AUBURN - The tragic news from Mississippi State hit home in Auburn on Tuesday.
Defensive Nick Bell, who played for the Bulldogs against Auburn on Sept. 9, died Tuesday at a Birmingham hospital. He was 20.
Bell, from Jess Lanier High School, was a former teammate and extremely close friend of freshman Auburn linebacker LaDarius Owens.
"He’s devastated," Auburn defensive coordinator Ted Roof said. "That was his buddy. He’s hurt."
Suffering from headaches and weakness in his hand, Bell went to be checked in late September. A mass was found on his brain. The mass, removed on Oct. 1, was found to be cancerous.
WHITE HARD AT WORK:Roof said freshman cornerback Ryan White, who played for the first time in last Saturday's 51-31 win at Ole Miss, was called up to the varsity out o0f necessity.
"In a perfect world it would never have happened," Roof said. "For their benefit, you’d like to kind of let guys play when they are ready, not when they have to. That’s where we are. We all do what is best for our football team, and he has certainly done that."
ZIEMBA ON PLIGHT OF O-LINEMEN: Senior left tackle Lee Ziemba said Tuesday that offensive lineman start learning early about the realities of life.
"You have to learn that at a young age, in junior high," Ziemba said. "You start seeing all the girls in class with the guys that carry the football. You just have to sit back and say ‘The reason you got that date was because of me.’”
STARK STATISTIC: Roof shared a stark statistic with his defensive players Tuesday. In nine Auburn games, a third-down penalty has kept a drive alive and led to a touchdown six times.
A SPECIAL HOMECOMING: It will be Senior Day and homecoming Saturday when the No. 2 Tigers play Chattanooga at Jordan-Hare Stadium. And it will have added significance for senior linebacker Josh Bynes.
Bynes will be joined on the field for Senior Day ceremonies by his father, Herb.
"A lot of people don’t know, but my mom and dad have never been to a game in Auburn," Bynes said. "My dad is coming up this weekend. It will be his first time in the stadium. It will be a good last-year experience for me, to have somebody here."
CHASING BO: Running back Mike Dyer is closing fast on Bo Jackson's record for rushing yards by a freshman. Jackson had 829 in 1982. Dyer has 723 this season.
Jackson, Dyer said, has been an inspiration to him.
"I've been met with him and talked to him," Dyer said. "He's come down here to show support to Auburn and the running backs."
MCNEAL GETS HIS SHOT: Freshman safety Demetruce McNeal has been a special teams standout all season. Last Saturday at Ole Miss, he finally got his chance to play safety.
"I finally showed what I can do," McNeal said. "I wanted to show everybody. I don’t want to just be a special teams player. I want to help the team out on defense, too."
But McNeal was still chagrined over one that got away. He had an interception in his hands but couldn't hold it.
"I couldn’t believe it," McNeal said. "I was looking at the receiver because of the coverage I was in. The receiver threatened me so I had to take him. By the time I looked, the ball was coming my way. My eyes got big. I tried to get my hands up, but it had already hit me in the chest. I couldn’t cradle it and it slipped right out the side."
McNeal said his teammates haven't let him forget it.
"Oh, they are killing me," he said.