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Auburn football notes: Tigers try to mirror early starts

AUBURN, Ala. -- Auburn’s scrimmage started at roughly 11:30 local time Wednesday. It was by design.

The Tigers’ coaches wanted to give the team a sense of what the early starts that dot the September schedule will feel like, so they mirrored it as best they could.

Auburn is scheduled for early kickoffs in each of its first three games, starting before noon Central time against Utah State, Mississippi State and at Clemson.

“We wanted to get used to the heat, which our kids are already used to,” coach Gene Chizik said, “but mainly the direction of the sun and some of the roles that that plays in our return game was the main reason.”

The Tigers have not announced when their next scrimmage will be, although it’s expected to be early as well.

“We’ve got to get used to those first couple games with 11 a.m. starts,” Chizik said.

Scrimmage details

Although Auburn’s coaches and players kept details hazy about the scrimmage, some bits of information did make their way out.

Defensive end Dee Ford acknowledged that the offense won. What happened? “Nothing,” he said. “Our offense is an amazing offense.”

According to online reports, freshman running back Tre Mason had three touchdowns.

Neither Chizik nor offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn mentioned Mason afterward. The freshman, who was requested, was not around for post-practice interviews.

Cornerback T’Sharvan Bell said fellow corner Jonathon Mincy recovered a fumble and linebacker Jake Holland had an interception.

Chizik said the team was live on kickoffs and punts.

“Anytime you put a young guy in the return game you have a little bit of caution because when the lights come in front of 90,000 you don’t know what you’re going to get,” Chizik said. “But as accurately as you can, you try to figure that out.”

On a schedule

Auburn used the scrimmage mostly to give younger players a look, especially with only one week remaining before the start of classes and 31/2 weeks before the opener against Utah State.

“It was by design to see what those young guys could do,” Malzahn said. “So we’re on a fast pace with evaluation right now.”

Malzahn said the scrimmage wasn’t aimed at running or passing the ball. Rather, he wanted to get the ball to certain players in different situations.

“We wanted to throw it to certain people to see how they react,” he said. “So a lot of times in an early scrimmage like this, it’s very specific getting the ball to certain people or running behind certain people.”

Makes a difference

The scrimmage was the first time Auburn has worked at Jordan-Hare Stadium this August, and for the true freshmen, it was their first action on the field.

Is it different from the regular practice fields?

“Sure, I hope so,” defensive coordinator Ted Roof said. “Because that’s a special place. I hope it makes a difference for them. It better make a difference for them. Once we get inside the white lines, it’s football. But we have to defend our turf. This is our turf.”

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