Auburn, Ala.--Despite their struggles as a group last week, no changes are anticipated in the offensive line starting lineup for Saturday’s SEC football game vs. Ole Miss.
That is the word from Auburn’s offensive line coach, Jeff Grimes, following Wednesday night’s practice. The Tigers worked out for two hours in shorts, shoulder pads and helmets, a session that the head coach, Gene Chizik, said he liked as was the case with Auburn’s two previous practices this week on Sunday and Tuesday.
The Tigers gave up eight sacks to the Razorbacks in a 24-7 loss on Saturday. Grimes said the offensive line wasn’t responsible for all of those negative plays, but added, “Sacks, like any phase of the game, aren’t always directly related to the offensive line, but if you have eight of them you have a pretty good idea that the offensive line didn’t protect the quarterback very well.
“It was interesting because there were times when we protected really well, and then what was different this game when we got beat, we got beat bad. We flat out got smoked a few times and a couple of guys got exposed a little bit. Hopefully, that will be a good thing that they will learn from. I think there were a couple of guys who felt really bad about it, as they should, and we have been working on it since then.”
Grimes said there is still competition going on at positions across the offensive front.
One of the backup guards that had been pushing for a starting spot, redshirt freshman Christian Westerman, is injured and won’t be able to play vs. Ole Miss. Grimes said that issue “thins” the OL depth, but added, “Just about everybody other than Pat (Patrick Miller) and Avery (Avery Young) has worked some at guard so we have got bodies.”
Miller, a true freshman, struggled vs. Arkansas. Asked about the tackle’s problems vs. the Razorbacks, Grimes said, “With him it was just the typical thing of being a freshman. Sometimes you don’t really get exposed in one game for whatever reason, and in another game you might.
“It might be something he did,” Grimes added. “Sometimes it can have something to do with the opponent. I think he was just put in situations that exposed him and his technique a little bit. He is a young guy that has got to learn how to play with his technique all of the time. With him it never has anything to do with his effort or desire. I assure you it bothered him a lot. He is making progress. As with any true freshman, he is still a work in progress.”
Grimes threw out praise to the Ole Miss coaching staff after Wednesday night’s practice, saying that after studying video of the Rebels’ defense it looks like a different team than the one the Tigers defeated last year. “They are fast, play with a great motor,” he noted. “They look like they are playing with confidence. I think they definitely have some guys who will pose some problems for us. They will be a significant challenge, especially playing at their place.”
Quarterback Question: Chizik wasn’t saying after Wednesday night’s practice whether Kiehl Frazier will start vs. Ole Miss or Clint Moseley, who played the entire second half last week, will get his first start since last year’s bowl game vs. Virginia.
On the “Banged Up” List: A pair of defensive starters are questionable for this week’s game after being hurt vs. Arkansas--junior end Dee Ford and junior cornerback Chris Davis.
Special Teams Changes: Quan Bray, back from a one-game suspension, is expected to return kickoffs this week along with Tre Mason. Onterio McCalebb, who fumbled a kickoff last week, is the odd man out this week, according to special teams coach Jay Boulware.
The coach said he hasn’t decided if Bray will resume his punt return duties or if Trovon Reed, who handled that assignment last week, will do it vs. Ole Miss. “Trovon has got some ability,” said Boulware, who noted that he had a “nice run” vs. the Razorbacks.
Praise for Senior Defender: Following Wednesday night’s practice linebacker coach Tommy Thigpen had praise for one of his starters. “I think Daren Bates is really stepping up his game,” he said, noting that the senior is becoming a student of the game. Bates leads the SEC with 10.9 tackles per contest.
Another senior linebacker, former walk-on Ashton Richardson, could see an expanded role this week playing in the middle when the Tigers are in nickel packages.
Respect For the Rebs: Chizik stayed on theme from earlier in the week when he again praised the Ole Miss team. He said the Rebels are a much better opponent than the group the Tigers defeated last year. Chizik is 3-0 at Auburn vs. Ole Miss.
Leadership: Commenting on the leadership from players on the 2012 team, which has been a topic of discussion this week starting with comments on Sunday night after practice by Philip Lutzenkirchen and T’Sharvan Bell about the need for all of the players to get all-in to turnaround the season, offensive guard Chad Slade stated that pair of seniors stands out as the best leaders on the team. The redshirt sophomore noted that tight end Lutzenkirchen is the top leader on offense and cornerback Bell is the top leader on defense despite sophomore wide receiver Sammie Coates saying the team needs more leadership from its older players.
“I don’t know exactly what he (Coates) said about the leadership, but we have a lot of leadership out there (at practice),” Slade said.
Tigers vs. the Rebels, Part 1: Auburn and Ole Miss are charter members of the SEC and play in the same division of the now 14-team league, but the Tigers will be making just their 12th appearance in Oxford on Saturday at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. The Tigers are 9-2 in games played in Oxford and lead the overall series 27-9. \
Ole Miss also played three of its home games vs. Auburn in Jackson, Miss., and the Tigers won each of those. The last time the Tigers played the Rebels in Jackson was a 24-10 decision in 1990, a contest played in extremely hot and humid weather that took a toll on players and fans who were at the event.
For this year’s game, the weather should be excellent with sunny skies and a high temperature of 75 degrees.
Tigers Vs. Rebels, Part 2: Kickoff is set for 11:21 a.m. on Saturday with TV coverage on the SEC Network. Dave Neal will do the play by play, Andre Ware is the analyst and Cara Capuano is the sideline reporter.
Radio coverage on The Auburn Network can be heard on Sirius channel 137 and XM Channel 199. Rod Bramblett, Stan White, Quentin Riggins, Andy Burcham and studio host Paul Ellen will handle the radio coverage.
Tigers Vs. Rebels, Part 3: A point of emphasis for Auburn this week will be to run the football, both Chizik and offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler have said. Dating back to 1971, Auburn is 13-0 in games vs. Ole Miss in which the Tigers have managed to finish the contest with at least 200 rushing yards.
Tigers Vs. Rebels, Part 4: Protecting the quarterback when the Tigers throw the football was a major problem last week as they gave up eight sacks vs. Arkansas. Ole Miss is averaging 2.8 sacks per contest. Auburn is giving up 3.45 sacks per game.
Chizik also pointed out he has been displeased with the offense digging a hole for itself by losing yardage on running plays. The Rebels are averaging 7.7 tackles for lost yardage per contest with an aggressive style of play.
Tigers Vs. Rebels, Part 5: Ole Miss has had success adapting to a no-huddle offense that new head coach Hugh Freeze brought to Oxford from his previous post at Arkansas State. The Rebels are fourth in the SEC in total offense with an average of 439.0 yards per game. They lead the league in first downs per game at 23.2 per contest. Auburn is 14th (last) in the league in both categories with 16.4 first downs per game and 302.4 yards per contest.
Spreading It Around: Senior wide receiver Travante Stallworth, who caught two passes for 40 yards vs. Arkansas, had caught just one pass this year prior to last Saturday. Ten different players caught passes vs. the Razorbacks. “That is very encouraging for all of the wideouts,”?Stallworth said. He noted the play of the offense as a whole left a lot to be desired, but added that he was encouraged that the quarterbacks made some good throws.
Sophomore Jaylon Denson and freshman Ricardo Louis made their first collegiate catches and senior DeAngelo Benton made his first catch of the season.
Asked to name the most important thing the offense needs to do to be more productive, Stallworth said, “Just execution, basically...One play it could be just one guy who missed their block, which could have been a touchdown block, so everybody needs to execute and do their job.”
Stallworth said there is no issue with the effort on game days. “Everybody is out there fighting and clawing. We don’t want to lose.”
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