Gus Malzahn Previews Arkansas

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    The WarBlogler
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    Auburn Coach Gus Malzahn press conference comments
    Previewing the Arkansas game – Tuesday, September 18, 2018

    Opening statement…
    Okay, we’re coming off a tough loss Saturday. I know our coaches and our players, we put it behind us. We’re moving forward and getting ready for the Arkansas Razorbacks. You look at Arkansas, first of all, their head coach, Chad Morris, he’s a good friend of mine, but he’s an excellent football coach. He’s got a staff that is very talented, got some veteran guys that’s been in this league a long time. You’ve got quite a few starters back on offense; they’ve got quite a few starters back on defense. We expect them to improve. I think back in 2013 when I first took over here, it took three or four games to kind of really get in a rhythm, so we expect to get their best. We’re focused on getting better. Obviously, Saturday we didn’t play our best and that’s my responsibility and we will improve throughout the season.”

    Will Nick Brahms play this week…
    “Nick will get an opportunity. He’s been competing and since he’s been healthy the last 2 or 3 weeks, he’s gotten quite a few reps with the ones during practice. That’s a continued battle for that starting position, and I know he was ready and called upon on Saturday, and he will get an opportunity to compete this week in practice as well.”

    Any other changes on offensive line…
    “We had a couple of guys that were really banged up that really showed some toughness, and really played pretty well even not being at 100%, and they made it through ok. All of the other positions remain pretty solid going in to this week.”

    You’ve said you run to set up the pass; would you ever reverse that…
    “Each team is a little bit different. We’ve always run to set up the pass, and that could be vice versa for some games. Each game is different and the personnel that you play against is different, so you could see a little bit of both this year. As a coach you do whatever gives yourself the best chance of winning. Traditionally, to have a chance to win a championship in this league, you have to run the football effectively. I think that will still hold true.”

    Are you throwing some from tempo…
    “Chip (Lindsey) likes to do that; he did some of that last year and did some of that the first couple games, too. It is like anything else, you have to be balanced in every part of your offense, even if it is pace. He really wanted to give our guys some opportunity down the field during pace last week.”

    On long second and third downs…
    “I think one of the big factors of the game was that there was a lot of third down and seven plus. When you are going against a good defense, those are tough to continually convert. We have to do a better job of getting into that third and medium area instead of third and long.”

    Does tempo helping the offensive line…
    “I think tempo can help you. I will say this, I think we have to be real with ourselves. I think coming into the season I think we had 16 or 17 starts between everybody up front. So we’ve played two really good defenses so far. That group will continue to improve, and they are getting used to working together. You’ll see that group improve and I’m encouraged moving forward with that group.”

    On Jarrett Stidham improving his performance…
    “I think he will. He’d like to have a couple of those plays back. We have a lot of confidence in him; he’ll rebound. He’s going to play extremely well. He’s one of the best quarterbacks in college football. He’s our guy and he will continue to work hard in practice to improve and get better at the things he needs to get better at.”

    Is Boobee Whitlow the starting running back…
    “We’re not ready to say that. Kam Martin, Boobee, Worm (Shaun Shivers), all three of those guys are all competing. Asa Martin, I’ve said before, I think you could see his role increase, too. Chip is exactly right. You go into a game and if somebody gets hot, you stay with them. Boobee was breaking tackles. He’s still learning, too. Those freshman running backs, the three I was talking about, every snap they are getting better. They are understanding the blocking scheme, whether it’s a gap or zone scheme. You even started to see Boobee to slow down a little bit. We’ve been trying to get him to slow down some and read it. We are still in the early stages of our run game and it’s kind of what I said with our offensive line. With the running backs, I’m confident we are going to get better just with the more experience that group has.”

    On Eli Stove and Will Hastings going forward…
    “At this point right now, our plan was to slowly work those guys back in to see how much confidence they have and how effective they can be. So, that was really the plan last week and it will continue to be like that. We are always going to do what’s best for the individual. I thought both of them got a chance to get in there and do some things against a quality opponent. We’ll be aware of the (redshirt rule) if we need to but we are just trying to let those guys come along and get confidence. I thought both of them did good things.”

    On having only 66 offensive snaps against LSU…
    “That wasn’t enough. When we are at our best, we have 70-75 plus snaps and can sustain drives. Probably the big thing was the third downs. Third and longs against good teams are hard to convert. We’re aware of that and we will work hard to correct that and get more third and mediums.”

    On being one of most penalized teams in the SEC…
    “Right now, we are an undisciplined team as far as penalties are concerned. It disappoints me but here’s the deal — that starts and ends with me. We’ve always taken great pride in being a disciplined team in that area. Really, we have to coach them better and we are going to do that. We are aware of it and we’re going to address it. We have tried addressing the penalties but obviously, it didn’t carry over. So, as a coach, you figure out the next step and we have a good plan for that. There’s no doubt in my mind that we will get back to playing good, disciplined Auburn football like we know we have in the past.”

    On the fine line for defensive backs in avoiding penalities
    “You’ve got to use your technique and see how the game is being called. That’s what you’ve got to do.”

    What his team can take from a loss…
    “What you have to do with a loss is learn from it. First of all, it starts with the head coach and the coaching staff. We have to first of all learn from it. Then the players are the same way. You learn from it, you see what we need to improve on, what we need to do better, and you put that in your back pocket and move on to the next game. Our team, we have a lot of guys with experience doing just that. There’s no doubt in my mind that we will rebound. It’s a bump in the road, we still have a good team and we’ve got good coaches. We just have to put it all together and improve each week. I really feel like we will.”

    Is the schedule a bigger uphill climb than last year…
    “I think because of everything you just said, with the schedule, the road games, you for sure have to take it one game at a time, and cross that bridge when that next thing is. We’ve got Arkansas — their backs are against the wall. Like I said, they’re a team with a new staff and they’re going to improve each week, there’s no doubt. We’re going to get their best. We’ve got to worry about them. That’s all we’re worried about and after that we’ll worry about the next one. At the first of the season, from a head coach’s standpoint, you get up in front of your team and you give them the plan for the whole year. You’ve got to be aware of what you’re going to go through. And like I said before, at least we went through it last year and we know what it feels like, what it looks like but then you’ve got to flip the switch and you’ve just got to take it one game at a time. You have to have tunnel vision. You can’t worry about last week, you can’t worry about the next week, you can’t worry about how good this team’s playing. That’s the simple answer to it. That is easier said than done. A lot of teams can’t do that. That’s our challenge and that’s what we’re going to do. You never know how things are going to go. All you can do is control what you can control. One game at a time. My experience is the teams that are playing their best ball the second half of the season, those are the team that have a chance. You know, we’ve kind of been set up that way and I think we can do that again. But we’ve got to take it one game at a time.”

    Is Chad Morris one of your best friends in the business…
    “Yes, no doubt. First I knew about him, he was very successful, a Texas high school coach at Stephenville, Texas, where Art Briles was from, that’s kind of a legendary deal. We were playing in the state championship game and he called me out of the blue and asked if he could bring his staff and stand on the sidelines and I was a little leery but I said yeah and after the game he asked if hecould bring his staff up and talk football. So we did that for I think two days, and the next year he came back and we just developed that relationship. I always knew he had something special about him. He’s a great person. He’s one of the good guys in our business. But he’s one of the best coaches I’ve ever been around. So we just kind of developed that relationship and he went to Tulsa, but two years later he got guys that I was familiar with he took over and they were top 10 in offense. You look at Clemson now, and you look back at when everything changed for them, it’s when they hired Chad Morris. He got the offense going, recruited Deshaun Watson. Look at him now. Went to SMU and it was low, low, low and he got them out of it. He’ll do the same thing there. He’s one of my buddies. The challenge we have now is we’re in the same conference. In the past we’ve shared ideas; he’s helped me, too. Now he’s in competition and we both understand that. He’s a great competitor, we’ll compete and after the game we’ll shake hands, and everything will be great.”

    Is this your first matchup as head coaches…
    “I know he’s the same way, he’s got a team to coach and I’ve got a team to coach and you do everything you can to help your team win. We went against each other when we were coordinators at Clemson and here.”

    On the pass rush vs. LSU…
    “That’s really a goal of ours — to put more pressure on the quarterback. Obviously, when you do that it helps the secondary out, too, so our guys understand that. Kevin’s one of the best in the business and he knows the answers and I have a lot of confidence we’ll get better at the pass rush.”

    Are you concerned your team will pay too much attention to Arkansas’ loss last week…
    “I think we’ve got a veteran enough team to understand that in our conference, in this league, it doesn’t matter what happened in the past, you’re going to get their best. And I think, too, us coming off a tough loss also helps with that kind of deal. We’re expecting their best. We need to play well and our players understand that and our coaches understand that. So I’m not concerned at all in that area.”

    Progress of the wide receivers…
    “Yeah, you see Flash (Anthony Schwartz), Seth Williams — you see a lot of young guys out there. And I think that group, they’re talented like I’ve said before. I think each game you can see their roles grow. We’ve got a bunch of young guys. I think we’ve got to keep that in perspective, too. We’ve got a bunch of young guys touching the ball on offense. We’ve got a new offensive line coming together so I really feel strong that we’ll improve on the offensive side.”

    Do you have trust in the young receivers…
    “First of all, they’ve earned it. Anybody on the field has earned the right to be on the field through practice. And you find out a whole lot about players on the field. I think I said that a couple of weeks ago that that’s when you really find out about guys. I don’t think the moment is too big for either one of those guys and I think both of them are coachable, both of them are very talented and want to compete.”

    On Seth Williams…
    “Coach Burns just identified him as a guy that he felt had a chance to be a really special player. He knew he was a great basketball player, too. And he’s a great kid and Kodi did a super job recruiting him. He’s got a chance to really be a very good player.”

    Do you need more explosive plays…
    “There’s no doubt. I think we only had one play over 30 yards the other day. I think we had one that was 28, one that was 20-something. But when we’re at our best, we have more explosive plays and that’s something that we’ll be working hard to do. Like I said that and then being able to run the football effectively which, like I’ve said earlier, I really feel strongly we will. You’ll see this team grow in the running game. Those are really the two things. They go together. When you’re able to run the ball, it changes things and opens up more explosive opportunities. And then you get a couple vice versa, the other way.”

    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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