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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Late night notes: Rain forces Auburn indoors, give Tigers opportunity to practice on turf

Rain forced Auburn to have a split-squad practice indoors Tuesday. Considering Saturday’s SEC championship game will be played in the Georgia Dome, the Tigers didn’t mind altering their plans.

“It was pretty good for us,” offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn said. “That’s a loud place we’re fixing to play. We turned on some music, some noise. Our guys really focused well. I think back to last Tuesday’s practice. This one was quite a bit better.”

Auburn didn’t go in full pads Tuesday, practicing in shells.

They were limited by the John H. Watson Fieldhouse, which is only half an indoor field. But it gave the Tigers a chance to practice on a turf similar to that of the Georgia Dome.

Auburn has only played one game on artificial turf this year, winning at Ole Miss 51-31 on Oct. 30.

“Our guys will have to get used to the footing,” Malzahn said. “All the turfs are different, too.”

“It’s different the way it makes you run, it makes you feel and your feet work with it,” running back Mike Dyer said.

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And read these other notes and quotes from Tuesday's late interviews:
  • Malzahn’s name has already been floated as a possibility for several head coaching vacancies, although he said he’s not paying attention to the rumors. “The only thing I’m focused on is this game and trying to do the best job I can to help our team,” he said. “I don’t pay much attention to it. I guess it would be a little flattering that your name is out there, but I don’t get caught up in that.”
  • Malzahn should be a hot coaching commodity this offseason. He is one of five finalists for the Frank Broyles Award, which goes to the nation’s top assistant coach. “Any time you’re up for an award like that, you think about the Curtis Lupers, the Trooper Taylors, the Jeff Grimeses, the Jay Boulwares. It’s a team deal here. I’m flattered to be considered.”
  • The award is named after Frank Broyles, an Arkansas coach from 1958-76 who later was an administrator, serving as athletics director when Malzahn was there. Although there are rumors Broyles didn't think highly of Malzahn's system when the latter was Arkansas' offensive coordinator in 2006, Malzahn had kind words about Broyles Tuesday: "I know him well. He's one of the legends. I grew up watching him coach. He was AD when I was coaching football. He's a legend."
  • Malzahn on facing South Carolina's defense: "They've gotten better each week. We're a big tempo-based offense and they have seen the tempo before. ... They're extremely fast. They fly around. They're physical up front. They made a lot of really good rushing teams look bad."
  • South Carolina has the top-ranked rushing defense in conference-only games, allowing 107.2 yards per game. It should be noted that Auburn ran for 334 yards in the teams' first meeting.
  • Malzahn on why TE Philip Lutzenkirchen is such a good red zone target: "He kind of gets lost. He's got great hands. He runs very good routes. It's a tribute, too, to our other play-makers that he can get lost. He's really made some big plays at some big times this year."
  • He had less good things to say about Lutz's touchdown dance. "Yeah. I was pretty down about that," Malzahn said. "I asked him: 'What was that?' He said he was excited. Wow. We'll give him that one since that was such a big play. We'll let it go that one time."
  • Can Malzahn coach him up on how to celebrate? "Coach Taylor probably can. He's the celebration guy."
  • There are 12 Atlanta-area players on the team. Running back Mario Fannin, from Hampton, Ga., is one of them. "It's real special," he said. "We've got a big Auburn base there and fan club there. It'll be great to go home and play in front of your family and play in front of a lot of fans that can't really come out here and see us play."
  • Fannin on the team's mind set: "I wouldn't say laid-back. We're just more focused. We understand what we need to do in order to win the game. We're just taking the proper procedures to make sure we do so. You don't want to be too excited before the game but you don't want to be too low for the game, so we're just trying to find a happy medium."
  • Head coach Gene Chizik approached Nick Fairley with a request before the Alabama game, after Georgia submitted concerns to the SEC office about the defensive tackle’s questionable hits two weeks earlier. “He said tone it down a little bit,” Fairley said. “It’s all right. I’ve just got to calm down a little more.”
  • Fairley did for the most part, although he was flagged for a borderline unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after celebrating a first-quarter sack of Tide quarterback Greg McElroy. He said the flag shocked him, but took blame for it. “It’s my fault,” he said. “It’s never the referee’s fault. I probably overreacted just a little bit. So understandable. You can’t fault him for that.”
  • Fairley described the feeling after winning the Iron Bowl: "Anytime playing against those guys, wherever we play them at, if we come out on top, man, it felt good to be out there and have that many fans be quiet. Our fans would be in the upper deck and we could hear them over everybody, so it felt pretty good."
  • Although Marcus Lattimore is only a freshman, Auburn isn't treating him like one. "I wouldn't say he's young anymore," Fairley said. "He went through 12 games. Can't say he's young anymore. I know he's matured a lot, so I wouldn't say he's a freshman."
  • We talked to LB Eltoro Freeman tonight and got a bunch of good stuff that I plan to use for a feature story later this week. Here's how he described his night: "I was so hyped, and I also didn’t want to make no mistakes. I just wanted to go and make everyone proud. The turning point of the game came for me when I missed a tackle. Then, when I went to the sideline, to hear Coach (Ted) Roof tell me, ‘Toro, it’s alright.’ I was so worried about, ‘Man, ya’ll are gonna take me out now.’ He was like, ‘Toro, it’s alright. You’re gonna stay in the game. Everything will be alright.’ To hear him say that made my confidence level just shoot up. It was just unbelievable. When I went back out there, dawg, I just played free. I didn’t have to worry about making this mistake or worry about, ‘Oh man, I’m gonna have to sit out the whole game.’ I could just play football now. I didn’t have to be on pins, needles, anything. With him telling me that, it just took my name to another level.” More on Toro later this week.
  • Auburn's defense gets knocked on quite a bit, but Freeman thinks the Tigers make plays when it counts. "When it’s time for us to step up and make the play, we do that," he said. "Every time. Every game. (GA Travis Williams) always tells us, ‘We ain’t got to be the best defense in the country. But come Saturday, as long as we’re the best. That’s all that matters.’ And we go in with that attitude.”
  • Freeman also had a poignant take on the the 2010 team doing its part to make the national title game because the 2004 group never got that chance. "I’m going to do everything in my power not to let it slip away," he said. "The whole team, we’re all working hard, we’ve got this thing. Because six years ago the team went undefeated and they were wishing. They didn’t know if they were going to play for the national championship or not. We know. All we’ve got to do is win out. So that’s big. To bring a national championship here to Auburn University, that’s a big thing to do.”


Clint Richardson said...

Did anyone ask Eltoro about his video interview and thanking his brother Charlie? That was a great video...hilarious.

AB, what would you do, if somehow, Auburn and Wisconsin were to meet in a bowl game again?

Andy Bitter said...

That'd be a good matchup. Both are great teams. Certainly a contrast in styles.

But it looks like Wisconsin's locked into the Rose right now. Auburn can't play them there.

RW said...

It always makes me happy when Eltoro has a good game. You can really tell he's passionate and works hard out there. I look forward to your article on him, AB.

Anonymous said...

I think a character piece on Toro and his brother Charlie is about due. Time to go to work AB!