Gus Malzahn Previews Florida

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Auburn Coach Gus Malzahn press conference

Tuesday, October 1, 2019, previewing the Florida game

Opening statement…
“A big road test for our team this week. We’re playing a very good Florida team, a team that’s in the Top 10, a team that has a nine-game winning streak, one of the longest in all of college football. You look at them defensively, what stands out to me is how aggressive they are. They can really run. 24 sacks, I think that is second in the country. 13 turnovers, that’s second in the country. A very, very good defense. Offensively, a typical Dan Mullen offense. They run the ball effectively. Their quarterback has one of the best completion percentages in all of college football. Just a very solid team. And like I said, it will be a very big test for us. From our standpoint, we’ve just got to continue to improve. That’s really our message, really focusing on winning the line of scrimmage on both sides of the football. That’s what we’ll need to do to have a chance to beat these guys.”

On the aggressiveness of Florida’s defense…
“Yeah, they’re real aggressive. Their defensive coordinator, of course, we went against each other a lot of times. He’s one of the best. He has an aggressive mindset; his players are playing that way and they’ve got some guys who can flat get after it.”

More wins bring more attention…
“We address that at the very first of the season. We really try to keep out all of the outside positive, negative, in-between and just really focus on us and at the task at hand. Take it one week at a time. Our guys have done a good job of that up to this point; they’ll have to continue to do that. This is a week-to-week deal and you can’t get too high or too low, you have to stay the course. We have our hands full with this one and really don’t expect our guys to be distracted in any way with this game.”

The challenge of keeping players focused because of social media…
“These kids grew up with social media — it is just a part of life and it’s the reality. It’s how you deal with it. We try to be really honest with our guys about expectations from our standpoint, not worrying about what anybody else says — it really doesn’t matter. It matters what we do week to week. That has really been our message and our guys have done a good job up to this point being focused on that.”

Importance of putting pressure on Florida’s quarterback…
“It’s a big factor. He’s got one of the best completion percentages in all of college football, so trying to make him uncomfortable, just like they are going to try to do to our quarterback. I think that will be a big factor in the game and we need to make the other quarterback more uncomfortable.”

On Dan Mullen…
“Dan is a class guy, that’s what I really remember. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know him and of course when our paths cross – we’ve faced each other numerous times. I’ve got a lot of respect for Dan and the way he goes about it and I think he is one of the good guys. He does things right and his teams are always well prepared and he’s a very good football coach.”

On Bo Nix’s fumble…
“With Bo, really what I told him is just a little bit of reality in our league — when he breaks somebody is going to catch him — it’s not like high school. They are going to come and go for the ball so I really expect next time, when he does break, he will be more aware and have it a little bit tighter. Have that off-hand on the ball — he knows it was a teaching moment. We were very fortunate the ball went out of bounds, but it was a good teaching moment and I expect him to correct that the next time he’s in a similar situation.”

On Nix’s progression week to week…
“Every week you can just sense it. You can sense it in practice — it’s not just the games — in practice you can sense the awareness. We are trying to do a lot of carryover; we are trying to build upon things. You know each week he feels more comfortable, then you can add a few things to that, and we are to a point now that you know he really feels more comfortable. Each week, each snap, you know he will feel more comfortable. Obviously, we are going on the road this week and it’s going to be probably the most hostile environment we’ve been in. It’s going to be loud — we’ve been working crowd noise for six weeks so hopefully that will help prepare him for this environment.”

On playcalling…
“It’s been so long since I called plays, I can’t really remember what used to work, but you know I think each week you just you try to give your guys the best chance of being successful of what you’re going to face. I think really our guys deserve all the credit from the standpoint that they are executing what’s called against some good defenses, and so it makes it easy to call plays. We’ve got some excellent coaches that help me. Kenny Dillingham has done a super job with Bo and does just a great job. Kodi Burns, really one of my right-hand guys, deserves a lot of the credit. Cadillac’s (Williams) brought a lot to our team and J.B Grimes with our offensive line — you know I’ve said this before — he’s a great teacher and those guys are responding well. And then Larry Porter’s doing a good job with our H-backs. So it’s a real team effort just as far as that goes.”

On adding new plays for Nix…
“He’s a coach’s son, and we knew that when we recruited him, but still I don’t care if he’s real comfortable – you’ve got to get out there and you’ve got to do it. Then, after things slow down a little bit, you can see progressions, and you can see reads, and you can see drops executed. So, it’s all the above as far as that goes. You’ve got to go out there and do it; you can’t just know it, but you’ve got to go out there and do it. Then we talked about our receivers not being healthy until about two weeks ago and we haven’t been able to do to any kind of timing – well, now they’ve been healthy for two weeks. Hopefully the timing will continue to improve. We’re still not there, but hopefully that will continue to improve in the right direction.”

Using the sugar huddle…
“It’s more of a disguise; it’s more of deception than it is just communication. It’s really what I say is kind of a change of pace for us, too. We’ve been doing that for a while.”

Tempo has changed in the game over the years…
“That’s a great point. We were one of the only ones in our league way back when, and everybody does it now, so it’s not as big an advantage because defenses are all used to different things. I think you have to evolve and you’ve got to pick and choose your times to put the hammer down. You’ve got to pick and choose your times to let up a little bit, and make sure you’re in a solid play and you’ve got everything organized. It is a different day; it was a lot of fun 10 years ago when everybody was griping about it, and all that stuff, but now everybody is doing it. Defenses are a little more used to it than they were.”

On Nix reducing turnovers since Oregon…
“That’s probably the thing I’m most proud of. We were at A&M a few weeks ago and we had pretty good protection, but they had pretty good coverage and he took a sack. Another quarterback probably would’ve thrown it up for grabs — he didn’t do that. That shows a lot of maturity for a young guy, that he’s conscious of protecting the football No. 1. Of course, that’s what we tell him, but a lot of quarterbacks don’t do it in the heat of the moment. So it was a coverage sack, but he didn’t throw it up for grabs and we punted – we’ve got a good defense. He understands the big picture of it, that we’ve got a good defense, we’ve got good special teams. That’s really what’s been one of the biggest bright spots I think, that he’s protecting the football.”

How has your pace evolved…
“I think we’re pace — I still think we are a run-play option team. We like to throw a lot of different things at people, whether it is unusual formations or stuff like that. We’re still who we are to our core, but like you said, we’ve got to evolve a little bit. Everybody is playing fast.”

Are you now more comfortable calling plays…
“I enjoy being involved. I love working with our players on the practice field. That is really the highlight for me, just being more engaged. I enjoy that.”

How different is that from last year…
“I am not as bored; I can tell you that.”

What goes through your mind as you look at a schedule with four Top 10 teams ahead…
“I don’t look at it. I mean it’s whatever, this is Florida. This is it. This is our game. The very first of the year I looked at the schedule, I put it up there, I told the guys, here’s the big picture, alright. But that’s the last time we are going to do that. So we are going to Florida and then we will come back, we’ll have an off week and we’ll get our stuff all cleaned up and get a plan. I think our next game is a road game. You can’t think that way; there is no reason to think that way. It’s good for y’all to think that way but we can’t think that way. We’ve got Florida. That’s the only thing on our mind. We are not doing that.”

Why the guard/tackle counter has been so effective the last few games…
“I think we’ve got some very athletic (offensive) tackles. I think our guys are doing a good job up in the middle, too. At the end of the year last year, we started running it a little bit more and we had a little success. In the off-season our guys really bought into it and so it’s all about execution.”

On Florida quarterback Kyle Trask…
“He’s in rhythm. He gets rid of the ball and he knows where to go with the ball — doesn’t hold it a long time. And he’s got some really good receivers, I’ll tell you that. I’m impressed with their receiver group—a matter of fact, very impressed.”

On the Florida defense…
“They have some real good guys rushing the passer, but it is not that the guys we played before didn’t. They are very aggressive; they get up field and pin their ears back and have been really impressive to watch on film.”

On getting Luke Deal in the mix…
“It has been good. He’s really coming on and these last 4-5 weeks, he has really done good stuff in practice. We’ve got a chance to get him back involved and we think he is going to be an excellent player. He is a big physical guy and presents a little more physicality because he is a bigger guy. Hopefully, he can continue to develop, and it is good to have him back out there to be a part of the game.”

On D.J. Williams…
“I was pleased he was able to get out there and he is close to 100%. He made some really good runs and protected the football; his role could grow each week. We will still play multiple running backs this weekend and you’ll see that the rest of the season.”

On Jordyn Peters…
“He’s a veteran guy and he’s got a nose for the ball. He’s really good on special teams, too. Having him back on special teams is huge; he’s definitely an impact player on special teams.”

On California’s new law…
“It’s an important issue. I know our league commissioner will be on top of that and everything will be settled as far as that goes. We are focused on Florida but that’s definitely an important issue moving forward.”

On Derick Hall and if he is healthy enough to travel this weekend…
“He definitely could. He’s going to practice today and we’re hoping he can make the trip — we’ll see. I’ll be able to tell more Thursday but the fact that he’s going to be out there practicing today is a positive sign.”