Gus Malzahn Previews Missouri (Quotes/Video)

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Auburn Coach Gus Malzahn press conference
Previewing the Missouri game

Opening Statement… “Starting out, Byron Cowart has come to me numerous times over the last couple of weeks disappointed with playing time. Yesterday he came to me and said he wants to quit to pursue other opportunities. We wish him nothing but the best moving forward.

“SEC play – very exciting for our team, for our players and coaches — we are starting SEC play going on the road against Missouri. You look at Missouri, they’ve got playmakers on the offensive side of the football, they’ve got a lot of speed at wide receiver, they’ve got a quarterback that can throw it and they are very explosive on the offensive side of the football. Defensively, Coach Barry Odum is taking over the defense. I’ve got a lot of respect for him as a coach. He does a lot of good things. When I look at their defense, their defensive front is disruptive, and probably the biggest thing is trying to predict how they are going to play. Their coordinator is no longer with them and Coach Odum is calling the plays. Overall, it’s a good challenge for us. When you’re on the road in the SEC, you’ve always got to be prepared. Our message has been that we have to get better each week and now that SEC play is here, we have to play our best football, so we’re excited for that.”

On the quarterback situation… “Malik Willis will be the No. 2 quarterback. We’ve been saying for a while that we feel really good about him. The way he has performed in fall camp, specifically the scrimmages, was very impressive. He started out the first two weeks as our No. 2 guy anyway, so he got a lot of reps with the twos, some with the ones, and we feel good about him moving forward if something were to happen to Jarrett Stidham.”

Will Willis play at the first opportunity… “I think now that he is the No. 2 guy you’ve got to think differently as far as that goes. I know he’s up for that.”

Who is the No. 3 quarterback… “Right now we are working through that. We’ve got a couple of different options. Ryan Davis is a guy that we are also going to take a look at with some snaps he got last year. Jason Smith is going to stay on the defensive side of the football right now; if we had some injuries with one of these two guys that is a possibility. Ryan Davis will get some reps at the quarterback position, and he did that last year.

“Devin Adams is in the middle of that conversation, too. Obviously, you saw him in some mop-up roles as far as that goes. When you watch (Adams), every time he gets an opportunity to get in a game, whether it’s the spring game or whether it’s the game, he makes plays. Devin is in the room with them and he at least knows the base offense. He’s been spending time with the scout team, so he will have to be more involved with that. He can run the base offense. The biggest challenge he has is that he has been with the scout team. Chip Lindsey has got a good plan for him to be with the offense more than he has been.”

About his statement about Sean White’s dismissal… “I feel bad for Sean. Sean is a tough guy, he’s a warrior, but he made some bad decisions. I hurt for him, and that’s why I put that in there.” What bad decisions did he make…“That’s between me and him.”

Is Tyrone Truesdell next on the depth chart at defensive tackle…Nick Coe has the ability to come inside, too. Tyrone Truesdell is coming on and Andrew Williams obviously is already in the mix, so we feel good. I think right now our defense is the No. 2 defense in the country, and our defensive line has a lot to do with that. We feel good about that position and we feel good about the depth there.”

On quarterback depth... “Obviously when you lose one of the guys that has experience it is concerning, but at the same time the opportunities that Malik Willis has now, we have been extremely high on him. Obviously when you lose an experienced guy it does affect your depth, but right now I will say we have two guys that we feel comfortable with playing.”

Was White’s dismissal emotionally difficult for him… “For me personally, anytime you have to dismiss a player, it is not a very good feeling. That’s probably the best way to put it.”

On the interception play against Mercer… “You know that was a boom-boom play; the kid made a really good play and broke on the football. It is something that I know Chip Lindsey and Kodi Burns are working through the same type scenarios so that they will be better next time it comes, but it was a boom-boom play.”

How do you practice ball security… “Well obviously, when you turn the ball over five times, we have to make more of an emphasis on that. That was uncharacteristic of our team over the years. The coaches understand that there will be a high attention to detail in the ball security of everyone on the offensive side and everyone that touches the ball on special teams, because anytime that happens, that is coaching. That starts with me as a head coach. The penalties and the turnovers are unacceptable and our coaches understand that. And it will be a huge emphasis moving forward, not that it wasn’t an emphasis before, but obviously whatever product you put out on the field, you have to correct it.”

Why has Kamryn Pettway been the only rusher the last two games... “It was more of how the game unfolded. It was a close game, and I think the security of having a veteran guy in there. Now moving forward you are going to see more running backs like Kam Martin and others get into the game, but that was the thinking in that particular game.”

Any concerns about Pettway’s durability…What did he carry it? Two games 20-plus times back-to-back? Obviously, we’ve got to take care of our guys, but like I said, as that game unfolded it was a close game and a game we should have won and we should have won by more, so I think that had a lot to do with it. Now, KJ (Kerryon Johnson) will be back this week, so that will definitely help, but Kam Martin is a guy that we know can go in there and do some things and Malik Miller is a guy that we’ve got a lot of trust in, too.”

On Kerryon Johnson’s status… “I’m not going to say he’s 100 percent, but he practiced some last week, he practiced Sunday and he’s ready to play. I’m not going to predict right now.”

On if there is a lack of trust in other RBs ball security… “Well, like I said, I’ve answered that question twice now. That was the thinking behind that. It didn’t have anything to do with our mistrust with the other two; it was just a coaching decision and that was the decision made.”

Any concern about the lack of depth at defensive tackle… “I think Nick Coe having that ability to come inside I think that really helps you with experienced guys playing.”

On the offensive line this week… “Darius (James) — he’ll practice today non-contact and we’ll see how he progresses during the week. What you’ll probably see if Darius can’t play is something very similar to the way the game ended late. But, we’re hopefully that Darius will be back, and I think we’ll know more probably tomorrow.”

What is slowing the running game… “That’s my biggest concern right now. We’ve got to be able to run the football better. Obviously Clemson has a great defense and they shut us down in the run game, but last week we did not execute like we need to, and we’ve got to do a better job of executing in the run game, because when you get into league play you’re going to have to run the football effectively to win consistently. Our coaches understand that, and that’s really been a big point of emphasis.”

What has the problem been… “I’m just going to say it’s overall execution of everything. But, we weren’t able to run the football effectively enough Saturday playing the opponent that we were playing.”

Did he see a better tempo offensively against Mercer… “If you can take out all the turnovers and everything that goes with it, there were some positives. We got some tempo going, and that was really a focus that we talked about last week. And then in the passing game, of course, the efficiency — that was also a positive. So there were some things that I know Chip (Lindsey) can carry forward with the offense as they’re progressing.”

How much has Jarrett Stidham progressed… “I think last week you saw, when he has time, he’s a very good operator with his progressions. There were a couple of times when he hit Pettway on check downs that was the fourth or fifth option within his read, but I think, like I’ve been saying, that the more experience that he gets the better. He’s still a freshman as far as experience is concerned, and I even said that before the year that we’ve got to keep that in mind. The thing about him is he corrects his mistakes. We didn’t throw the ball away out of the pocket the first game or two. You saw him Saturday do that, so I think he’ll continue to improve.”

On the start of the season… “From a head coach’s standpoint, the facts are we’re 2-1 and the team we got beat by might be the best team in the country again. We’re starting SEC play, and that’s what we’ve been building up to. We have a new coordinator and new quarterback, and they’ll consistently get better. We have a very good defense – the second ranked defense in the country right now. Our kicking game is solid. We can be better, but if we keep improving, we can play with anybody in the country.”

Will there be a punting competition…I’ll be able to tell you later in the week. I would like a little competition. We have to be better punting the football. We have to get the ball down the field.” Who is in the mix at punter beyond Ian Shannon…“Daniel Carlson is a possibility. I’ll know more later in the week.”

On Daniel Carlson… “More than anything, he just needs to relax. He puts a lot of pressure on himself trying to live up to the last two seasons. He just needs to be Daniel Carlson, loosen up and do his thing. I think you’ll see that moving forward. He’ll start to get in the groove.”

On the offensive line… “We do have two new starters and one of our starters is playing a different position. It takes some time. I still feel that we do have that quality depth we talked about earlier in the year. You saw that with Casey Dunn getting in the game and having to move our center to right tackle.”

Why does it take several weeks to gel offensively… “A lot of it has to do with what I just said with two new starters up front. Every year is different. We’ve gotten off to good starts in the past, but this offense will be a good offense. They’re going to keep improving, and you’ll see that every week.”

Progression of Stidham… “At first, it was his first game to play in two years. If you look at his efficiency – 32-for-37 – that’s pretty good. You can see him progressing each week. He did a very good job last week and he threw into some tight windows.”

Is Pettway handling too much workload… “He’s an SEC running back. Tre Mason carried it quite a few times. Cameron Artis-Payne carried it quite a few times. That’s just the way it goes. The fact that (Kerryon Johnson) is back will definitely help. You’ll see the other two guys on the field some, too. We’re sensitive to that, not just with Kam, but with any kind of player with their volume, if it gets to that point.”

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