Auburn, Ala.--Coordinator and quarterback coach Gus Malzahn said after Tuesday night’s practice he is anxious to see how his rebuilt offense performs on Saturday as the defending national champion Auburn Tigers open the season vs. Utah State.
“The unique thing about first games is you have to be ready to make adjustments,” said Malzahn, who pointed out that it is normal to have to make adjustments on the fly. He said that usually starts late in the first quarter “when you get a good feel for what they are doing.”
The Auburn coaches put the Tigers through a lengthy full pads practice on Tuesday night after the players took the day off on Monday. Auburn worked on the offensive and defensive game plans preparing for a team out of the Western Athletic Conference the Tigers have never faced in football.
Malzahn said going into Saturday’s game he knows how players like Onterio McCalebb, Michael Dyer, Philip Lutzenkirchen, Brandon Mosley and Emory Blake will perform vs. Utah State, however, there are a lot of unknowns with eight starters to replace from last year’s 14-0 team.
“The anxiety you have as an offensive coordinator is just the unknown,” Malzahn said. “We think we have an idea about the other guys, but until you get in those certain situations to know how they are going to react that is the question going through my mind now.”
Head coach Gene Chizik said the Tigers could play as many as 15 true freshman on Saturday. Malzahn said it is important those newcomers contribute.
“They have to buckle down,” Malzahn said. “They have to get it done. We recruited those guys and told them we were willing to play true freshmen. Those guys have got to be ready.
Gus Malzahn is starting his third season at Auburn.
“We are going to throw them in there and see what happen,” Malzahn added. “We will stick with the ones who have the right attitude and handle the right situations and try to get better...I am curious how some of them are going to react. There is no doubt about that.”
The most closely watched position for Auburn fans on Saturday will be the quarterback spot as redshirt junior Barrett Trotter makes his first college start. The player snapping the football to him will be watched, too, as center Reese Dismukes makes his college debut. Trotter said he believes the freshman will do a good job of taking over from graduated senior Ryan Pugh.
“I don’t have any concerns really,” Trotter said of playing behind the rookie center. “I know that it will be tough and it is big shoes to fill coming in as a freshman starting at center, but from what I have seen I think he can handle it.”
Trotter redshirted in 2008, he was injured in 2009 and could not play. Last year he saw limited action as the backup to Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton. If you suspect he is eager to take the field Saturday as the starting quarterback, you would be correct. “I am as excited as I can be,” he said. “It can’t get here quick enough. I am ready to play.”
Malzahn said he has been pleased with Trotter’s preparations for the starting assignment, both on and off the field as the Tigers prepare for Saturday’s 11 a.m. kickoff at Jordan-Hare Stadium. The offensive coordinator notes that Trotter is a player who will sweat the details.
Trotter won a close battle to win the starting assignment with redshirt sophomore Clint Moseley who really pushed Trotter for the No. 1 spot on the depth chart. The two were good friends prior to the decision on naming a starter almost two weeks ago. Moseley took the news hard so the question is how are the two QBs getting along now?
“He is doing good,” Trotter said. “I know he was really disappointed and upset the first few days after it happened, but we are good. We have been friends through the whole thing. It hasn’t changed at all.”
After practice on Tuesday night Moseley said he “pouted” for about two days after losing the starting job and said he went “numb” when he found out he was going to be the backup. However, he noted that he has snapped out of that funk and has dedicated himself to becoming the best backup quarterback in college football.
Trotter (left) and Moseley are two of Auburn's three scholarship quarterbacks along with true freshman Kiehl Frazier.
Malzahn told the redshirt sophomore he is one play away from being the man at quarterback, something the redshirt sophomore said he fully understands, noting the backup QB role is an important one for any football team.
In other news and notes:
*Utah State coach Gary Andersen returns 15 starters, but noted there is a lot of competition for playing time. He said that is a good sign the Aggies’ program is making progress. Andersen projects 15-20 players will be playing for the first time for the Aggies. He said that Utah State will take a “large group” of players to Auburn with plans to play a lot of guys on offense and defense in an effort to stay fresh for four quarters.
Andersen said the Aggies will be going to a “tremendous environment” on Saturday for their first-ever appearance at Jordan-Hare Stadium. “It is a tremendous opportunity,” he stated, adding, “They are going to be a very gifted team...They are very well coached.”
He said from watching video of the 2010 Tigers what stood out is the speed and size of the players at Auburn and in the entire SEC, noting it is “very, very impressive.” The coach said he has been told that even though the Tigers lost most of their starters from the 2010 national championship team he expects to see a talented opponent because Gene Chizik’s staff has recruited well.
*Saturday’s opener will be the 17th game for the Tigers vs. current members of the Western Athletic Conference. The Tigers are 15-0-1 in those contests. The Tigers tied Louisiana Tech 13-13 in 1948, but that was long before Tech was in the WAC. The Tigers ae 11-0-1 vs. Tech, 2-0 vs. New Mexico State and 1-0 vs. Fresno State and Idaho.
*The Tigers head into the season ranked 19th in the coaches poll and 23rd by AP. The Tigers have started the season in the Top 25 eight of the last nine years.
*Auburn has an all-time record of 54-15 in opening games played against teams from outside the SEC. Since the start of AU football in 1892 the Tigers are 91-25-2 in season openers.
Chad Slade (62) is expected to play a key role for the offense this season.
*Although he lost his first string spot to redshirt freshman Chad Slade, senior offensive tackle said that he is going to do what he can to get back on the field and help the team as he continues to rehab his ankle that was injured last year. Malzahn noted that Greene played well as a starter before his injury in game three and noted that the coaches expect the senior will be able to help the team this year. “He is one of those guys who is right there who can be called on if needed,” the coach said.
Slade, who said he is truly excited about running with the first team, said that Greene and the other senior tackle, Brandon Mosley, have been totally supporting in helping him get ready for his college debut.
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