Auburn notebook: Auburn has plan for long layoff
by Ryan Black
Columbus Ledger-Enquirer
Dec 18, 2013 | 1786 views |  0 comments | 19 19 recommendations | email to a friend | print
 Auburn running back Tre Mason shares a good time with Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn. (Photo by Trent Penny)
Auburn running back Tre Mason shares a good time with Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn. (Photo by Trent Penny)
AUBURN — It’s not normal.

That was the only way Gus Malzahn could describe the layoff between the final two games of his team’s season. By the time Auburn takes the field at Rose Bowl Stadium on Jan. 6, almost a full month will have passed since its last contest. That, of course, came on Dec. 7 in the Georgia Dome, when Auburn beat Missouri 59-42 in the SEC Championship game. Malzahn himself admitted that the coaching staff might have a harder time dealing with the extended break than the players.

But if he’s thankful for anything, it’s that he went through this in 2010, the last time the Tigers were in the BCS title game.

“I’d like to think that would definitely help,” he said. “I thought we had a solid plan in 2010. Anytime you have a month before you play, you’ve got to be strategic. You have to rest your guys enough mentally and physically, but keep them as fresh as you can and get your work done. Then you try to keep some type of routine — especially the two weeks before you play. I really felt good about our plan in 2010 and we’ll be fairly similar to that.”

One of the most important aspects — even as much as game planning for Florida State — is making sure players stay in tip-top condition.

In that area, at least, Malzahn had few worries.

“That’s one of our big advantages: that we’re in great shape,” he said. “We’ve got to continue to do that. (Strength and conditioning) Coach (Ryan) Russell has a plan that he feels good about.”

The Tigers’ head coach isn’t the only member of the team used to handling this kind of prolonged downtime. Dee Ford is one of nine players on Auburn’s roster who was around during the 2010 title run.

The senior defensive end said that should pay dividends, especially when it came to mentoring younger players.

“We’re going to be able to really tell them things that we wish we would have done and things we did well as far as preparing,” he said. “… They’re going to be in our hands and we’re going to be able to tell them what we did and keep moving from there.”

It was music to Malzahn’s ears.

After all, experience is one thing that can’t be taught.

“They’ve been there and they’ve done that,” he said. “The first time we went through it, I learned a lot. I know a lot of our players learned a lot. … It’s not just the fact that it’s 30 days, but everything that goes with (having) a spotlight on you for 30 days. So there’s a lot that goes with it.”

Tigers place three on AP All-American teams: Much of Auburn’s success this season can be owed to its vaunted rushing attack.

So it came as no surprise when three key pieces of the Tigers’ running game were recognized by the Associated Press on Tuesday.

Running back Tre Mason, continuing to add to his numerous postseason honors, was named to the AP’s All-America second-team, while center Reese Dismukes and tackle Greg Robinson were selected to the All-America third-team.

Mason leads the SEC in carries (283), rushing yards (1,621), rushing yards per game (124.7) and rushing touchdowns (22, which doubles as a single-season school-record) and was picked as the league’s offensive player of the year by both the AP and the coaches last week. He also vaulted himself into the Heisman Trophy discussion late in the season, where he ended up finishing sixth last Saturday.

“Very proud of the way he represented us. He did a great job,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said Monday night. “That’s a huge award to get to that point even to go, especially when he really wasn’t even in the conversation until late. But it was a great experience for him, for our program, and it was good.”

Dismukes has earned his fair share of accolades as well, with the AP All-American selection joining his consensus All-SEC status (first-team by league coaches, second-team by the AP) and his finalist showing for the Rimington Trophy, which is awarded to the nation’s top center. This was the second time in as many weeks that Robinson, a redshirt sophomore, has been recognized by the AP, as the organization dubbed him a first-team All-SEC performer last week.

Earlier Tuesday morning, Sports Illustrated named both Mason and Robinson to its All-America second-team. Defensive end Dee Ford and corner Chris Davis garnered honorable mention nods from the magazine, with Davis being selected due to his efforts as a punt returner this season.

Clark accepts invite: The first game of Steven Clark’s post-Auburn career will take place in St. Petersburg, Fla. According to a tweet from the official account of the East-West Shrine Game — which pits graduating seniors from across the country on opposing teams — the Tigers’ punter accepted an invite to play in the game on Tuesday.

Clark was a semifinalist for the Ray Guy Award his first three seasons as a Tiger, including a finalist showing as a sophomore. He has turned in another outstanding season in 2013, averaging 42.5 yards per punt on 50 attempts, with 21 landing inside of the 20. And of his 50 kicks this year, only five have been returned, netting Auburn opponents just 35 total yards.
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