Gus Malzahn Previews Alabama

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Auburn Coach Gus Malzahn press conference
Previewing the Alabama game – Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Opening statement…
“It’s Iron Bowl week, playing Alabama, who is a very impressive team. When you look at them offensively, they are the No. 3 team in the country offensively. What really stands out to me with them playing in this league against the defenses they’ve faced is really impressive. Their quarterback is playing at an extremely high level, protecting the football and throwing the football. They also have one of the best quarterbacks in the country as a backup. When you look at them running the football, they are very impressive with yards per carry. They do a good job in the running game, so they present a lot of challenges trying to take one of the two away. Defensively, I believe they are the No. 7 team defensively. They have a very good front; No. 92 (Quinnen Williams) is playing at an extremely high level. He’s very concerning in the run game and probably even more concerning in the passing game. He does a good job getting pressure up front; that’s what really stands out to me. Their back end — they have a lot of speed like normal. Looking at their special teams, they have electric returners in the punt return and kickoff return games. It’ll be a big challenge, but we are definitely looking forward to it.

“An update on Nick Coe: he’s been cleared to play and will play. We expect all of our guys to be ready to play.”

Will Coe wear any protective equipment on his hand…
“They’ll be some kind of apparatus he will have to wear.”

On having a healthy defensive line to get pressure against Alabama…
“Yeah, there’s no doubt. Nick Coe is one of the better defensive linemen in our league and to have him out there is really big. Especially against an offense like this that presents the challenges that they present.”

On the importance of having players who have had success against Alabama…
“I think it means a whole lot. We do have a bunch of players who played last year. Anytime you play the Iron Bowl, it’s a physical test on both sides and it’s football at its highest. The fact that we have a lot of guys that have been a part does nothing but help us, especially this year going on the road.”

On playing at Bryant-Denny Stadium…
“It’s a challenging place to play. Obviously, we won in 2010 and 2014 was a shootout where we came up a little short. You have to play good, clean football to have a chance to win. You have to make plays on offense and they make you earn it. You’re going to have some one-on-one situations where you have to make a play. Defensively, you have to do a good job keeping them out of the end zone. They are explosive on offense and they can move the football. On special teams, we have to win the special teams battle too. For us to have a chance to win, that’s what we have to do to win there.”

On the momentum a win could bring…
“It’d be huge. Anytime you play the Iron Bowl and you win it’s big on both sides. That’d be huge.”

Is this the best Alabama team he’s seen…
“First of all, they’ve had a lot of really, really good teams. I think that’s the first thing. You look at statistically what they’ve done. It’s very impressive, especially in our league. The offense being in the top 10 in the country. The defense statistically being in the top 10, you know, that’s what really stands out to you. You never know until you play someone to answer that question correctly, but they are a challenging team. There is no doubt. They’re good in all three phases.”

On Alabama DE #92 Quinnen Williams…
“You know that a guy has talent when you recruit someone. He’s playing at an extremely high level. He’s very impressive to watch, not just stopping the run and coming off blocks and being athletic to make plays. He disrupts stuff in the passing game. Any time a defense can get pressure up the middle, that changes things. He has consistently done that even when he’s been double-teamed. He’s got a gift.”

On offensive line raising level of play…
“You just said it. You’ve got to raise your level in this game. You’ve got to raise your level and find a way to get it done. You’ve have to be balanced to find a way to beat them. Like I said, we know each other very well. We know what we’ve got to be able to do, but you’ve got to do it. You have to raise your level to be able to do it.”

Status of JaTarvious Whitlow…
“Yes. He’s healthy. He’s healthy and ready to go. He’s full speed.”

Progress of offensive line with Kaleb Kim back…
“Since we made that move to put him back, we have a little more stability. You have seen them continue to grow. The last two weeks you have seen them play good football. That is encouraging for us in getting better.”

What have you seen from Tua Tagovailoa…
“He extends plays very well. When things aren’t within the normal timing, he is really good at rolling out and creating plays. His ball placement when he’s under pressure is very good and he is not just a thrower; he can beat you with his feet, too. He has a unique skill set and is very impressive to watch on film.”

What is different preparing for Alabama this year…
“You have to prepare differently for different kinds of quarterbacks. They presented a lot of challenges last year, too. It is a little different this year, but both of their quarterbacks are a difficult threat. Their backup QB took them to the national championship last year with a win against Clemson and did everything he could to win the game. They have two outstanding guys back there.”

What are the difficulties for your defense…
“You can tell they feel like they can call anything and Tagovailoa can make it right and most of the time he does it.”

Does Tagovailoa compare to any QB you’ve gone against…
“I don’t know yet, but I can probably answer that question better after we play him. You watch him on film and I am very impressed.”

Not many folks give you a chance to win…
“This is Auburn, and this week is the Iron Bowl. We don’t have to bring anything up. This is a game that both sides look forward to, and I’m sure when we have beat them the last few times that we were not the favorite. We will see what happens.”

On Jarrett Stidham’s confidence…
“I think you’ve seen him consistently get better. He’s protecting the ball. The great thing you have with Jarrett is he played extremely well in this game last year, so he kind of knows what he’s getting into and I think that’s very important, too.”

The importance of big plays…
“You have to have big plays. If we are going to have a chance to beat (Alabama), we have to have big plays; whether it’s the run game or the pass game, it doesn’t matter. That’s the formula. And you have to be good on third downs. Last year, we were really good on third downs and that was a big difference. That’ll be a big key, third down and keeping drives alive and giving us more opportunities. That’s going to be a big key.

The biggest issue on third down…
“It’s not just one thing. I’d say sometimes, it may be youth at a certain position or whatever, but we’ve had opportunities that we just haven’t converted. I will say this, we have been a lot closer than numbers probably dictate. This needs to be a game that we have conversions.”

Status of Eli Stove…
“Eli has been practicing and he is available if needed. But yeah, he’s been practicing well. We’ll see. There’s no update other than the last time a month ago.”

Will Stove make the trip…
“Yes, he will. I think he’s dressed out every game and has been able to play if needed.”

On the senior class…
“Their leadership and character is what stands out to me. This hasn’t been the easiest year and their leadership has helped us get through this. Those seniors have meant a lot to our program. This is their last Iron Bowl and I know they are going to be fighting their guts out.”

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