Oct. 2, 2013
Auburn's Chris Davis made a difference against Arkansas State (Todd Van Emst photo)
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. – OK, maybe Jaylon Denson and his surgically repaired knee aren't going to play, but Auburn's Gus Malzahn is painting a generally optimistic picture for the return of some of his injured players following a much-needed off week.
"We were able to heal up somewhat," Malzahn said during Wednesday's SEC teleconference as his Tigers continued preparation for Saturday's 6 p.m. game against Ole Miss in Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Auburn is set for another practice this afternoon following a Monday workout that Malzahn called "the first day we'll actually have our entire team going through practice, which is a very positive thing moving forward."
Auburn hopes to have most everybody available Saturday when Ole Miss, 3-1 overall and 1-1 in the SEC, visits Auburn, also 3-1 overall and 1-1 in the league.
Malzahn isn't saying exactly how the return of injured players will affect the lineup. "We evaluate everything," he said. But Malzahn has lamented the fact some of his big-play defensive players have missed considerable time.
That list includes defensive back Chris Davis, who has missed the last two games with a leg injury; defensive end Dee Ford, who missed the first two games with a ankle injury; defensive tackle Jeff Whitaker, who has missed all four games with a knee injury; defensive back Jonathan Jones, who has missed all four games with a foot injury; defensive lineman Craig Sanders, who missed the last game with an ankle injury; and linebacker Justin Garrett, who missed games with a bad foot.
The injuries have affected the stat sheet. Davis, Jones and Whitaker, of course, have no tackles; Ford, who won preseason accolades for his pass rushing ability, has seven tackles; Sanders has six tackles; and Garrett, the spring defensive star, has four tackles.
Ole Miss will be playing through some injuries. Wide receiver Donte Moncrief has a sprained shoulder, but will play. Defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche has a broken finger, "but it won't result in anything," Freeze said. Defensive tackle Carlton Martin is expected back after missing last week's loss to Alabama with an undisclosed injury.
The SEC teleconference provided some insight on what Malzahn and Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze think of the quarterbacks they'll be facing:
Freeze on Auburn's Nick Marshall: "Arm strength. Athlete. Throws the deep ball extremely well. He scares you with his running ability, scrambling ability and ability to extend plays. I think he fits what Gus tries to do offensively very, very well."
Malzahn on Ole Miss' Bo Wallace: "He's a playmaker. We think he throws the ball extremely well. He's a very good runner, particularly inside."
This is what they're talking about: Marshall is sixth in total offense and seventh in the SEC in passing, hitting 60-of-103 passing for 809 yards with four TD passes and four interceptions. Wallace is seventh in total offense and eighth in the SEC in passing, hitting 73-of-118 passes for 807 yards with four TD passes and zero interceptions.
Overall, Freeze said this of Auburn: "They remind me a lot of us. They have an enormous amount of energy and passion, and now they've grown some confidence.
Charles Goldberg writes for AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine