Auburn

Jake Crandall-Montgomery Advertiser

Malzahn: 10 Auburn players sidelined by COVID-19 issues

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AUBURN, Ala. — Coach Gus Malzahn said No. 11 Auburn had five starters out of practice this week because of COVID-19-related issues.

Malzahn said Saturday the Tigers had two new positive tests this week and 10 total players are sidelined from practice because of the virus or close contact. He didn’t identify the players and declined to say if a particular position group had been hit hardest.

Auburn opens the season Sept. 26 against Kentucky and is set to begin specific game preparation on Sunday.

“All those guys will be back for the opener,” Malzahn said. But he noted that they will face challenges in getting ready when they are out until game week.

“You’re sitting here two weeks from kick and you’ve got some of your guys who aren’t practicing,” Malzahn said. “Obviously that’s concerning.”

In late August, Auburn canceled several practices after nine positive tests led to 16 players getting sidelined. Malzahn said two unspecified position groups “were hit extremely hard.”

“I think we’ve done an excellent job if you look at the last three weeks as far as the number of positives,” the coach said. “The challenge is close contact. And that’s something that is a big emphasis for us, but I know that it’s a big emphasis for everybody.

“We’ve really educated our guys. We’ve told them what they’ve got to do.”

Malzahn was asked what his backup plan for coaching a game if he’s sidelined by COVID. He cited his longtime friend, Liberty’s Hugh Freeze, who coached from a hospital bed in the coaches’ booth against Syracuse two weeks after undergoing surgery for a staph infection.

“One thing that I’ve already kind of got my mind on is, if I did, figure out a way in an isolated place in the stadium or Zoom in,” Malzahn said. “I know my buddy Hugh Freeze coached last year laying down in a hospital bed. That’s the way I’m looking at it.

“I’m going to figure out a way either through technology or isolation to still do it.”

Auburn expects to be without 16 players in practice return

Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports
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AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn expects to return to practice without 16 players who are sidelined after positive COVID-19 tests.

Coach Gus Malzahn said Sunday night that the Tigers had five positives early in the week and four more after additional testing Thursday. With contact tracing, seven others who had close contact with them face a mandatory 14-day quarantine.

“We had two position groups where we did not have enough guys,” coach Gus Malzahn said Sunday night. He declined to say which positions.

Malzahn said players didn’t want to attend meetings Thursday after the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Players who test positive must stay isolated for 10 days followed by a seven-day reacclimation process.

The Tigers haven’t practiced since Tuesday and canceled a planned scrimmage on Saturday. Malzahn said players will be tested Sundays and Thursdays.

The Tigers are scheduled to open the season on Sept. 26 against Kentucky.

Tennessee, Auburn cancel practice due to positive tests

Caitie McMekin/News Sentinel
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Positive tests for COVID-19 has forced a pair of ranked Southeastern Conference teams to cancel at least a practice or two as the league announced guidelines for game day covering everything from who will be allowed on the field to press boxes.

Coach Jeremy Pruitt said he canceled Friday’s practice for No. 25 Tennessee due to a “few more positive” test results and Saturday night’s practice also could be canceled depending on the results after everyone in the program was tested Friday morning.

No. 11 Auburn has canceled its last two practices because of positive test results this week, said a person with knowledge of the situation. How many players, coaches or others tested positive remained unclear. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss details.

Pruitt said it was his decision to cancel Friday’s practice. Tennessee has had good testing results with the exception of when the Volunteers returned after eight days off for the Fourth of July holiday. Then results returned more positive tests, so Pruitt said he shut down practice.

“We retested everybody again this morning to see where we’re at,” Pruitt said. “Our No. 1 priority here is to be able to protect everybody associated with our program, and that’s what we’re going to continue to do. As we get the results back, we’ll see exactly where we’re at and we’ll start practice up accordingly.”

Auburn coach Gus Malzahn is scheduled to speak to reporters Saturday. Auburn spokesman Kirk Sampson would only confirm that the Tigers hadn’t practiced Wednesday or Thursday as scheduled.

Malzahn had previously said the Tigers had gone two straight weeks without a positive after a rash of positives a month before. He said Auburn still had four players going through protocols when the team began practice on Aug. 17.

“We’re going to be very transparent,” Malzahn said on Aug. 22. “We’ll keep y’all updated from week to week as we go, and we hope the other programs do the same thing.”

Vanderbilt also missed two practices after canceling a scheduled session Aug. 21 and didn’t return to practice until Wednesday.

The Tigers are scheduled to open the season against Kentucky while Tennessee visits South Carolina on Sept. 26 as the SEC kicks off its 10-game, league-only season.

Pruitt said the Vols might not practice Saturday night either if they don’t track down the source of the latest positive test results.

“We want to make sure we figure out why,” Pruitt said of these increased positive results.

Pruitt said students are back on campus and this is something their players are going to have to learn to handle. Tennessee wants to trace these positive results back to the source of infection to prevent this from happening again.

With the season kickoff still a month away, Pruitt said they have time to be cautious and still get the 25 practices allotted in.

“It’s not like we are running out of time or anything like that,” Pruitt said. “We want to make sure that we are protecting or players and reassuring their safety.”