Gus Malzahn Previews Alabama State

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    The WarBlogler
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    Opening statement…
    “Obviously, it was a big win for us Saturday. I really liked the way that we won the game. In the fourth quarter, offense made plays to help us win and the defense made plays to help us win. A lot of times it’s how you win that can help you later in the season, so I thought that was really good.

    Second thing, it gave us some great information. Any time you play a quality opponent you find out where you’re at, you find out your strengths, you find out what you need to improve on and I think that was really good information to have that chance to find out our first game, when some programs may not find out until the second half of the season. What really stood out to me is we’ve got to run the football better. I give Washington credit — great run defense — but we need to improve in that area. We gave up a few deep passes, they made some outstanding plays with that.

    Really the main thing with me is the penalties; the penalties we had are completely unacceptable. We take great pride in not beating ourselves and so we are going to focus on that and that will be corrected moving forward. We’re excited about the home opener, being here at home in front of our fans. Our players and coaches can’t wait for that. Really our message is real simple: improve from game one. And usually the better teams, they find a way to improve from game one to game two more than any other time in the season. So that’s our message and that’s the way we’re approaching this game and looking forward to it.

    A couple updates: John Broussard has left the team to pursue other things. We wish him nothing but the best. Eli Stove and Will Hastings both have been cleared to practice. As far as full practice, we’ll see where that goes with how confident they are and we are as far as when that happens to return. We’re going to see how that goes, but I think that’s a positive that they’ve been cleared to practice fully. Joey Gatewood is still going to be a couple weeks before he gets back with that thumb. Javaris Davis will be back out there practicing today, so, overall I think that first game we came out of it pretty well as far as injuries. It was a very physical game; there were a lot of guys that were sore the next day, but that’s part of playing a quality opponent. It was a good way to start the season — with a win. The challenge now, that’s behind us. That’s one game and we’ve got to figure out a way to improve each week. We’ve got the meat of our schedule coming up, starting out with this first home game.”

    Will you play Javaris Davis and Jamel Dean this week…
    We are going to play whoever our guys are that play. Our goal is to improve, and you do that with your players, so we will see where that goes, but both will be out there practicing today.”

    Will Roger McCreary move up to second team…
    “McCreary, Christian Tutt — we have a lot of confidence in those guys. They are in a really good spot.”

    In games against FCS opponents in the past, you haven’t always played the way you want to play…
    “There is no doubt. You’re exactly right. We don’t take anything for granted. The good teams that have a chance to win a championship: don’t. This week is about us getting better. Last week is behind us and we have to figure out a way to get better. There’s all kinds of areas that we should improve on and need to improve on, and that’s the way we are approaching this game.”

    How impressed have you been with Eli Stove and Will Hastings’ progress…
    “We knew their progress was ahead of schedule. They have worked extremely hard to get to that point. They’ve done 7 on 7s, and they’ve done some things like that already at full speed, so now it’s just taking that next step to be cleared to fully participate in practice. We will see where that goes, but until they and I are 100% for sure, they won’t be on the field. We will see when that is, and I will keep you updated. There is a really good chance that both of them will be back this year.”

    Will that be full contact tackle…
    “No, we are not going to get anybody tackled in practice, but thudding, bumping, and everything that goes with it.”

    How much do you know about Alabama State…
    “Usually with early opponents, you work on it in the summer and you’ve got a good idea. Your off the field guys will have all that information. Once the game is over, you start gathering all that information and we are treating this like any other game. They are the next opponent on our schedule.”

    Did your off-season emphasis on special teams pay off…
    “Other than the penalties, I think it was pretty clean. We covered kicks better and Carlson kicking out of the end zone was huge, and we covered punts better which was the focus. The field goal protection was also the focus. We had the returns, and it was unfortunate we had the two penalties on the big one; that’s a game changer. We had the ball inside the 15-yard line and having the chance to go up big in a game like that is unacceptable.”

    On offensive line play against Washington…
    “We need to run the football better; I think we averaged 3.3 yards per carry. When we are at our best, it’s more than that. We have to do better than that, but at the same time, it was a very quality defensive front. The advantage we have is that we played against a big-time defensive front. Now we know we have some areas we can get better in. Some teams don’t find out that kind of information until the second half of the season. I think that’s the positive of playing a very quality opponent early. Now we know what we need to work on and we know a little bit about our personnel and everything that goes with that. Everybody in this room knows that for us to have a chance to win championships, we have to run the football better and be more consistent.”

    Will there be any changes to the offensive line…
    “No, I don’t think right now. I think we just have to get better at what we do. You’ve got to keep in mind, from an offensive line standpoint, there’s a lot of communication and working together. We had two new starters, really three, that were trying to work together, and they will improve, so it’s just a matter of everything that goes with it and each game. I expect that group to improve from the first game to the second game.”

    Anything specific the offensive line needs to improve on…
    “No, it’s really not just the offensive line, it’s everything. We had some young running backs in there and usually the first time they get in the game everything is sped up. Sometimes they don’t slow down and read it right. It’s kind of everything that goes with it, so it’s not just the offensive line. We had some guys out there for the first time and their heart rate was up, excited and you’ve got to slow down. There’s nothing like experience, and the second time you are out there you can take a deep breath and actually relax. Some of our young guys were real excited.”

    On Chandler Cox having four receptions…
    “How about that? I think that surprised everybody. I think that kind of goes back to the first game and tendencies. You’ve got to use your tendencies against opponents, especially a quality opponent. That was part of the thinking the offensive staff had and felt like he had some opportunities that he may have got lost and he did a few times.”

    How did the freshmen perform…
    “We had some guys that touched the ball for the first time. That was a stressful deal, just from my standpoint, against a really good opponent. You know that game goes down to the end like we talked about and one play can make a difference. The thing that stood out to me about the young guys is how they protected the football. Then the other guys that were in there did what we asked. It’s a very talented group of freshmen and I think that you will see that number grow. I think you will see a lot of their playing time grow more and more as the season goes on as they keep progressing.”

    On not running a jet sweep all game…
    “Each game is different. You have a plan for different things and certain defenses take certain things away. But, yeah, that was fairly unusual.”

    Were you on the headset when Kevin Steele called for the blitz at the end of the game…
    “Yea. It was the right call. In that situation, it was 4th and 15, usually you don’t have to worry about a screen or a slant or anything like that. That’s his nature and that’s what our players expected going against an offensive situation like that. It’s kind of what’s expected and Kevin did a super job. They’re a very talented offense. Their quarterback — I’m very impressed with him. A lot of times you can look on film and you can tell if somebody is really good, but when you get out there and you face them, that team was as good as advertised. That team is going to be tough to beat. They’ve got a complete team. And that’s why I was proud of our group that we found a way to win. We knew it would be close at the end. We didn’t win any close games last year, but we did this year, and we can take that moving forward the next time we’re in that situation. I was really proud of the way our guys responded. The offense was down and they had to drive and went and scored a touchdown and the defense had to hold them that last drive and they did. And that’s really the biggest positives I took away from the game.”

    Who will be the punter this week…
    “We think both of them are still in the mix. We were pleased with both of them. It’s still a good competition. I think it’s good that we have to guys that we feel good about. Arryn (Siposs), that was his first time to play American football and I thought he did a good job with his placement, with his get-off and the mechanics and everything that goes with it.”

    Will Asa Martin get more involved…
    “Each game is different in how it unfolds, but he is a guy that definitely will be in the mix more and more throughout the season. As long as he keeps progressing in practice, he definitely has a chance to play.”

    What did you see out of Kam Martin…
    “In Kam Martin, what you have is a veteran. He would press the line of scrimmage and cut back. He knows all the little things. He made a couple things bounce to the outside. And then the big 4th-and-1 run was really good too. He’s a veteran guy and he gives you a kind of a calming experience out there when he’s out there. I thought he did a really good job running and protecting the football.”

    Will you keep using the Cox-Cat…
    “Yea, that was disappointing. It worked really good against our defense, but it didn’t work really good against them. We’ll see whether we shelve that or keep it going. We did run the wildcat a couple of times.”

    On being more aggressive this season…
    “Our mindset is being aggressive, and that’s what we’re going to do. A couple of things didn’t work, but my experience is if you practice stuff, and you call them at the right time, you have ways to put pressure on the other team. So we’ll definitely be aggressive this year.”

    Will more freshmen play this week with the new redshirt rule…
    “Every game you hope you get a chance to do that, and our approach is like any other game. If that presents itself, that would be super. So, we’ll see what happens.”

    Will the third-team and scout team guys get more reps this week…
    “Any week that you can have that happen, it’s good. You know, you get guys that with this new redshirt rule get a chance to let some guys play. Maybe in the past that wouldn’t have because of the new redshirt rule.”

    Now that you’ve read all of that, you can watch it here:

    Auburn grad (B.S. in C.S., 2004), loving husband, and semi-new dad that believes Auburn should and could go undefeated in every sport, every year.

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