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Tigers try to keep emotions in check

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AUBURN REPORT: Tigers try to keep emotions in check

By Jay G. Tate

Montgomery Advertiser

AUBURN -- When Auburn offensive line coach Hugh Nall played at Georgia 25 years ago, he struggled to control his emotions as the season-opening game approached.

Little has changed since then.

"I've always been just an intense guy. It's just like now -- I'm having trouble sleeping now," Nall said. "It was that way when I played. I used to try to tell myself to not play the game before it's played."

The Tigers open their season Saturday night against Washington State, a game many players have been visualizing for months. Wideout Courtney Taylor says he spends most of his idle time dreaming of ways to make important catches against the Cougars.

The same goes for kicker John Vaughn. He never misses field goals in his head.

Coaches support that kind of behavior because positive thinking, many psychologists believe, makes positive events more likely to happen.

Yet there is a downside to all this analysis.

After months of anticipation, game day takes on a life of its own for those ill equipped to handle the drama.

"You spend so much time thinking about it and then it gets here and you maybe panic a little," junior defensive end Quentin Groves said. "It's like your whole life depends on making this play or that play. I remember thinking like that when I was younger. I've learned to calm down."

Coach Tommy Tuberville knows that preseason anticipation can be a problem. His 2003 team was picked to win the national championship by two publications, which sparked an emotional surge among the players.

Auburn lost its first two games that season.

Players later said they hit an emotional peak before the first game, and struggled to re-gain momentum once they dropped the season opener.

Tuberville's solution this time around was a strenuous preseason practice period.

That, he surmised, would end any unnecessary excitement.

"We haven't had any problems the way we've been practicing. We've calmed them down all right," Tuberville said. "We've driven them pretty good. The leadership has been good. They are excited about playing."

New defensive coordinator Will Muschamp played safety at Georgia during the early 1990s, and remembers getting anxious when his seasons began. He said older players quickly acclimate themselves to the emotions, and rarely have problems after their first year of play.

From a coaching perspective, Muschamp said he worries about the younger guys.

Auburn will start a pair of freshmen -- tackle Sen'Derrick Marks and safety Aairon Savage -- against the Cougars.

Muschamp will have his eyes on them throughout.

"Some of the freshmen who don't know -- they don't know they don't know. They're the best ones," Muschamp said. "The ones who have all the anxiety built up, they're the ones who scare me. They're worried about what's going to happen. The ones who don't know, they're the best ones. They just go play."

Trott senses improvement

Tight end Tommy Trott struggled during the early days of preseason practice, but seems to have regained the trust of offensive coordinator Al Borges.

Trott, a redshirt freshman who played prep ball at Trinity High, has been a more effective receiver during the past two weeks. Borges said Trott is expected to play approximately 20 snaps against Washington State.

"Things definitely have come up a little bit since (two-a-days)," Trott said. "I'd hate to get back into what I was in by jinxing myself. Hopefully, I've come out of that slump. I feel like I'm catching the ball better. We've had a few days off. Practices have gotten a little lighter. You're able to get to balls. You can make hard catches easier just by getting there."

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