AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn running back Eric Smith is back with the team after a 2 1/2-week absence following his arrest for third-degree assault last month, Tigers head coach Gene Chizik said.
“I said that if you see Eric Smith back in an Auburn uniform, you’ll know that he did the things that we needed him to do to become a better Auburn man,” Chizik said. “And you’re going to see him in a uniform this week. And he’s done what we asked him to do. And we’re going to move on.”
Smith, a sophomore, had not been allowed to practice since Aug. 21, when he was arrested in the early morning hours in the parking lot of an area hotel, Police say they saw Smith strike a student in the back of the head, knocking him unconscious.
Smith was booked on disorderly conduct charges and released hours after his arrest, but he surrendered to police Aug. 24 after third-degree charges were filed by the alleged victim.
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Smith, who filed a harassment complaint against the student he allegedly struck, is scheduled to appear in Auburn Municipal Court on Nov. 5.
“I think he’s a very well-liked member of our football team, and our football team cares about other members of our team,” Chizik said. “Nobody wants to see any misfortune happen to any of our players, so they’re excited about having him back.”
“He’s one of my friends, so it’s great to be back around him and see a smile back on his face,” running back Ben Tate said.
The 5-foot-10, 237-pound Smith can play either tailback or H-back and gives Auburn a power option in the running game. Smith had 21 carries for 83 yards last season.
Where to stop?
New Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen said he did not get very complicated with his play-calling in the Bulldogs’ 45-7 season-opening win against Jackson State, hoping to help his team get acclimated to a running a new playbook in a game situation.
Auburn figures the former Florida offensive coordinator will open things up more in this Saturday’s game.
“They’re probably going to progress schematically each week, as far as they’re going to add some things,” defensive coordinator Ted Roof said. “And if you go back and look at the Florida tapes, you’ve got to make a decision where you cut it off, because there was so much. So the unknown is what’s concerning.”
Of particular concern is Mississippi State’s two quarterback system. The Bulldogs used both Chris Relf and Tyson Lee in their opener.
Relf, who threw for three touchdowns, also added 82 yards and a score on the ground in the opener. Lee threw for 97 yards but didn’t play most of the second half because of shoulder spasms. He’s expected to play Saturday.
“You don’t have any wholesale changes, it is just a lot more recognition,” Chizik said of preparing for two quarterbacks. “Coach Roof has a great scheme. He’s got things that we hang our hat on defensively. We feel good about our scheme. We feel that we can defend a multiple amount of things.”
Work in progress
Defensive tackle Nick Fairley, a junior college transfer who joined the team this summer, fared well in his first start, finishing with five tackles, getting in on a tackle for a loss and recovering a fumble against Louisiana Tech.
But the newcomer had a few mistakes that became apparent when the team watched film of the game.
“There were a lot of technique issues and assignment issues that we’ve got to get cleaned up,” Roof said. “But he was productive, and that’s what you want to see. We have two types of grades. We’ve got an assignment grade and we’ve got a production grade. And his production grade was higher than his assigned grade.”
LB Eltoro Freeman (hamstring/wrist) remains day-to-day. ... Auburn remained in the Others Receiving Votes category of the Associated Press poll. The Tigers had four points in the poll. In the preseason poll, they had seven.