AUBURN - Auburn's football team has staggered to a 1-7 record, but head coach Gene Chizik continues to like what he sees at practice. Other than one midway through preseason, Chizik has praised his team's work in every practice about which he has talked.
Auburn coach Gene Chizik likes the way his team practices/Robin Conn photo
So it was Wednesday night as the Tigers wound up heavy work in preparation for Saturday's homecoming game against New Mexico State at Jordan-Hare Stadium. The two teams will match 1-7 records.
"I thought we practiced well tonight," Chizik said.
Freshman quarterback Jonathan Wallace, who will get his first start Saturday, continues to impress his coaches and teammates.
"I was really proud of the way, really the last two days, he's practiced," Chizik said. "It's really important to him and he's really working on trying to improve his craft. It's been fun to watch him out there. He works a lot on his own. He comes in and puts extra time in himself. It's really good to see him do that."
Offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler said Wallace is no normal freshman.
"He's a guy that has been extremely cerebral," Loeffler said. "You'd be shocked how much he knows. He's been a gym rat since the minute he walked in the door. He's been a grinder in every sense of the word. He's really made a huge improvement from the time he got in here until now. With his mentality and his ethic, he's going to keep getting better and better."
Both Chizik and Loeffler warned that expectations for Wallace shouldn't get out of control.
Loeffler said Wallace won't be a polished starter in his first opportunity.
"He can't do that," Loeffler said. "We can't expect him to do that. What he needs to do is get in there and do his job. As a young player, to go out there and make checks, to do this and do that, things you'd expect from an older quarterback, those things are not going to occur. He needs to be doing and handling what he can control."
"We expect him to embrace the opportunity, but we also have to understand that there are a lot of ebbs and flows in the game that aren't going to go perfect. I think it's a little bit ambitious to think there is going to be a miracle out there and he's not going to go through the ups and downs of being a starting quarterback.
"I think one thing he has proved to everybody is he is built for that. Up to this point, he's never given any indication that it is too big for him."
Chizik said junior quarterback Clint Moseley, the starter in the past three games, is doubtful for Saturday's game. He said junior defensive tackle Jeff Whitaker is also unlikely to play. He said junior defensive end Dee Ford is improving. Junior cornerback Chris Davis is also expected to miss a second consecutive game.