Gus Malzahn previews Clemson

by on in

Auburn Coach Gus Malzahn press conference
Previewing the Auburn-Clemson game
Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Opening Statement… We are excited that this is game week. I know that our players and coaches have been waiting for this week for a long time. We are also very excited about playing at home. I think that is going to be important for this first game.

“We are playing one of the best teams in the country. They played for the national championship last year and almost won it. They have a lot of experience back. Starting with their offense, there are some similarities between what we do and what they do. Their quarterback is one of the best players in college football, if not the best player. He does a very good job of managing games and he does a very good job of extending plays when things break down. When they choose to run him, he is a definite threat. Their skill players are experienced and talented. The receivers are all very talented and can run with the ball after the catch. I am very impressed with their running back as well. I know that a lot of times he can get overlooked, but he is an excellent running back and they have a very good running game that can go along with their pass game.

“Defensively, Coach (Brent) Venables is one of the best in the business and has been around a long time. He does a very good job of taking away what the offense does best. I am very impressed with Clemson’s linebacker Ben Boulware. He does a very good job of getting everyone lined up and you can tell that he is their leader. I love the way he plays. Clemson has a lot of experience back on offense and defense.

“As far as our defense is concerned, we have had a very good fall camp. We will be playing without Stephen Roberts as he will be suspended for this game. I do feel good about the secondary that we do have, specifically the safeties. We have had a good fall camp, but our defense is going to have to do a good job throwing off Clemson’s timing. We are going to have to stop the run and keep away from big plays in the passing game.

“We have also had a very good fall camp offensively. We have some inexperience in some areas, but I am looking forward to seeing this group play in this first game. We are playing a very good defense and I am looking forward to seeing these guys get out there and do their thing. Overall, we are excited that this is game week and this will be a good measuring stick for where we are at, playing one of the best teams in the country on our home field.”

On the length of Roberts’ suspension… “It is going to be week to week. We will see what happens and how he responds.”

Will Johnathan “Rudy” Ford play nickel… “We have the flexibility to do both. Rudy has experience doing both. I don’t want to say too much more about our plan, but you could see him at both positions. Josh Holsey is a veteran guy that we have and (Markell) Boston is also a guy that has had a  very good spring and fall camp. Nick Ruffin and Tray Matthews both have a lot of experience as well. We have a lot of guys that we could mix and match in different situations.”

Progress of Prince Tega Wanogho… “He has got a lot of potential. We’re hoping after a short period of time as the season goes he will be more game ready. He is very talented. He is a smart guy. He has done a good job and we have been very impressed with him.”

On Markell Boston’s development… “He had a very good spring. He made some impact plays in spring. I think he had a couple pick sixes, and picked up a fumble for a touchdown. He is really coming along. He carried that over in fall camp and we are excited about what he can do.”

On Montavious Atkinson… “He has got a nose for the ball. He can really run and I think you can see him grow each week. He is getting more experience and learning about the defense. He has improved each week.”

On Will Hastings… “He came from Pulaski Academy, where I think he had 120 catches his senior year. He is a guy that we played around in the spring, playing wide receiver, and in fall camp he has done a good job. He is in the mix and he has a chance to be a solid player we feel.”

On Carl Lawson’s play now that he is healthy… “No, I am not curious. I know what he can do. He is healthier than he has ever been. He is an impact player so we expect him to play well and I know he expects himself to play well, too. He is in a good spot.”

Have you discussed Colin Kaepernick’s protest with your team… “No, I have not addressed it with them. I don’t think we are out there for the national anthem anyway.”

His decision to be more hands on this season… “After the season, you sit back and try to evaluate everything—evaluate what you can do better. I went back to my comfort zone of trying to be more hands on in practice and meetings and everything that goes with that. That has been my approach since spring and being more hands on doesn’t mean that I don’t have great confidence in our offensive coaches which I do—I’ve said that before–, but that’s what I enjoy doing.”

Is there a difference in practice since his new hands on approach… “There’s been a difference for me. That’s probably the biggest thing.”

Have you named team captains… “Not yet. We have that down probably Thursday.”

On Marlon Davidson… “He had a very good spring. He got here early, and any time a freshman gets here early, they have a chance to show us what they can do. He made an immediate in the spring that has carried over in fall camp. He has an opportunity to start as a true freshman which is rare.”

On team policy regarding fire arms… “We don’t want them. We don’t want our players with them.”

On John Broussard… “John is a guy that has had a good fall camp. You can tell he was here early, too. That definitely helped him. You know he could give us some depth back there and he has gotten better each practice. You have to be confident if you’re going to play corner in this league. The more confidence you get is usually by experience. He gets as much as he can in practice. I’d say he’s fairly confident. We’ll see as we go. You get in games and that’s how you get real confidence playing corner.”

Which coaches will be in the press box… “Kevin Steele will be up in the box. Herb Hand will be up in the box offensively.”

Is that the same way you worked with Hand at Tulsa… “It worked pretty well back then; our personalities complement each other. He has a good feel for things. We figured we’d carry that over like we did in Tulsa. I think it will be good.”

Who will coach the offensive line on the sideline… “It’ll be Coach Horton. It’ll be our offensive GA down there between. That’s what we did in Tulsa and of course Herb will be communicating with the guy through the headset on the sideline, too.”

Is there personal motivation after last season… “I think we were disappointed in the way things turned out last year. As a competitor, you want to do something about it. Our team has kind of had a chip on their shoulder during the offseason, which I think is good. I know our coaching staff, especially myself, wants to play good football. That’s what we expect.”

Did you reconnect quickly with Hand… “It really did. It was probably the first week and we were already finishing each other’s sentences. We kind of think alike as far as football goes even though we are completely different people. I think we complement each other well. Herb is a very smart guy. He can work under pressure. He’s been a really good addition to our staff. The fact that he and Rhett already had a previous relationship has made things very comfortable with that transition.”

The backups on kick returns… “Kam Martin is a guy that we think is going to be an excellent player, even though he is a true freshman. We think he definitely has a chance to help us this year. Stanton Truitt is a guy that made some very good plays for us in the past. He just had trouble staying healthy. We feel very good about both of those guys. Our two starters back there were in the top five or top 10 here in the league on kick return. We believe that is a strength of ours.”

The impact Malik Miller and Kam Martin will make… “Malik and Kam will both play this year. I’ve been impressed with both of them. They’ll definitely play on special teams, and certain things like running back. As the season goes on – kind of like we did with Kerryon (Johnson) – we can feature them more and more in different things.”

Impact of the freshman receivers… “Like I said about the freshman receivers, they are who we thought they were. They’re every bit of who we thought they were. It’s just going to be a matter of how quick they can get comfortable and confident. We’re going to play them. They’re going to be out there for the first game. The future at wide receiver is very exciting. Once those guys do get comfortable, it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

On Sean White’s demeanor this year… “Obviously, the experience factor is big. He knows how to prepare. He knows what to expect. I think, from a coach’s standpoint, we know what to expect out of him. I think there’s just more comfort compared to last year. Last year, we were learning about him each game as we went. He was learning about this league and himself. Then he went through the injuries. In fairness to him, he wasn’t healthy for the rest of the year. He’s healthy now. It’s just a completely different feel, from a comfort standpoint, of going into the game. First games are always about adjustments. You’ve got the whole offseason to develop a plan in all three phases. Usually after the first quarter, you have a good idea. You have to be able to adjust to win first games. Having an experienced guy like him will definitely help.”

Preparing for Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson… “Well, we recruited Deshaun here. Obviously he went to Clemson. One of my buddies, Chad Morris, was a coordinator there. They run a very similar offense (to ours.) He does a very good job within the system, but his strength is probably when things break down and when they choose to run him. He’s an excellent runner. He has a very good first step, similar to Nick Marshall, as far as his explosiveness. He’s also experienced, not just experienced, but experienced in big games. That’s kind of the best of both worlds.”

On Clemson’s defensive line… “I think their defensive line is very good. They’re very aggressive. They put pressure on the offense. They try to play on the offensive line of scrimmage. They’re similar to our defensive line. The good thing is we practice against our defensive line every day. I really hope that’ll help us not only in this game, but also in the games to come.”

Does Clemson’s explosive offense change his offensive philosophy for this game… “I think each game unfolds differently, and I think as a coach you’ve got to be prepared for all the different scenarios of how each game unfolds. I think when we played these guys in 2010, I think we got behind and I think we had to have a 2-minute drive to kick a field goal to put points on the board before halftime. So, I think from a coach’s standpoint you’ve got to be prepared for every scenario, and you’ve got to be able to adjust.”

On the importance of protecting your home field… “I think it’s important any time every year to protect our home field. We’ve got one of the better home-field advantages with our fans in college football, and that’s very important to us.”

Can Kerryon Johnson handle 15 or 20 carries a game… “I’m very confident about that, but until you get out there and actually do it – but you put them in situations in practice. We recruited him to be the guy. We felt like he could do that. And last year, in fairness to him, he was banged up, but he’s a trooper and he continued to play when he was banged up when some guys wouldn’t have played. So I know he’s a tough guy. He’s a confident guy. He’s ready for the challenge. We’ll see what happens.”

On Darius Slayton… “Probably the toughness factor is the thing that stands out to me. Coach (Kodi) Burns has really demanded toughness from each guy. We’ve really strained them a lot, Coach Burns has strained them a lot, and he’s weathered the storm. He’s a guy I think will get better and better the more he plays. But he’s a tough guy. He’s a tough guy, and he’s reached the standard so far of what Coach Burns expects.”

Has he determined the back-up quarterback… “There’s a good chance all of them will play throughout the season. You’ve got to be prepared for that. But like I said, the only thing I’m going to tell you right now is Sean White is our starter, and we’re expecting Sean to play well. As far as two and three is concerned, we’re not ready to say who will be the first one in. I think both of the guys are good at certain things.”

Any consideration of redshirting Jeremy Johnson… “We’re just starting out the year. We’re not planning on redshirting Jeremy. We’re not planning on redshirting John (Franklin III). That’s pretty premature.”

Does he know who will be getting most of the second-team reps at quarterback… “Yeah, I’ve got a good idea.”

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