Gus Malzahn Previews Georgia Southern (Quotes/Video)

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Auburn Coach Gus Malzahn press conference (8/29/17)
Previewing the Georgia Southern game

Opening statement…“It’s game week. I know our players and our coaches are excited that it is finally here and will play a different opponent. We are playing a very challenging team in Georgia Southern – a team that has had a lot of success when they have played some bigger teams, obviously like beating Florida at Florida a couple of years back, going to Georgia and going into overtime, and of course last year playing Ole Miss and they were beating them late in the second half, so this ought to be a good game.

“I look at them offensively — they are very good at the triple option. Any time you play a triple option team, that is very concerning, especially if the team really knows how to do it, so we have got to be prepared for that. Defensively, they have a lot of experience on the back-end. Their boundary safety is a very good player and is kind of the quarterback on the back-end; a very good player I’d say. First games are always about adjustments, so we’ve got to be prepared in all three phases to be able to adjust. You work the whole offseason on plans and phases, and then you’ve got to figure it out in the first quarter, so that will be a challenge for us. Overall, we are glad game week is here and I am ready to see our team get out there on the field on Saturday, and see what the 2017 Auburn Tigers look like.”

On Kerryon Johnson and Kamryn Pettway being bracketed together as No. 1 RB on depth chart…“They’re two of the better running backs in our league, and they are the two guys we are going to go with.”

On Jamal Dean…“He’s a guy that this time last year was fighting for a starting position, and he hurt his knee. He has had a solid fall camp, and he has gotten better. I know he’s hungry to get out there and play, since he missed last year and redshirted the year before. He is a very talented young man and I am excited to watch him.

Sal Cannella is listed at WR…“He is one of those guys that can be moved around. He has wide receiver skills. He does a lot of the dirty work. You will see him play tight end and H-back as well. He is a hybrid guy that we will utilize in different areas.”

Expectations for the offensive line…“I’ve talked all fall camp about how we have seven or eight guys that we feel good about. It took a little longer than in the past to really put the pieces of the puzzle together. That is a good thing depth-wise. Obviously, Braden (Smith) is going to start out at right guard, but throughout the season you will see him play right tackle, too. He is going to give us the flexibility to do that. We zeroed in and that is our starting five. We have three other guys that we feel good about.”

Prince Tega Wanogho and Mike Horton are listed as starters…“Prince is one of the better athletes we have up front. He has really improved and gotten a lot better. He has a chance to be a real special player. He just lacks experience. Mike Horton played with our heavy set last year when we put six linemen in. He has had a good spring and fall camp. Those fifth-year guys are right there. They give us quality depth. You can’t have enough depth up on either side of the football up front.”

Will Calvin Ashley play this season despite missing time during camp…“He has a possibility. He has a skill set that has that ability. We will see how the season goes and if he is needed. He is what we thought when we recruited him. He is a big athletic guy that just needs experience. He missed a little bit of time and he still needs experience. That is really the reason we have him there. We will see how he progresses.”

On the large number of true freshmen earning spots on the depth chart… “Well, we said all along there’s going to be some of these true freshman that are going to be able to play, and there will be quite a few that we will have on special teams. The depth factor that we have been talking about — the true freshmen have a lot to do with that, and we are excited about their progress. They have impressed us so far.”

On Nick Coe… “He is definitely a big, fast, athletic guy. He is more and more comfortable every practice. He does have a lot of ability. He just needs experience. Last year he redshirted; there were times in the second half of the season they had him getting reps, and that was really good for him. In the spring he took the next step, and this fall camp I felt like he has taken a next step. He is an outside guy who can also play inside. I think if he keeps progressing and getting experience, he has a chance to be a very good football player.”

Ryan Davis and Will Hastings share the same spot on the depth chart… “You have to understand on a depth chart — you put a depth chart together, but we move people around. There are different formations that different people will be in. I wouldn’t read too much into specific positions as far as every snap goes. Those are two of our better wide receivers that have made plays. There are times you could see them on the field at the same time.”

Progress of Will Hastings… “He has gotten better with the experience factor. He is very quick; like we have talked about before, he is one of the quickest guys to come through our program at least since I have been here. He has done a good job.”

Will Jarrett Stidham be rusty or over-excited… “He is really excited. The reality is he has only played four college football games. We have to keep that in mind. We have a good plan for him to bring him along. He is a very talented young man, and I know he is ready to get out there and see what happens. I think he is in a really good spot right now, but he is still an inexperienced guy.”

Did Stidham miss playing football…“That would be very challenging, there’s no doubt. The appreciation that I think he’s talking about is just, yeah, he missed it, but sometimes you don’t know exactly how bad you missed it until you get the opportunity again. I think that’s really what he was saying. But his team is all behind him. You can tell he’s real excited this week. You can tell this week is even different than it has been and he’s got a lot of energy anyway. So I’m excited to see what he does out there and play, but we’ve got to keep in mind he’s played four games in college, so we’ve got to keep that in mind as we move forward.”

On Traivon Leonard…“He’s another guy that, when we recruited him, we expected him to play. He’s done some good things at times.”

Will everyone other than JaTarvious Whitlow be available for the season opener…“Yeah, they will, and we’ll see where he goes with that and how much he progresses and all that. He was off to a very good start before he got hurt.”

Marlon Davidson’s status…“He’s good.”

Competition for the third running back spot…“Kam Martin will probably be the next guy that is in. Devan Barrett has done a good job. Malik Miller has done a good job. We’ve got confidence in all those guys. Devin is a guy we feel like is talented; he just needs more experience, and when he gets in there he could be very specific on some of the things he does. The good thing is we’ve got depth at that position, and so that’s always a positive.”

Any suspensions for the season opener…“No, we expect everybody to play.”

How he handles high expectations with his team…“In your own team, you keep it within your own team. You don’t worry about what everybody else thinks; you worry about what the expectations are for us that we’ve set. Our guys — we expect big things within this room, but we don’t get caught up on the outside.”

How much input has Stidham had in the offensive game plan…“The first thing is you want your starting quarterback to feel comfortable. He has had input, and will continue to have input. He and Chip (Lindsey) have a very good relationship, but there’s nothing like real games. You experience things in real games and it makes you even closer and you find out even more about each other. So Jarrett will have a voice with as far as what he’s comfortable with, what he’s not comfortable with and that’s what they’ve done so far.”

On T.D. Moultry playing the buck position…“I think he has the ability to rush the passer and I think he has a great motor and he will help us on special teams.”

On Big Kat Bryant’s size at defensive end…“He’s a strong, athletic guy. He may be a little bit bigger than that right now.”

On Tyrone Truesdell…“He’s impressed us. He’s a big guy that can hold a gap. He needs experience, but so far he has done some good things.”

On the mindset of the team…“We’ve got a lot of information as far as experience — we have a lot of experienced guys that have been through the ups and down. We’ve got a lot of information; we know how they are going to react. Anytime you’ve got inexperienced guys with true freshmen, you are going to learn a lot about them in the first game. But we’ve got good enough leadership that I really feel strong. Those older guys have shown those younger guys exactly the expectation and what it takes, but each team is different and you always learn about your team. Sometimes it confirms things, sometimes you learn something in the first game or two. That’s why I said in the very first game, I’m going to be looking forward to the 2017 Auburn Tigers’ first game and there will be some things we learn.”

How involved he will be in making up game plans…“I will be aware in all three phases and know what is going on. That is the best way to answer it. It is different as far as right now is concerned. I said last year I got used to someone else calling the plays, then of course, now I’ve had a spring and a fall camp and it was kind of getting more routine now.”

Comparing the current group of running backs to others previously at Auburn…“That’s probably a question that will get a better answer midway through the year, just for some of the young guys. We have been fortunate. You think back about Tre Mason, Corey Grant and Cameron Artis-Payne and now you look and see what they are doing at the next level. That was our special group. You know, hopefully this group will be in that same category once it’s all said and done and we do have some that we are excited about. We do have two older guys that we know what exactly we are getting and think those two have a chance to be as good as any duo in the country, so the expectations are high, but I can probably answer that question better midway through the season.”

No seniors are listed on the defensive line on the depth chart…“Yeah, that’s a good thing. Putting out the depth chart, I know there are some teams around the country that are not doing that. Maybe that’ll be a trend. From a depth chart, you’ve just got to understand from a coach’s standpoint, you’re giving out information and you worry about a bunch of different things. There are a lot of guys on there.”

On Devan Barrett and Noah Igbinoghene being listed as kick returners…“Both of them are explosive. Both of them have big play ability. We’re excited to see those guys do it. You remember Kerryon Johnson; he was a freshman and really excelled at that. I think both of those guys got a chance to be pretty good back there. Like I said, we’ll learn more about them once the games get here, but so far they’ve done a good job.”

On Byron Cowart’s positioning on depth chart…“I wouldn’t read too much into that. Like I said, you want to put out the guys that are going to be playing. That kind of goes back to me saying this depth chart deal — creating a bunch of stuff that really doesn’t need to be brought up. All those guys are going to play. Everybody will get a chance to see. It kind of goes back to they why you don’t want a depth chart. That just confirmed it. Thank you for doing that. That just confirmed moving forward with depth charts and all that.”

On Tim Horton’s coaching legacy…“He’s a big-time running back coach. He has the ability to relate to a lot of different type personalities and get the most out of them. You always think ball security – he’s as good as anybody I have ever seen with ball security. Our guys play hard. He’s one of the better running back coaches in the country. The numbers and history confirm that.”

On Kerryon Johnson as a kick returner…“Kerryon is one of the better kick returners in our league. He is so good at being an off returner, too, so we’ll just see. To have that depth is probably the main thing. Javaris Davis is another guy I’m real excited about. He’s probably the fastest guy on our team. I think he has a chance to be pretty explosive back there, too. A lot of people recruited him as an offensive player and he was a very good kick returner in high school. I’m excited to see what he can do too.

On cut blocking…“Whatever the rules are, you coach for that. You coach your guys to be prepared for whatever is within the rules. And you’ve got to adjust.”

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