Gus Malzahn Previews Liberty

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Auburn Coach Gus Malzahn press conference
Previewing the Liberty game – Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Opening statement…
“We have senior day this week – the last home game for our seniors who have done an outstanding job through the course of their career. We definitely want to send these guys out on a high note. I want to congratulate Ryan Davis on becoming the all-time receptions leader in school history, which is a huge accomplishment. There’s some great receivers that have come through here. Also, Jarrett Stidham and Ryan on being the most completions from a quarterback/receiver tandem in school history, which is also a huge accomplishment. I’m real proud of those guys; they’ve been a big part of the success the last few years. Looking ahead with Liberty — a very solid team, a team that beat a very good Troy team earlier in the year. They’re very dynamic on offense. They do a very good job defensively. You can tell they are well-coached and of course, Turner Gill is a very good coach with his staff, so it’ll be a challenge as far as that’s concerned. A couple updates: Nick Coe will be out this week. I don’t know anything past this week right now; I’m not ready to say. Javaris Davis will be day-to-day this week and will practice today, but overall, like I said, we’re gearing up for our last home game. With it being senior day, it’s a big deal for our players so we’re looking forward to that.”

What is Nick Coe’s injury…
“He has a wrist injury.”

What has this senior group meant to Auburn…
“They are a class group and they have helped us win a lot of football games, but the most important thing is the way they handle themselves on and off the field. They are true Auburn men. I think of this group as some real classy young men with high character. They have done a good job with our leadership this year. Everything has not gone as well as planned, but they have really done a great job from a leadership standpoint. I feel strongly about coming out and playing good football for those guys for our last home game with it being senior day.”

Is it impossible to play fast and substitute with today’s rules…
“If you are playing fast with the same personnel, you need to score points or at least flip the field. The worst thing that can happen is going 3-and-out. You have to balance that and look at the entirety of each individual game because each is a bit distinctive and unfolds differently with how well the defense is playing, field position, and everything that goes with that. The tempo aspect is where it starts, and the personnel group is completely different all together. As far as situations where you want certain personnel in, it may be about field position, it may be about down and distance as far as a defensive tendency that goes along with that. Each game unfolds differently and if you are playing fast, you need to at least split the field or score points.”

Were there fewer deep pass attempts at Georgia…
“I thought our plan was a solid plan. We had a few second-and-short sequences where we did not convert the first downs. When you get in to the red zone, you have a chance to be more aggressive. They do a good job of trying to keep things in front of them and a lot of times we were able to beat the safeties. As the game unfolded, the third down was our Achilles heel, but each game is different, and you have a different plan with what the other team gives you. We did try a couple attempts with Darius [Slayton] down the field but he had one of the best defensive backs in our league covering him, so it made it tough.”

How to save the running game at this point…
“We did some good things in the running game. That was a very good run defense that we went against, but I do see progress. We are going to continue to develop as we move forward. Our offensive line had an overall solid game. They did not give up a sack, had zero penalties, and made many corrections we have worked on, so we are progressing.”

When the season ends, will you take a hard look at the offense…
“I think at the end of every year, you sit back and you evaluate everything. You assess everything and we’ll definitely do that at the end of the year. Right now, we’ve got two games to play. We need to do the best plan and execute the best we can these last two games and then we’ll sit back and be able to assess all the above.”

Did you expect the offensive struggles at the beginning of the season…
“I think the reality is, when you get to this point, you look back. We were very inexperienced up front, which we’ve talked about before. We played a whole lot of freshmen, more than we’ve ever done. And we’ve experienced some growing pains throughout the season. So, to answer your question, we expected to do better. I think that’s kind of common sense and fair to say, but we are extremely youthful, and I think that’s fair to say. And the majority of our guys are coming back next year, and that’s going to be a really good thing as far as some of the growing pains we’ve experienced this year. Are we happy with where we are at offensively? No, I mean that’s common sense. But you’ve got to kind of see it in its entirety, and I think 75% of our offense’s production is coming from freshmen, so that’s good for the future. Right now, these last three games, we need to play better.”

Is there a common issue in the defensive struggles…
“I think really the simplest way to put it is probably third down. We’ve had some trouble in those games. You’re talking about getting off the field on third down, and that allows more snaps, as far as that goes. I think that’s probably the fairest way to answer that question.”

Do you consider Allen Greene’s statement about your future iron-clad…
“There’s no doubt. I’m going to be the coach and we’re going to get this thing turned around and that’s what we’re going to do.”

How often do you speak with Greene…
“We speak once a week, I think I said that earlier. We have our weekly meetings.”

What is your emphasis for the future…
“I think it goes back to what I said earlier — the youth that we have on offense — so that’s real exciting, as far as that goes. Defensively, we recruited well. And I feel we’re going to be really good on defense again next year. Our special teams, that’s the one area that has really, greatly improved this year and we have our kicker back, and obviously one of the best punters in college football. So there are a whole lot of positives once we get to next year. But obviously, we have three games left, and that’s really what I’m focused on right now”

How important is it to have multiple guys run the ball as you have in the past…
“I think it’s a culmination of a few different things. We haven’t had the number of plays we’ve had in those years, that number of carries. We haven’t rushed the football as much as those years you’re talking about. I think it’s important. Each team is different. But any time you get multiple guys who are successful, that means good things are happening.”

On how much defenses have changed over the years…
“Every year things change a little bit, but year to year is different. We were very successful on offense last year; this year we weren’t as successful. Next year we will be. So, I think that’s the best way to answer that.”

Confidence in next year’s offense with a possible new quarterback…
“No matter who is our quarterback, we are going to be better on offense and I’m very confident we will be really good on offense next year.”

What does the offense need to do against Liberty…
“Well, we need to play well. We need to be better on third downs. If you look at the last game, it all goes to third down. We weren’t very good on defense on third down and we weren’t very good on offense. I think that’s probably the biggest deal and we just need to score points.”

On having confidence on the offense being better next year…
“I’m very confident. Well, like I said, we have the majority of our guys coming back next year. We’ve had some growing pains with some youth this season, but that’s the reason.”

On Liberty’s defense…
“They put a lot of guys into run support. They are used to putting their corners and defensive backs on islands. You can tell that’s what they do; they know their answers. What really stands out to me is they are very well coached. They don’t do a whole lot of stuff, but what they do they are very good at.”

On Senior Day and his takeaways from the senior class…
“Like I said earlier, just the high character and how successful this group will be once they are finished with football. The leadership they’ve shown since they’ve been here and the way they have represented Auburn is what stands out to me.”

On adding some pieces to next year’s offense…
”I think any time, recruiting is going to be important, offensively, defensively, and special teams. That’s your lifeline. We want to improve recruiting in all three areas and get guys in that can help us next year. There’s no doubt we are going to do that. We are in good shape right now in recruiting and that’ll be a big part, too.”

Will any juniors be participating in Senior Day…
“Jaunta’vius Johnson will be a part of that. He’s done a great job for us. He hasn’t been able to play much because of injuries, but he’s done a super job for us in a lot of other areas.”

A good or bad season often swings on a few key plays…
“You know, that has happened a few times this year. And it happens the other way you’re saying last year. My experience is usually the more experienced teams find a way to do that (make the plays to win close games). Sometimes when you’re inexperienced, for whatever reason, you don’t make the plays. But, I think there’s a handful of plays that we’d feel a little bit different about — not going to say we would be competing for a championship, but I think it’s kind of common sense that we’re a couple of plays away from feeling a little bit different. Probably the best way to answer that is that the experience factor has a lot to do with that.”

Will recruiting focus on the offensive line and running backs…
“Yeah, and I will say this — of course, all of them are back, so that’s a good thing as far as experience and everything that goes with it. But, I say any time you can bring back that many people that can help early, it just helps your depth and helps everything that goes with it.”

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