Auburn football: Gus Malzahn pleased with 'where we're at right now'

rblack@ledger-enquirer.comDecember 28, 2013 

Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said Tuesday that tight end Ricky Parks and offensive lineman Shane Callahan are no longer with the team.

TODD VAN EMST — Auburn University

AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn will have its full complement of players when it arrives in Pasadena, Calif., next week.

That tidbit was courtesy of head coach Gus Malzahn, who said as much following the team’s practice Saturday.

To the best of his knowledge, all players are academically eligible. The Tigers’ injured players will make the trip as well. It’s a group that includes, among others, wide receiver Jaylon Denson, defensive tackle Jeff Whitaker, linebackers Justin Garrett and JaViere Mitchell as well as defensive back Josh Holsey.

And in the three practices since getting back from a short Christmas respite, Malzahn hasn’t been disappointed by his team’s response.

“(I’ve) been very impressed with their focus, their attention to detail,” he said. “They've been excited about practicing and excited about getting better, which is very encouraging, especially when a game is nine days away. Overall, real pleased with our guys and where we're at right now.”

Inclement weather forced Saturday’s session — which saw the Tigers split the field in half, with the offense on one end and the defense on the other — to go indoors. It didn’t harm their preparations, though, as Malzahn said they didn’t have to deviate from the “normal plan.”

“Obviously the kicking part, the punting part, is probably the only thing that was affected,” he said, “but we were still able to do some of that.”

Malzahn wouldn’t say how far into game planning the team has gotten in regards to Florida State. He did acknowledge, however, that he has his experience from three years ago — the last time the Tigers played in the BCS championship game — to draw upon.

“It's all about trying to play your best once the game gets here and stay sharp,” Malzahn said. “The positive thing from my standpoint is our players are really buying in to everything the coaches are asking them to do as far as getting themselves in playing shape and the plan as far as that goes.”

Another aspect Malzahn thought was to Auburn’s advantage? The “one day at a time” mentality Malzahn has touted all season, which has trickled down to his players.

“I think it helps a lot because you've always got your guard up, your antennas up to see if there are any changes, if we're acting different than we normally have to get to this point, but you don't see any of that,” he said. “They're going about their business, they're preparing and they're still working hard.”

That’s the kind of work ethic he hopes to see in the final pair of practices prior to departing for the Golden State.

“We've got to finish before we head out west,” Malzahn said. “We've got two more practices and we've got to get better. We've got to have a good foundation by the time we get out there.”

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