Gus Malzahn Previews Mississippi State

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    The WarBlogler
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    Auburn Coach Gus Malzahn press conference
    Previewing the Mississippi State game – Tuesday, October 2, 2018

    Opening statement…
    “We’re going on the road against Mississippi State, a very talented football team. They’ve got a new coach, a new staff; I know they’re getting used to each other each week. If you look at them offensively, they have nine starters back. I think it really starts with their quarterback. He’s 144 yards away from being the SEC’s all-time leading rusher for a quarterback. I think that really says it all; he puts a lot of pressure on defenses. He’s a dual threat guy. They’ve got some good running backs and a very solid offensive line, with some receivers. Defensively, they have eight starters back. Of course, we got a chance to see them in person last year — very impressed with their front seven, and their safeties are very aggressive. Right now, they’re eighth in points allowed in the country, and they’re eleventh in total defense. So, offensively they’ve got a lot of scary weapons, and defensively they’re very good as a total defense — overall, we’re playing a very good team. It’s a tough place to play — they have the cow bells and all that. That’s always a factor, when you go there as far as being loud and you know it’s a different kind of loud. It’s not just human voices and everything, that’s really unique and different that you have to prepare for. A couple updates just from us – (JaTarvious) Whitlow, Jack Driscroll, and (Prince) Tega (Wanogho) went down with injuries Saturday and didn’t return. I’ll know more today after practice about their status. I do know all three are going to try their best to play and be a part, but we’ll know more about that after practice. With that being said, Bailey Sharp, Calvin Ashley, Austin Troxell will be ready to go at the tackle position and all those guys we have confidence in and have gotten a lot of reps in practice, scrimmages and everything that goes with that. Of course, tailback wise, Kam Martin, (Shaun) Shivers, Malik Miller and Asa Martin if Whitlow can’t go, will all be part and a factor, but we’re happy to be 4-1. We’re really one call away from being 5-0, so I think overall we’re in a good spot. This will be really our first road game, so to speak. You know that first game was really a neutral site so there’s nothing like the SEC going on the road with 70 of your guys. I know our guys are looking forward to it and a tough place to play, but we’ll be ready.”

    If Whitlow is out, will you limit the carries with Kam Martin…
    “No, we will go into it with all the available guys in mind. Kam Martin will be the first guy out there because we have a lot of confidence in him. You saw him last week; he ran with a passion and with a will, especially when the game was on the line. He protected the football and we were very impressed with his performance last week.”

    How much does Whitlow’s status affect the practice reps for other young guys in the backfield…
    “I don’t think it affects the other guys; all of them have been getting quality practice reps with the 1s. Obviously, he has gotten off to a good start and you can see him improving each time he goes out there, but we have confidence in the other guys as well.”

    Does the change at center coincide with the issues of protecting the QB…
    “Right now, Nick Brahms is going to be our center. More than anything is the four false starts, which is unacceptable. That is what you are concerned about more than anything, especially going on the road. We are going to have to do a really good job with the crowd noise as far as preparation, but any time you have a new center, there are going to be a few growing pains. One thing I can tell you about Brahms is he has tried to be very physical and you will see him improve.”

    When you are going through an offensive lull, is it tough not to get too involved with Chip Lindsey and the game plan…
    “No, we are a work in progress, and we know that. More than anything, it is about identifying your strengths and weaknesses. You want to play to your strengths and stay away from your weaknesses. There have been a few lineup changes up front which can slow down the process, but as I have said, we are going to be a good offense. We just have to play well on Saturday.”

    Working with Chip Lindsey…
    “First of all, I have a lot of confidence in Chip. We are doing the same thing we did last year when we really got rolling. It is a matter of us getting a rhythm, being a little bit more consistent running the football, and taking advantage when we get our shots. We are at our best when we have explosive plays and get in our rhythm.”

    Is there room for changes in the offensive system…
    “Well, I think any time that you’re struggling a little bit, you need to do whatever you can to manufacture yards. Rushing yards, passing yards, points. So that’s definitely the plan.”

    Are you reevaluating punting rather than kicking field goals…
    “I don’t know that Anders (Carlson) is struggling. I know that we’re asking him to kick a lot of 50+ yard field goals. I know if you’re a young guy, obviously you have a few more shorter ones, then when those long ones come around every now and then, it’s not as big a deal. But we’ve been asking a whole lot of him. I think he’s an excellent kicker. I think you’ll see that the rest of the season, him being consistent. We just have to put him in positions to be a little more successful. The thing we’re learning about (punter Arryn) Siposs is he’s a weapon downing the ball inside the 10. So strategically, yeah, you could see a little bit of a change. I think more than anything after five games, you know where your strengths are. As a coach, you’ve got to play to your strengths. That’s not just offensively; that’s as a team. And we’ve got good information on our team, so I think you’ll see us play to our strengths a little bit better than we have.”

    When did he realize the true freshmen could be so productive…
    “It was after we got to practice in fall camp. That’s when we knew we had some very talented guys that could help. And when you have that, the most successful freshman class, there are going to be some growing pains, but those guys have five games under their belt. You can see them each week being more and more consistent with everything and those guys are a very talented group.”

    Differences in style with new coaches at Mississippi State…
    “They still want to run their quarterback. I think that’s pretty wise with him being that close to be the leading rusher all-time in the history of our league. There’ve been some real good quarterbacks come through that can run it. Defensively, I think it’s similar. They’ve got some good players and they let them play. It’s really hard to tell. Maybe I can answer that question a little bit better after we play them. But just looking at them on film, they’re impressive.”

    Have there been modifications on offense to help play to Auburn’s strengths…
    “I think when you play to your strengths, you’ve got to keep everything in mind. It’s offense, defense, special teams — just do everything you can as a head coach to help your team win. We understand our strengths and the areas we need to improve on, so we’ll have a really good plan moving forward.”

    On applying last year’s offensive improvement to this season…
    “I think last year, it was more of just figuring out the identity and the strengths that we had and playing to those strengths. This year is just a little bit different because of inexperience. We still understand pretty much what we have and what we need to play to. I think more than anything it’s probably just the consistency, manufacturing rushing yards, and staying away from negative plays. We do know that we are not real strong when we are behind the chains. I think that’s kind of a common-sense thing that any average fan can see, so we have to do a better job of staying in front of the chains. I think that will be a good thing going forward.”

    Concerns on facing the Mississippi State defensive line…
    “We have to do a good job with our plan and scheme. Even if you have everybody healthy, they are one of the best defenses in the entire country. They have a lot of confidence and they can really rush the passer. That’s one thing that really stands out — they’re good against the run, but they’re extremely good rushing the passer. We just have to have a good plan to help our guys out.”

    On Jarrett Stidham getting better stepping up in the pocket…
    “Yeah, I think it works together. I think everything works together with quarterbacks, protection, and running backs and their confidence in each other.”

    Preparing Nick Brahms for the environment Saturday…
    “I think that’s going to be a big key for this week and how we prepare him for the noise and the cadences. Obviously, we can’t go on the road and have four false starts — that’s unacceptable. This will be his third start and I expect things to be cleaner.”

    Will you change cadences…
    “We do have ways to deal with (the noise) but I don’t want to incriminate anything. I don’t want to tell Mississippi State what we’re doing. I can’t do that.”

    Kam Martin’s yards after contact last week…
    “I think he did a very solid job, went through some holes, especially when we spread him out a little bit. I thought he did a good job with a couple of those smoke draws too. He ran with a passion; the game was on the line and you could really tell he was trying to will himself and the offense to win. That was real impressive.”

    Are you worried Stidham is getting rattled after being hit so much…
    “I don’t. I think that kind of goes back to each game unfolds differently. We have to do a better job of not putting ourselves in situations where we are having trouble with that deal and running around.”

    Is Kam Martin being more aggressive…
    “You know, I think you’re probably right about that. KJ (Kerryon Johnson) was extremely patient — one of the more patient backs we ever had. And each back has their own style. So, he (Kam) hit it. He bombed, he hit it, went through some pretty small seams, kept his feet moving. Kam is a very solid back and like I said, I was very impressed with him Saturday.”

    Progress of Harold Joiner…
    “Harold is a guy that is going to be an excellent football player if he’ll keep working and all that. Right now, he’s not in the mix as far as the every-down running back deal, but he has a bright future.”

     

    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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