Gus Malzahn Discusses the Louisville Depth Chart

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Auburn Coach Gus Malzahn press conference

Tuesday, September 1, 2015, previewing the Louisville game

Opening Statement…“We are very excited that it is game week. We are facing a very good Louisville team. We are also excited to be playing in Atlanta at the Dome, which our players, coaches and fans enjoy.

“Looking at Louisville, their defense was one of the top defenses in the country last year. They have a very good defensive coordinator that used to be at Georgia that we went up against a few times. He is very good at what he does, and he really makes the offense earn it. They have some very talented transfers from Georgia and TCU that I think are all very good players. Offensively, they are multiple and they present a lot of different challenges with what they do. They have a very talented running back and a very talented receiver, a quick kid. They are going to present some challenges to our defense. Will (Muschamp) is really stressing communication. That will be very important. Being able to adjust, and not just on defense, but first games are all about adjustment. You have all year to think about your plan, and how you are going to get a stop, or move the ball. At the end of the first quarter everything clears up, but you have to be able to adjust. Will has been communicating that to our defense.

“From a defensive standpoint, it’s really being prepared for multiple quarterbacks. They are all a little bit different and unique. Offensively, if you look at our depth chart, I think you see eight freshmen on the two-deep. I don’t think Kerryon Johnson is on that, but he will play in the first game. So there will be a lot of youth on the field. My biggest stress is just the new guys being out there for the first time, holding on and protecting the ball. That is always a big factor in the first games, along with special teams. I do like where the offense and the defense mentality is. It is just going to be a matter of getting those young guys out there and letting them play and letting them do their thing. An update on a personnel situation — Myron Burton is no longer part of our team. That was a mutual decision, and we wish him nothing but the best in the future.”

Is Duke Williams starting…“Well it is ‘or.’ It could be a possibility. We will see how this week goes. He is working his way back up. Anytime we have an ‘or’ it could be one or the other.”

Preparing for an unknown quarterback…“You have to be prepared for all of them. You have to predict what they do well and what their plan will be, and utilize each one of them. That is a challenge, especially for the first game. If you are playing someone week 3 or 4, usually they show their hand and you get an idea. That will be one of the unique challenges in this first game.”

Comfort in Auburn declaring a starting QB in the spring…“It has been good that we have known who our starting quarterback will be since spring, and I think it has been good for (Jeremy Johnson) too, and for his teammates. We feel like he is prepared. He is tired of everyone talking about him and predicting us. He is just ready to be out there and play. He wants to prove himself. So I think he is in a very good spot mentally right now going into this first game.”

On Jeremy Johnson’s experience and confidence …“We have some very good information on Jeremy.  He’s started games — as matter of fact he’s started SEC games and actually started the opener — but there is nothing like it being your team and you’re going to start for the whole season mentality. So we’ll see how it goes, but I like where he’s at and he’s not reading the headlines. Matter of fact, I’m going to bet you he’s pretty embarrassed on some of the predictions and the Heisman.  He just wants to prove it. I think because of that he’s in a really good spot.” 

On choosing captains…“We’re getting close.”

On special team decisions…“Kevin Phillips is going to be our punter and he’s won that job.  He had a very good fall camp.  Ian (Shannon) did some very good things and made it very competitive, but he also kicks.  At the first part of fall camp, he really concentrated on his punting and then he kind of transitioned. He has a great leg.  He’ll provide us depth in both areas.  Daniel Carlson had a very good fall camp.  It’s really helped him focus on just the kicking part and not having to punt.  It seems like his leg is probably a little stronger because of that.”

On Tre’ Williams playing both inside linebacker positions…“He’s a smart guy, and Coach Muschamp has him knowing both of those positions.  They rotated a lot in fall camp, so I think you will see the same thing in the first game.”

Learning a new defense…“The great thing about what Will does is competition every day. Any time you have competition, it brings out the best in everybody.  The thing about it is that we have information from the older guys because they have played a lot of football, but at the same time they are learning a new defense. You’ll see multiple guys in the first game.”

Auburn’s preseason mentality…“To be honest, from a team standpoint, every year, whether people predict you to be good or not, it’s the same mindset and mentality if you’re in this room from a team standpoint.  We have the same approach and I like where our guys are.  They’re not reading the press or predicting stuff.  They are worried about this first opponent. They’ve got a good mindset and we’re taking it one game at a time.  There’s a lot of question marks.  Look at the freshmen on the list — that really sticks out to me.  I knew that before we put the depth chart together, but when you see it the reality hits you that there are a lot of young guys. There will be some growing pains, but we think that those guys who are going to play are pretty talented. They just need to grow up in a hurry and we’ll see what happens.”

What makes Jeremy Johnson different…“He really thinks like Coach Lashlee does, as far as even game planning and what we look for. I think it’s just one more year of experience, probably that comes with thinking exactly how the coaches think. I think there’s great power in that.”


Does that help Jeremy as a play-caller…“I think that’s big, because a lot of times it’s not what the coach knows, it’s what the player is comfortable with and comfortable with doing. He can do a lot of different things, but it’s good that he knows the offense well enough and he knows the personnel around him enough that he can have ownership in the game plan. That’s probably the biggest difference over a guy that’s maybe a first-year starter.”


On Roc Thomas…“Roc is a guy that has had a good spring and a good fall camp. He will be the first guy to go out there, but those other two guys will play. We kind of talked about that for a couple weeks, and all three have earned the right to play, but Roc will be the first one out there. You’re going to see us play all three of them, and we’ve got some question marks as coaches. We want to see them in game situations now, and hopefully someone will rise to the top. (Jovon Robinson) is still learning the offense but he can run the ball. He’ll be out there the first game of the season, too, and we’ll see what happens.” 

What Roc improved during the off-season…”He’s definitely gotten bigger. He has kept his speed. He’s more comfortable now; he knows what’s going on. Last year, we had those two seniors that were ahead and, when you lose two seniors, he had an opportunity to step up from a leadership standpoint. We’ve seen him grow not just in the spring but more importantly in the fall.” 

On Ryan Davis and receiver depth…“He can help us. He’s athletic, and he wants to be good. He really reminds me of Marcus Davis when Marcus was a true freshman. Of course, he helped us quite a bit but he’s a guy that played QB in high school that understands the offense. And he doesn’t seem like the moment’s too big, at least so far. We’ve got three or four guys that can play both (receiver spots) so we’ll move them around probably more than we have in the past. But we do have some definite receivers that we’re going to go by.”


On Cassanova McKinzy…“They compete every day and I wouldn’t read too much in the ‘or.’ We’ll see what happens when we get out there and play and see who’s playing well and go from there.” 

On the left guard position…“Both of them (Kozan and Danzey) have really done an outstanding job. Both of them deserve to play. We split the reps in fall camp. It’s a little bit unique; we have not done that very often but we feel comfortable with both of those guys.”

 Kamryn Pettway and Chandler Cox similar to former fullback Jay Prosch…“It’s going to be very important. That traditionally has been a very important position in our offense, and we’ve had different body types at that position. Both those guys are kind of old-school football players, they’re very physical at the point of attack, they both can catch a football and they’re both athletic. Both played tailback-type situations in high school so it gives us a lot of versatility. They just need some reps. They need some experience.”

 Center competition between Austin Golson and Xavier Dampeer… ”It was good competition at center, which is always good. Golson earned the starting job; he’s really done a very good job for a guy that hasn’t played center before. He’s a smart guy, he’s a great competitor and he’s tough. Dampeer has been in our offense for a while and you could really tell him take that next step, too. In our offense, that security of having two centers that can snap the ball, that can make the calls, and keep the timing of your offense, that’s a very good feeling going into the season.”

 On Jalen Harris… “Jalen is a guy who really came in and really what’s impressed me is how physical he’s been as a true freshman. We knew when we recruited him we needed him to help us early and as far as the blocking, the physical part, that’s really what stood out to me. He played a similar position in high school and I think that’s helped him. You see us from year to year being a little bit different with the tight ends, but I don’t want to tell all our secrets here before the first game. We’ll have a tight end on the field from time to time.”

 Two-point conversion formations… “That kind of goes to we’re not going to show our hand either, but we did do it two years ago.” 

Malzahn’s personal expectations…“From a coach’s standpoint it’s a lot easier — you get tunnel vision, you’re locked in on your team, you’re trying to prepare your team for the next game. Me personally, big picture wise, I love being at Auburn because Auburn is a place that expects to win championships and it’s been traditionally seen that you can do that here. So that’s the fun part for me. From a coach’s standpoint, we’re worried about this first game.”

Confidence in the freshmen…“Well, I think it’s been a little of both. We lost a lot of guys on offense. What do we have, four returning starters and a new quarterback? We have these young guys, we recruited them and let them know we expected them to play, but they had to earn it and they did that. So it’s a matter of we think they’re talented and they are all going to be talented players. They just have to grow up and I let them know that we’re going to have to grow up in a hurry and we have to grow up faster than most teams. We’re probably going to have some growing pains. When you play freshmen, that’s part of it. We have to overcome those growing pains early and we have to grow up and play solid football in a short period of time.” 

What Petrino has been able to do with quarterbacks…“You look at his track record — he’s very good and he’s a very good offensive coach. Everywhere he has been, they’ve put up points and numbers. He’s very good at it. I think that’s a tribute to him, that he can take a quarterback and make him a very good player. He knows how to utilize people and he knows how to get the ball to his best players. There are a lot of coaches that don’t get the ball to their best players with what they do best; he does that. He’s one of the best there is at calling offensive games.”

 How do you handles adjustments during the game…“You lean on your coaches a lot and I think the big thing is, you have to have to plan for all the ‘what ifs.’ You’ve got your plan in all three phases, but you have to have an answer for all the ‘what ifs’ and that’s the challenge of the first game for every coach in America. You just have to have your answers on the ‘what ifs’ because there is always something a little different.“

 Does he have the first play of the season drawn up…“You want your guys to know, but every situation in the game, you may get the ball on a punt return, you may get the ball at the 20 yard line. As a coach, you do have your ideas of what you are going to do the first play and you do let your players know what you are thinking for the first play.”

 Will Mike Horton redshirt…“Right now he’s on the two-deep. He’s really caught our eye. He’s extremely fast and he’s extremely strong. He’s going to be a very good player for us in the future, so we are going to keep giving him reps in practice and we will just see what happens as we get to game three or so.”

 How has Jeremy Johnson stayed patient…“I think it’s just character. I think it’s the way he was brought up, with his parents.”

Quotes provided by Auburn Athletics.