Gus Malzahn Previews Southern Miss

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    The WarBlogler
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    Auburn Coach Gus Malzahn press conference
    Previewing the Southern Miss game – Tuesday, September 25, 2018

    Opening statement…
    “We’re looking forward to our fourth straight home game in the month of September. It’s also Homecoming, it’s a very special time for all of our fans. I know our coaches and players are excited about that, too. We’re playing a very good team in Southern Miss, a team that went 8-5 last year and went to a good bowl game. Offensively, they can really throw it. I think they’re eighth in the country in passing yards. Their quarterback and receivers, they’re very impressive. Defensively, they’re ninth in total defense. They play extremely hard; they put a lot of pressure on the offense – a very well-coached team and Coach Hopson’s a guy that when he was at Alcorn State, we played against each other, so we do know each other fairly well.

    A quick update: Nick Brahms will make his second start at center. We thought he did some good things — there’s nothing like experience, getting out there and running the show. We thought he did a solid job last week with that and we expect him to improve.”

    Update on Marquel Harrell…
    “We feel like he wasn’t 100% but he’s getting better. He moved around pretty good Sunday. Trox (Austin Troxell) is a guy that we have a lot of confidence in and he’ll be ready if called upon and it will be good to give him some snaps.”

    On Nick Brahms…
    “First of all, I thought his identification was pretty good. That’s what you always worry about, because that’s really the quarterback of up front, directing the right way and all that. He did a solid job. Any time you put a new center in, you worry about illegal procedure and everything that goes with that. There were a couple of times our timing was off just a bit, but the more he plays, the more comfortable he will get. I thought his snaps were adequate. From a quarterback standpoint, a different kind of snap is a reality that makes a difference with a quarterback, so I think Jarrett will get more comfortable with that. And I thought he tried to play physical. That’s the number one thing that stood out to me — his physicality, trying to bring a physical presence. And like I said, there’s nothing like experience. Talking about a guy, like you said, that hasn’t started in three years back in high school. I feel like he has a big upside.”

    Is the number of snaps on offense lower than he would like…
    “Yeah, well I think when you talk number of snaps that you have to look at the big picture as far as the execution and being on the field and first downs and third downs, which we really weren’t good at either one. You know offensively, obviously we weren’t pleased. But I think that you’ve got to look at the big picture and the reality is we had an offensive line that had less than 20 starts coming into the season. And then you change your center and you’ve got really four new running backs, three of which are freshmen, their first time to play. Then you have a new freshman receiver that started for the first time. So there’s a lot of youth and experience but I really feel strong that this group is going to be a good offense. But they’re still a work in progress. That group will improve, there is no doubt. And we expect them to.”

    Was there frustration with the sideline communication Saturday…
    “I think the only time really was when we ran out of time from the sideline. We’ve got to do a better job on the sidelines with the play clock and everything, getting the plays quicker and all that. I think, as far as frustration, you probably sensed a lot of that offensively just from the standpoint that we didn’t play well. And any time you don’t play well, there is going to be frustration and our quarterback is the leader out there. That’s to be expected somewhat.”

    On Jarrett Stidham’s lack of a breakout game…
    “I really believe it’s coming. You’ve got to understand, obviously there’s plays he would like back and all that. But you’ve got to play better around him too. Like I just said, I think we’ve got to be real from the standpoint of the youth and inexperience. But we’re four games in now. The fact that we did start a new center, I think that’s going to help us moving forward. And we’ve got a lot of good information about what we have to do moving forward and what we have and what we feel like we can be good at and maybe what we need to stay away from. So, really, I expect us to play better and better each game and I think you’ll see less of the frustration, because it wasn’t just him. I was pretty frustrated, too, and I know our offensive coaches were, too.”

    The youth and inexperience on offense…
    “Like I just said, four games – we’ve played four games, so it’s time that we’ll get better. We need to get better sooner rather than later. But we’re four games in, so I think that’s a valid question”

    On the pressure Arkansas was putting on the offensive line…
    “I think they were teeing off on our snap count. It really wasn’t so much of a mess charge — I think it was more of teeing off on our snap counts, so we’ve got to do a better job of mixing things up. They’re widening out and getting a jump on the ball and putting extreme pressure on our tackles. A lot of that has to do — you talk about a new center, those little things you probably wouldn’t even think about when you put a new center in. But he’ll get better with mixing things up. We’ll work real hard on that this week so that won’t happen again.”

    Did he change the snap count in the fourth quarter…
    “Yeah, we sure did.”

    On an improved pass rush…
    “We talked about putting pressure on the quarterback and disrupting the quarterback. I felt like we did that, and I thought Kevin (Steele) really mixed up his pressures well and presented a lot of different challenges to their offense. I thought that was good.”

    On T.D. Moultry’s development…
    “I think consistency — he just needs to be more consistent. He’s got a skill set; he just needs to be more consistent and execute what they call.”

    On Anthony Schwartz producing early in the season…
    “That’s been impressive. He’s a football-intelligent guy and the moment isn’t too big for him. He’s a confident guy and he protects the football. He wasn’t here very much at all during the summer because of track. He’s been a pleasant surprise at how quick he has caught on.”

    Some track guys don’t convert easily to football…
    “That’s not the case at all with him. He’s a real football player and he just happens to be one of the fastest guys in the country, too.”

    On Shaun Shivers…
    “I think if we can get him past the line of scrimmage to the second level, that’s when he can really show what he can do. I think when you’ve seen him be successful, we’ve done that. He’s still learning, too. You have to understand, there’s a process to learning the blocking schemes, how to be patient. It’s hard for freshmen to be patient early because they get excited and get in there just thinking a high school run. They have to read things and let things develop. He’s got a chance to be a really good player.”

    Plan for Eli Stove and Will Hastings going forward…
    “With those two guys, my deal with them, obviously they are progressing very good. We practice each week and we try to push them a little bit more. My whole deal is I need them to be 100% mentally and physically before we put them out there. Last week I just didn’t feel that way and it’s not a negative. I just want to make sure we do what’s best for them and when they are feeling good they will be back out there. So, that’s kind of the thinking.”

    Does the new redshirt rule help Stove and Hastings…
    “I think it (helps). I think, strategically, we can do what’s best for them as they are progressing.”

    On the challenges of the new redshirt rule…
    “This is a new rule and any time you have a new rule, things come up. You do the best you can as far as adapting. As far as next year, everybody around the country will have a better idea of what to expect and what it means. I think it’s a challenge any time you have guys leave the team in the middle of the season but that’s part of the job description that you do as a coach. Like I said, it’s kind of a new day in college football as far as that is concerned. I think you’ll probably see more and more of that in the future.”

    On Asa Martin…
    “He’s getting good practice time and has a good skill set; he catches the ball out of the backfield and protects very well back there. I think you can see his role grow as you go. The thing about running back and the depth of running back through the course of the season is that people get banged up and you can never have enough.”

    How much time did you spend on punt returns in the spring and preseason…
    “In the spring we spent more time in all the special teams than in all the time I’ve been here. We went more live in practice because we have a dynamic punt returner and we knew if we gave him a chance, which we have done a good job of giving him opportunities, he would do a good job up front and everybody can see what he can do. He’s electric with the ball with hands in his face, and Noah [Igbinoghene] is one of the best kick returners in our league. Our special teams are to a point where they are capable of being one of the best or the best in our league; they just have to keep improving. That was a lot of fun to watch on Saturday when all four units played well.”

    On Richard Jibunor playing more in third-down situations…
    “He could because he has a unique skill set. He can run, and he is not scared.”

    Play of Big Kat Bryant…
    “I think the more you see him out there, the more he improves and the more experience he gets, the better he will be.”

    Run blocking of young receivers…
    “Both of those guys are big guys that are capable of being very good blockers. They just do not have the experience that an older guy would have, but they are both willing and we are really working hard in practice with that.”

    Balancing perimeter runs with runs between the tackles…
    “They really work together. As an offensive coach, you try to take what they are giving you, but to be successful running the football, you have to run it enough inside and run it enough outside. We have got to get better in both those areas. I wouldn’t say we have arrived in either area but when you really get going, that’s how it works.”

    Going forward, do you anticipate Kam Martin and Boobie Whitlow sharing the carries…
    I think so and then see who’s hot, so you can go with it. Shivers is a guy that I think you can see get some carries, too. If we get more volume of plays, you get more touches and get more carries, but the last two weeks, our play count has not been what we want.”

    Play of the offensive line…
    “Some things we have improved in and I think our communication is the biggest thing. A couple weeks ago, we were really banged up and weren’t able to practice the way we like to practice to try to get some guys to the game, and that set us back a little bit. They are capable of being a good offensive line and I really feel like that is going to happen sooner than later because they want to. They are smart guys and Coach Grimes is the best in the business, so I know he is going to get them there.”

    On not being able to have more physical practices due to the offensive line being banged up…
    “If you’ve got a veteran offensive line, it doesn’t hurt you, because they’re veterans. If you’ve got an inexperienced offensive line, it hurts you. So it’s that balance. And so there have been a couple things — and not making excuses for anything, it’s just the reality of where we’re at — that kind of set us back a little bit. But you know, each game we need to see improvement, and I expect us to.”  

    Importance of the offense hitting more long passes…
    “Yeah, very important. You know, explosive plays. We need the explosive plays. (When) we’re at our best, we’re playing fast, we’re having explosive plays not just in the passing game, but the run game, too. And we haven’t had near as many as we have liked, so we’ve got to figure out how to get that done.”

    Has the newer substitution rule changed the ability to play with tempo…
    “You can still play fast, but you’ve got to get an initial first down. And you’ve got to keep the ball from going outside the white, (which) slows things down on the sideline. Obviously we used to be the only team doing it, so they were still trying to figure it out; now everybody has some pace to it. So it’s a little bit different, but you can still go fast. You’ve just got to make first downs.”

    Is it tough to substitute when the offense is running no-huddle…
    “No, not really. You kind of know ahead of time when you call a play that you’ve got the personnel on there. If we get a play of six or more (yards) we’re going to pace this or that, so really not that hard at all.”

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

    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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