AUBURN, Ala. — Nearly two full days away from the field and colder weather brought a noticeable change to the tenor of Auburn’s football practice Sunday.
Although neither probably had as much of an effect as the sobering thought of the fast-approaching season opener against Arkansas State on Saturday.
“You get to the grind of the everyday practice and all the things that go with pre-fall camp,” Auburn head coach Gene Chizik said. “And at some point it’s like there’s no end in sight, and now they’re finally seeing for the next 14, 15 weeks, we’ve got games. …
“I think it changes mentally the whole outlook for those guys.”
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It’s only six days until the No. 22 Tigers kick off the season at Jordan-Hare Stadium against the Red Wolves, ending an offseason of rising expectations in Year 2 of the Chizik regime, both externally and internally.
“It’s way more confident than we were last year,” linebacker Josh Bynes said. “We feel it, not just from media but we feel it within ourselves, that we don’t see anything less than an SEC championship year. And that’s the feeling from the get-go.”
“It’s put up or shut up,” quarterback Cam Newton said.
“Go hard or go home. That’s words I live for before the game. If you’re not going to give your all, why are you out here?”
Auburn hopes to use the early part of the season to get its newcomers accustomed to the college game. The Tigers added 31 players last offseason, 28 of which are freshmen.
Chizik estimated that 10 to 20 players of that group could play right away, although he didn’t want to be held to a specific number. Regardless, he knows getting them early experience will help the team in the long run.
“It’s going to be important that we get these guys in the game, whether we have the lead or not,” Chizik said. “It’s hard as a coach right now to say, ‘Hey, I’ve got to get my guy in in the middle of the second quarter,’ but you’ve got to force yourself to do that. That’s where you’ve just got to bite the bullet and let all the young guys play regardless of where you’re at.”
That message has gotten through.
“Everybody’s expecting the freshman class to do a lot of things,” wide receiver Trovon Reed said. “Everybody has a big chip on their shoulder and everybody’s got to play their role. Everybody’s been walking around here amped up, getting ready already.”
Reed, a versatile receiver/Wildcat quarterback who is among the freshmen most likely to contribute immediately, hopes to be ready to go. He did not practice Sunday, instead doing conditioning drills on the side after bruising his knee cap last week diving for a pass.
“I’m not going to rush anything, because I was taught if you rush, bad stuff happens,” Reed said. “And I go by that motto. So I’m not going to rush it and I’m going to know my role.”
If he can’t go, Reed has different goals for Saturday.
“I’ll cheer my team on,” he said.
“I’ll be the biggest cheerleader on the sideline.”
Notes: Chizik singled out sophomore cornerback T’Sharvan Bell as having one of the best pre-fall camps of anybody on the team. “You might as well pencil him in and say he’s a starter as well,” Chizik said. … No decision has been made on a starting punter yet. … The Wildcat job appears up for grabs too. Incumbent Kodi Burns said he’s worked there, but he’s also helped out “the young guy,” a reference to Reed.