Freshman LB May Start Vs. the Bulldogs

Cassanova McKinzy

This Auburn football report features news, notes and quotes from coaches and players as the Tigers prepare to play fifth-ranked Georgia.

Auburn, Ala.--Freshman Cassanova McKinzy may be back in the starting lineup for the Georgia game with junior Jake Holland trying to recover from an ankle injury suffered in Auburn's Homecoming victory over New Mexico State.

McKinzy got most of the work at middle linebacker for the third consecutive practice this week as the Tigers worked out for more than two hours in the rain on Wednesday night preparing for the SEC's oldest football rivalry.

"We are waiting on Jake," said linebacker coach Tommy Thigpen, who is also working senior Ashton Richardson, the Rhodes Scholar candidate, at middle linebacker.

Thigpen noted that Holland knows exactly what to do with the game plan if he is able to go vs. the Bulldogs. "It is just wait and see,"?the coach said.

Cassanova McKinzy made six solo tackles with six assists in his previous start vs. Vandy.

The middle linebacker has the assignment of aligning the entire defense in Auburn's system. On the plus side for this week is the style of play from the Bulldogs if the Tigers go with the freshman. "This is his type of game," Thigpen said.

The coach added, "They are not very complicated. They don't move around much. They are good at what they do--line up in two backs and a tight end and use their skills the best way they can.

"They have some good skill from what we have seen," Thipgen added. "They have two running backs who are as good as anybody we have seen. They have five or six receivers who can stretch the field and they have a tight end who can block and get down the field so they are talented at the skills positions like LSU or South Carolina would be."

Auburn's head coach, Gene Chizik, also had praise for the Bulldogs' offense after Wednesday night's practice. "They have always been able to have a very good running game to complement whatever quarterback they have had," he said. "You have a great tradition of very good quarterbacks and they have always posed us problems. They have some great wideouts to throw it to."

The coach noted that the 2012 Bulldogs are particularly physical on the offensive line that helps make UGA's tandem of freshman tailbacks, Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall, "very challenging" to defend.

Commenting on his team's workout, Chizik said, "I thought we had a good practice tonight. I thought we had a lot of energy. It really has been a good three days of practice."

Wounded QB: Chizik said that quarterback Clint Moseley should be available to play if needed on Saturday, but noted the junior has been very limited in what he can do in practice this week due to an ankle injury. "He has not been able to take a lot of reps,"?the coach said.

Chizik said that freshman quarterback Jonathan Wallace has been putting in a lot of time preparing for this week's game vs. Georgia, which will be his second college start. "I am proud of him, it is going to be a great challenge for him," Chizik said.

Curfew: Auburn's players have a week night 11 o'clock curfew this season, which is being monitored by a private firm that make sures players are in their apartments at the required time.

Asked about whose decision it was to hire a company to monitor the curfew, the coach said, "We always do what is in the best interest of our team. We have curfew check so we have to employ people to help us with so many kids off campus. Other than that I am not going into any of the details of any of that."

Ford Gearing Up: Junior defensive end Dee Ford, who has been limited by an injury (lower abdomen) said he is making progress physically in his quest to play up to the high expectations the coaches have for him. After missing two games and then seeing part time duty in the last two contests, the junior said he hopes to be full speed for the Georgia game.

"I hate being injured," said Ford, who made three tackles in the Homecoming game and picked up his third quarterback sack of the season. He noted that it feels geat to be back, "especially for a game like this one."

Ford said his physical problem was a "weird injury" and noted that rest was the prescription. "There really wasn't much treatment," he said.

Dee Ford is a junior who has 23 tackles this season in seven games.

Ford noted he should have fresh legs for the stretch run beginning with Saturday night's game against an offense that features a talented pair of freshman running backs--Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall. "You really don't know what they are going to do, they are very unpredictable," Ford said. "They are game-breakers. We are definitely focused on them."

Special Teams Tackles: With opponents only having five punt returns vs. the Tigers this year and just a dozen kickoff returns, no Auburn player has more than two special teams tackles. Both Craig Sanders and Ricardo Louis have two solo tackles each to lead the special teams coverage group while Jonathan Jones has one solo tackle and one assist. Ikeem Means has two assists.

Opponents are averaging 0.8 yards per punt return vs. the Tigers this year and 17.1 yards per kickoff return. The Tigers are ranked No. 2 nationally punt return coverage.

Last year Demetruce McNeal and Neiko Thorpe were in on five special teams tackles apiece to lead that group and in 2010 McNeal was in on 15 special teams tackles and Jonathan Evans was next with 11.

Overall Tackles: McNeal has the most solo tackles on this year's team with 48 and also has 36 assists. Daren Bates has the most total tackles with 86, two more than McNeal. McNeal also leads the Tigers in tackles for lost yardage with seven. Corey Lemonier is the leader in quarterback sacks with five.

Tailgating: The weather forecast for Saturday calls for clear skies and a high of 73 degrees, but it will get colder quickly in the evening. Temperatures are expected to drop into the 40s during the game.

Television Coverage: Saturday's game will be televised by ESPN2 at 6 p.m. CST. Mark Jones will handle the play by play, Brock Huard will be the analyst and Allison Williams the sideline reporter.

Radio Coverage: In addition to coverage by the Auburn Network on stations around the southeast, the radio broadcast is available on Sirius Channel 92 and XM Channel 196. The game is also being carried on stations around the country on the Touchdown Radio network.

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