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Auburn football notes: Daren Bates' return against Mississippi seems unlikely

AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn coach Gene Chizik didn’t say whether or not injured linebacker Daren Bates would play at Ole Miss or not.

But it doesn’t sound promising.

Chizik said Bates, who missed the second half against LSU after injuring his right shoulder with an awkward fall, has done “not much” at practice this week.

The sophomore was seen yesterday with his right arm in a sling.

“We’re continuing to obviously try to get him healthy,” Chizik said.

Bates, a converted safety, is third on the team with 40 tackles.

He is from Memphis but played his senior year at Olive Branch (Miss.) High School, which is a little more than an hour from Ole Miss’ Oxford campus.

“He’ll be disappointed if he misses any games,” Chizik said. “He’s a competitor and he loves to play. So we’ll just kind of keep monitoring that.”

Sophomore Jonathan Evans (strong-side) and junior Eltoro Freeman (weak-side) are potential replacements for Bates as Auburn’s third linebacker.

Evans had three tackles last week, getting in on part of a TFL. Freeman didn’t make a tackle in limited playing time.

Senior Craig Stevens can play both the weak- and strong-side positions, giving the Tigers flexibility in their lineup.

“It’s almost been a three-man rotation,” Chizik said.

Chizik said cornerback T’Sharvan Bell (hamstring) will be a gametime decision. Bell didn’t dress out last week.

Let it go

Auburn faced bad field position all afternoon against LSU, pinned inside its own 2-yard line by three different punts.

Wide receivers coach Trooper Taylor said there was only one occasion when punt returner Quindarius Carr should have fielded the ball.

“He shouldn’t have caught any of them but the first one,” Taylor said.

“We went punt safe and he was told the most important thing was to field it and we have to have the ball at the end of that play.”

Carr, who is averaging 6.8 yards per return this year, eighth in the SEC, didn’t field a single punt against LSU.

Taylor’s rule of thumb?

“Anything that hits inside the 10, he’s told not to catch,” he said.

One play away

Auburn stuck with two safeties in its base defense for all of the LSU game: Zac Etheridge was in his usual starting spot, while Mike McNeil played exclusively in place of the injured Aairon Savage.

McNeil finished with five tackles.

“He did a pretty good job last week playing with a lot more confidence,” safeties coach Tommy Thigpen said.

“With playing so much more now he has stepped up his play. He’s in there in the morning, looking at tape and when you come back there in the afternoon, he’s asking all the right questions, taking notes.”

Walk-on Ikeem Means, the next safety on the depth chart, plays on the nickel package. Thigpen realizes the need to get the backups up to speed on the regular defense.

“They are one play away,” he said.

“Savage’s was just a freak (injury). He got hit from behind, got clipped, and in one play he was done.

“It could happen to Zac. It could happen to Mike. So my challenge to all of them is to be ready when your number is called.”

A few more weeks

Thigpen said Savage is doing well after having surgery for a broken bone in his right ankle.

“What we keep telling him is he might be back before the Alabama game,” Thigpen said. “Definitely for the bowl game.”

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