Sunday, December 27, 2009

Notes from Sunday

The University of Tampa, where Auburn will practice this week, did its best to give Auburn a warm surprise welcome Sunday.

Auburn players were surprised to see a team logo – albeit a bit off on the colors – painted next to one of the end zones. That allowed the Tigers to follow their pre-practice ritual of strength and conditioning coach Kevin Yoxall breaking down the team on the AU logo.

“Everybody was talking about that,” linebacker Craig Stevens said. “We heard coach Yox say we were going to break it down on the AU but we thought that was just wherever he was at that's where we were going to break it down.”

The paint wasn’t exactly perfect. The orange and blue more closely resembled the colors of Florida than Auburn, but the gesture nonetheless made Auburn feel at home.

As for the first practice itself, Auburn coach Gene Chizik was not thrilled by his team’s performance. He described the opening workout as “a little rusty.”

“You could tell they've had four days off and the effort was good but I just think that we were a little bit sloppy, a little bit rusty,” Chizik said. “We obviously need the next four days. We'll get back to work tomorrow and we'll try to get some of these things shored up. Overall, the effort was good. You can just tell that we've had some time off and we just have to get back into the rhythm of practice and the football rhythm.”

SENDING PRAYERS: Florida coach Urban Meyer’s retirement and subsequent decision to take a leave of absence created an understandably large commotion the last two days.

Chizik, a Florida alum and former player, said it came as a surprise.

“Well, my first thought was to really say a lot of prayers. My prayers are off to him,” Chizik said. “Obviously he is a great football coach. He loves the game of football and nobody knows all the details and the ins and outs of what – the only thing that came to my mind was to say a lot of prayers for him and his family. It's a tough situation.

“He's obviously the best – one of the best at what he does. It's tough on everybody, it's tough on families and it's tough on obviously the coaches themselves. So again, our prayers are with Urban and his staff and everybody involved in his family.”

Meyer sited health and stress reasons for his one-day retirement.

Chizik said he understands how coaches could be overwhelmed by the stresses that come along with the job.

“It's so competitive that you feel such an allegiance to your university and your players and your coaching staff and that's before you even get to the outside pressures of the world,” Chizik said. “I'm very cognizant of it and it's just a tough, tough business and a lot of stress that goes along with it.”

NEW GAME: Stevens and CB Walt McFadden said they enjoyed their first hockey experience Saturday night.

Auburn and Northwestern were honored as guests at the Tampa Bay Lightning’s game against the Atlanta Thrashers. Tampa Bay won 4-3.

“I just know out there, especially when the fights happened and they started hitting each other was pretty neat,” McFadden said. “It was kind of funny that we're like, some of the DBs sitting together, these guys are skating backwards. When we first started off to get with coach (Phillip) Lolley running backwards we were falling and these guys are skating backwards.”

Though the players were impressed by the hockey players’ athleticism, McFadden and Stevens were equally intrigued by the foghorn that bellows after a goal.

“Every time they scored it was really loud,” McFadden said. “I wish I could (have one). I'd blow the horn every time they didn't score a touchdown. Any other play, even if I didn't make the play, I'd push the horn. If I get a horn that big, you're going to know I'm around somewhere.”

SEEKING HEAT: Florida natives McFadden and Stevens took plenty of heat from teammates Sunday for the cool weather in Tampa.

Auburn players expected warm weather once they got to town, but instead practiced in overcast weather in the mid-50s.

“All the guys were getting mad,” McFadden said. “‘I thought you said Florida was going to be hot. The Sunshine State, the Sunshine State.' But I was like 'this is not my part of the state. I'm three hours farther.' I don't know about this too much. Hopefully the sun will come out and bring a little sunshine back.”

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