Peyton Barber looks for room in an Auburn preseason practice
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. ― Gus Malzahn says Auburn's practices have been physical this preseason, and he's just fine with that.
"We're a little banged up, but it's a good banged up," Malzahn said after Tuesday's practice. "I think we'll be fresh and ready to go and should have all hands on deck, at least at this point, going into the opener."
The season-opener is Sept. 5 against Louisville in Atlanta's Georgia Dome, and the style of the practices ― "very physical," Malzahn said ― has prepared Auburn for the year ahead.
"We strained our guys very hard, and when you do that, you always worry about losing a player or two," Malzahn said.
Auburn began preparation for Louisville in earnest with a game-week-like Tuesday practice. That's different after three weeks of learning and hitting and wear.
But not too much wear.
"You've just got to have a feel for your team," Malzahn said. "Really, we only had two full weeks of fall camp. Then we started school pretty early. Our kids went to class and we practiced.
"Today was really the first day full force that we started preparing for our opponent. So far so good. I like where we're at. I think we'll be in good shape going into the first game as far as health is concerned."
The injury report was positive. Safety Tray Matthews, slowed most of the last three weeks with a sore hamstring, reported he was "100 percent, ready to go."
"He's full throttle," Malzahn said. "He has been back doing limited stuff up to this point, but today he was full throttle and looked good out there running around."
Malzahn also said running back Kerryon Johnson practiced after being slowed with an injury
• Malzahn said Alex Kozan and Devonte Danzey are continuing to vie for the starting job at left guard.
"They're both veteran guys. Alex looks like the same ol' guy he was before. Devonte is a guy that has really improved and he did a solid job for us last year. There's nothing better than experience, game experience, and he's very confident. That's a good thing that we have two guys at that spot, and both of those could play the right side if they needed to."
• The running back race continues between Roc Thomas, Peyton Barber, Jovon Robinson and the freshman Johnson. Malzahn said he'd like to see a running back step forward by the third game, against LSU.
"I think that would be the plan that you would really like. We're just going to let it happen. We're going to see how everything works out. That would be nice."
• Malzahn said Duke Williams is still working with the second team.
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine