Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Notes from Wednesday

Here's your glance at tomorrow's story:

Ben Tate doesn’t like the idea of labeling Auburn’s rush game as thunder and lightning.

Not that Tate denies the speed credentials of Onterio McCalebb. Auburn players love telling the tall-tales about the true freshman tailback’s speed. One said McCalebb chases rabbits and squirrels by foot.

However, Tate considers himself more of a well-rounded back than a lower-the-shoulder-and-run-over-defenders type.

“I wouldn’t really call myself a thunder back,” Tate said. “I’m not a Brandon Jacobs guy. I’m not going to run everyone over, but I’ll pick and choose my battles. If I see a linebacker that’s about my size, I’ll try him. If that’s what they want to call it, whatever works for them.

“McCalebb’s definitely lightning, I’ll tell you that.”

Whatever the tailback tandem is ultimately known as, it got off to a tremendous start during Auburn’s Week 1 win over Louisiana Tech.

McCalebb ran for 148 yards and a touchdown while Tate went for 117 yards. The Tigers finished with 301 rushing yards, partly because of the way McCalebb provides a change of pace to Tate’s style.

“We’ve got two different types of running backs on our team,” Auburn coach Gene Chizik said. “We’ve got the slasher/the slicer/the speed guy, and then we’ve got some more inside power guys. And you just got to figure out the balance of when you’re trying to use the two because they’re uniquely different, and they bring different talents to the table.”


For more, read tomorrow's Anniston Star.

On to the notes:

After announcing RB Eric Smith would dress for Saturday’s game, Auburn coach Gene Chizik said Wednesday that Smith would play as well.

Smith hadn’t practiced since he was arrested during the early morning of Aug. 21. Because of that, Chizik said he looked “a little sluggish” earlier in the week.

However, he showed enough progress to be ready to play.

“I’m really proud of the way he’s responded to the things we’ve asked him to do,” Chizik said. “I think he’s ready to play.”

Smith has not been available for comment since his arrest.

He will return to a team that seemingly found its No. 2 tailback last week when Onterio McCalebb rushed for 148 yards and a touchdown. Running backs coach Curtis Luper said that leaves Smith competing with Mario Fannin for the No. 3 tailback role.

Smith’s primary responsibilities appear to come at the H-back position, where he will spell Fannin.

“It helps because we had three running backs last game,” Luper said. “It helps because he has some experience, he’s played and he’s a dual threat; he can play the 4 and can play the 3. It helps us and it gives us a few more options on offense.”

Smith’s return also means a likely redshirt for true freshman Dontae Aycock, who did not play in the season opener.

“It would be really nice if we could redshirt Dontae but we don’t know yet,” Luper said.

FAMILIAR FACES: Safeties coach Tommy Thigpen will see a former colleague and a mentor on the sideline when Auburn plays Mississippi State on Saturday.

Thigpen played and coached for MSU defensive coordinator Carl Torbush when he was the coach at North Carolina.

“He’s probably one of the best guys I’ve ever met – strong Christian, hard worker, one of my biggest mentors,” Thigpen said. “His schematics seem to be the same when he was at North Carolina in the late ’90s, when North Carolina was good.”

Torbush isn’t the only coach with whom Thigpen has experience. He also coached with MSU head coach Dan Mullen at Bowling Green under Florida coach Urban Meyer.

Thigpen said Mullen’s offense has evolved “quite a bit” over the years and is very difficult to defend.

CONTRACT TALK: Every coach on the Auburn staff has a two-year contract.

Chizik said that was important not just for the assistants, but also in showing the administration’s support for the program.

“I think it’s great for our administration to have been able to provide that for all our guys,” Chizik said. “I think it’s very important. I think everybody that coaches college football would appreciate that. I’m very, very happy that our administration provided that for our guys. It means a lot.”

STATUS UNKNOWN: All week, Chizik refused to commit to the idea of weak-side LB Eltoro Freeman playing on Saturday.

He continued that trend Wednesday, though he seemed optimistic the JUCO transfer could make his Auburn debut.

“We’re hoping and we’re going to play that by ear,” Chizik said. “We think today he looked better. But I don’t want to be premature on saying that. We’re hoping he’s able to play Saturday.”

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