10th overall pick, and Terrell Suggs was the defensive end across from him," Grimes said. "He was also a first-round pick and led the nation in sacks that year. Both of those guys got better because they had to go against each other. I think there’s certainly been some of that with our group having to go against a guy like Nick. The thing with Nick is he’s so big, but, kind of like I was saying with the guys from Georgia, he’s just athletic. Most guys that big can’t change direction and run like he can. That’s been good for us.”
  • Lots of praise tonight for wide receiver Terrell Zachery, and with good cause, considering the senior had career highs with seven catches and 148 yards against Chattanooga. Taylor compared him to former Tennessee Volunteers and current New Orleans Saints receiver Robert Meachem with his physical style. "I tease him all the time and tell him that he's a running back playing wide receiver," Taylor said. "I'm not sure you couldn't put T-Zach in the backfield and toss it to him and he's have the same vision and moves he could make out there."
  • Trooper likes the way Zachery finishes off runs, too. "Very seldom do you see him run out of bounds or try to get down," he said. "He's going to lower his head -- sometimes to his detriment. In the bowl game, he tried and he fumbled the ball. It happened earlier this year; he was trying to truck a guy and the guy got his helmet on the ball. I'd like to make those guys miss if we could. T-Zach is not going to do that. He's smart enough to know when to cut his losses. Some receivers will stay up and get stripped or keep running backward and lose yards. He's really intelligent on those kinds of decisions."
  • Taylor said Zachery is a quiet leader. "If you didn't call his name, you probably wouldn't hear him," he said. "He doesn't talk much, but when he does it carries a lot of weight. He started practice this week and he told the receivers: Not one drop. Enough was said. That's the way they've been practicing."
  • Trooper said the team is close, which means it doesn't mind ragging on each other. "They don't pull any punches when it comes to teaching each other," he said. "Whether it's Emory Blake wearing a shirt that's too small. Corey (Lemonier) walking around with jeans that are high waters. They're on each other all the time -- just like you would in a family. I think that's what makes it fun. They'll let us know if we're not dressed properly. There's not a time when we say: Practice is over now, we can be friends. It's family all the time."


trsha4au said...

Thank God for something GOOD today! War Eagle!!!

Andrew said...

I notice a lack of comments about Cam's practice... over-cautious coaches?
Also, any word on how special teams are doing (particularly punters)?

And a big thanks for all you do and getting the news out to us!

Andy Bitter said...

Gene wasn't exactly forthcoming while talking about Newton tonight.

Punting hasn't been brought up since Sunday, when Chizik said he was disappointed with both guys. I can't imagine he would have said anything definitive today, however, with another full practice tomorrow.

RW said...

Good for Nick. He is definitely deserving.

Moose said...

It is good to hear a good practice report. Props to Ryan White, who came in wanting a chance to play QB, sticking to the CB position and being able to help this team. It must make it even more difficult when you have to be the scout team quarterback AND dedicate yourself to learning a defensive position.

Good work Andy, its good to wake up to pretty much normal news.