Auburn, Ala.--Preparing for Auburn’s first football game vs. Texas A&M since the 1980s, Gene Chizik and his coaching staff put the Tigers through a lengthy practice on Wednesday night preparing for the Aggies. Auburn’s fourth year head coach said he liked what he saw, but added the Tigers still have tune-up work to do to be ready.
“We have to spend a lot of time preparing for an offense that is a little bit different in terms of tempo,” Chizik said. “Last night, and tonight, we spent a lot of time with that trying to simulate the speed of how the tempo of the game may go. I thought we prepared well for that.
“We still have a little ways to go in getting some things cleaned up to prepare for that,” he added. “The main thing is getting our defense aligned, but I thought it went well. Again, I thought the energy level was good at practice tonight and I thought it was productive.”
Chizik said the offense worked on preparing for nine-man fronts that the Aggies showed last Saturday in a loss to LSU. The coach said the Tigers are also expecting a lot of blitzes from the Texas aggressive A&M defense.
“They are very adamant about putting as many guys up there as they need to,” Chizik said of A&M’s theory on stopping the run with the majority of the players lined up near the line of scrimmage. “You have to be able to throw it some. That is the bottom line.”
Kickoff time for Saturday’s game is 6 p.m. as Texas A&M, which is ranked 21st/22nd nationally, makes its first appearance at Jordan-Hare Stadium. The Aggies will bring a 5-2 overall record into the contest and are 2-2 in SEC play with their only losses coming to once-beaten LSU and unbeaten Florida.
Auburn, which is trying to avoid a four-game losing streak, is 1-6 overall and 0-5 in the SEC.
Senior’s Surgery: Philip Lutzenkirchen had surgery on Wednesday to repair his hip. The senior’s college career is finished with 59 total receptions, four shy of Cooper Wallace’s school record for a tight end.
Starting QB: Chizik said on Wednesday night the Tigers will wait until after Thursday’s practice to decide on the starting quarterback like they did the past two weeks. Kiehl Frazier, who started the first five games, is making “some progress” with his health, the coach said. “I think his arm is feeling somewhat better,” the coach noted. Clint Moseley, a junior, has started the past two games.
Busy First Start: True freshman middle linebacker Cassanova McKinzy was credited with a dozen tackles vs. Vanderbilt, the most by a first-game starter since Chris Evans, who made 14 tackles in 2007 vs. South Florida. Evans is the older brother of current Auburn senior linebacker Jonathan Evans.
Cassanova McKinzy is shown in action vs. Vanderbilt.
Linebacker coach Tommy Thigpen said after Wednesday night’s practice that the plan is to again give McKinzy the majority of reps at linebacker this week. Former starter Jake Holland will see limited time at the position, mostly in passing situations, the coach noted. Thigpen praised Holland, a junior, for being willing to spend his free time helping McKinzy learn his assignments.
(Not) So Many Happy Returns: Special teams coach Jay Boulware said he is not pleased with the Tigers being ranked near the bottom of the SEC stats in punt returns. Quan Bray is averaging 3.8 per return, which is 14th in the league. His backup, Trovon Reed, did not do a good job of fielding punts when he got to play. The third player taking reps in practice as a punt returner is freshman Ricardo Louis, noted Boulware, who pointed out the Tigers hope to upgrade the return position through recruiting.
Slow Recovery: Jeffrey Whitaker, who did not play vs. Vandy after starting the first six games at defensive tackle, is still not well, according to Chizik, who did not seem encouraged on Wednesday night about the junior’s chances of playing this week. Others who are questionable this week include reserve safeties Ryan Smith and Erique Florence along with reserve linebacker Justin Garrett.
Tigers Vs. Texas: Auburn’s all-time record is 0-2 vs. Texas A&M and 14-14-1 vs. other teams from the Lone Star State. The Tigers have played 10 different Texas colleges and the following is their record vs. each one: 1-2-1 vs. Baylor, 1-0 vs. Hardin Simmons, 5-1 vs. Houston, 1-0 vs. North Texas, 0-2 vs. Rice, 0-3 vs. SMU, 3-5 vs. Texas, 3-0 vs. TCU and 0-1 vs. Texas Tech.
Tigers Vs. the Aggies: With his coaching background in Texas, Chizik said he is very familiar with Texas A&M’s tradition, noting there is a lot of pride in the Aggies’ football program. “It is a school very similar to Auburn in a lot of ways,” he said. “They have always been very tough, very physical and very competitive.”
Johnny Football, Part 1: Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel is having a spectacular first season as a starter. The redshirt freshman leads the SEC in total offense with 379.9 yards per game. he has produced 40 plays as a runner or passer that have gained 20 or more yards.
Johnny Football, Part 2: Manziel is personally responsible for 20.6 points scored per game. Auburn, as a team, is averaging 15.7 points per outing. The Aggies lead the SEC with their average of 43.0 points per game.
Mason's the Man: Running backs coach Curtis Luper said that sophomore Tre Mason is probably playing better than any Tiger on offense this year. The coach noted the 200-pounder is running like a back who is carrying 15 more pounds.
Tre Mason is a sophomore tailback.
Luper said that Mike Blakely is available to run the ball vs. Texas A&M if needed. Chizik said last week the tailback did not make the trip to Vandy due to an injury.
Auburn Football In October: The Tigers have an all-time record of 298-155-18 in the month of October, a .654 winning percentage. The Tigers are winning at an .835 clip in home games played in that month. Under Chizik the Tigers have a 10-8 mark in October games.
Fast Starts: Texas A&M has put points on the scoreboard first in every game this year. The Aggies are on a streak of 12 consecutive games in which they scored first.
Television Coverage: ESPNU will provide the telecast for the 6 p.m. CDT contest at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Clay Matvick will do the play-by-play, Matt Stinchcomb is the analyst and Allison Williams is the sideline reporter.
Auburn Radio Network: The Auburn Network coverage featuring Rod Bramblett, Stan White, Quentin Riggins, Paul Ellen and Andy Burcham can be heard on Sirius Channel 94 or XM 201.