Gus Malzahn Previews Texas A&M

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    The WarBlogler
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    Auburn Coach Gus Malzahn press conference
    Previewing the Texas A&M game – Tuesday, October 30, 2018

    Opening statement…
    “First of all, the off week went very well. I think we accomplished all of our goals — more than anything, I think just to get physically and mentally refreshed. We got a chance to work on ourselves and then get a head start on Texas A&M, which definitely is much needed; a good team. Really what stands out to me about Texas A&M, you know they’re No. 2 in time of possession in the country. They hold on to the ball; their defense gets off the field. When you look at their defense, they’re very good against the run; I think they’re No. 5 in the country in rush defense. They’re very good on third down, which has definitely helped them as far as time of possession is concerned. Offensively, they have a dual threat quarterback, Kellen Mond, he’s much improved from last year. You can tell he’s comfortable. They can run the ball, they’ve got some weapons at receiver and they have the top punter in the country. They’re leading the country in net punting, that’s helping the field positions and everything that goes with that. A couple of updates for us — Boobee Whitlow did not practice this last week; we’ll see where he’s at this week. I’d say right now he’s day-to-day. Jack Driscroll did practice on a limited basis last week and we’ll see where he goes also and I would say he’s day-to-day with that. Overall, it was a good week for us. I think we’re in a good position to finish strong and playing a good Texas A&M team at 11 am at home.”

    Is Jamel Dean available…
    “Yes. He’s back practicing and he’ll play.”

    What did Auburn accomplish during the bye week…
    “Probably more than anything is evaluating us, and getting a chance to work on us, and clean some things up really in all three phases that can help us the last four weeks. And then, of course, any time you get an extra couple days on your opponent, that really helps. And then (I) got a chance to watch them play on Saturday, so it was good to get a head start on that, too.”

    Who will start at tailback if Whitlow is out…
    “Well, of course Kam Martin got a little banged up, but it’s going to be by committee. We feel like right now that all of our guys can go in there and do a good job. And then we’ll go with the hot hand.”

    Will Asa Martin be in the running back mix…
    “Yes. Asa will be in that mix.”

    What he’s learned from watching Texas A&M…
    “Well, like I said, they’re very good against the run. They mix things up offensively. They’ve got a dual-threat quarterback that you have to account for his feet, and then he can throw to some big, talented receivers. And then I think their special teams is solid. Like I said, their punter really stands out to me and he can really change the game as far as field position goes.”

    Is Whitlow practicing today…
    “I don’t know. We’re hoping. But like I said, he didn’t practice at all last week. He’s been banged up some up to this point. He’s been a pretty quick healer coming back. So we’ll just see where that’s at.”

    On the big role freshmen are playing…
    “Well, I think you start out and you’ve got your freshmen and you know they’re talented. There’s a period of time that they get their feet wet out there and you get to evaluate them and see what they can do, and then there’s a point that you see the guys that are comfortable making plays and can execute and everything that goes with it. We’re just to a point now where I think we’ve got a good idea of our strengths and the guys that need to be on the field and are they confident enough to make plays and all that. And right now we’ve got a bunch of freshmen that are really coming on, which I think is a really good thing, not just for the last four games, but for the future.”

    Whitlow’s importance to the offense…
    “He really came on with the physical presence. He’s a big back and, of course, I think our last game he broke a lot of tackles. That’s really the thing that stood out to me. Like I said, he’s been banged up, but he continues to come back. We’ll just have to see what happens this week, but he’s really run with a purpose and it’s really helped us.”

    Getting more from Jarrett Stidham down the stretch…
    “Really, it sounds simple, but it’s about execution. We’ve just got to execute better around him. He needs to execute better. That’s really our plan. It was good for us to sit back and look and evaluate the whole first eight games and try to build around our strengths and things we can do to be successful and I feel like that will help us with that plan moving forward.”

    On what Texas A&M does well defending the run…
    “Well, they’re gap sound. They do a very good job up front of holding points. There’s not a whole lot of double teams that get up to the linebackers. Both of their linebackers are very active and fast flow type guys. On the back end, they try to keep everything in front of them and they have some speed on the corners.”

    Did the off week help with injuries…
    “Yeah, there’s no doubt. Not just them (the guys up front), but there’s quite a few guys who were banged up that we were able to take some off of and get some of the younger guys more reps and experience last week. It was two-fold as far as that’s concerned. We needed that off week just for the health.”

    On self-scouting during the off week…
    “It wasn’t just this weekend; it was probably earlier the previous week. That was the first thing that we did. We got a chance to watch every game, every play, cut ups, and everything that goes with that. We spent the first two days of our off week doing that. That’s really where it started, then we just tried to concentrate on us that first practice and correct the things we need to correct, and then got more into Texas A&M the last two days we practiced, that Wednesday and Thursday. But we still did a lot of fundamental work as far as we were concerned, especially the young guys. Talking about the young guys, that was really good for them just to clean up some things and try to be a little more precise in some areas offensively and defensively. We had a practice Sunday and it was a little more game plan oriented. Getting into game week and obviously Tuesday is a big practice for us today.”

    On leading the nation in screen passes…
    “We’ve got some playmakers on the outside that can do some things on the outside. Each team is a little bit different and you just try to do some things to get the ball into space for some guys that can do it.”

    On the lack of downfield passes…
    “We’re taking some — we’re not hitting them all. With that being said, there’s a lot of things that we were able to take from looking at ourselves and what we need to do moving forward.”

    Can he take the experience from last November’s success and apply it this year…
    “Any time you have experience, that helps, there’s no doubt. I think more than anything, we’re just getting ready for A&M and coming off the off week and everything that goes with that.”

    On stressing how well the team has to play down the stretch…
    “Really, I think our guys understand that. I think they understand the teams that we are playing and everything that goes with it.”

    On Seth Williams becoming a big-play guy early in his career…
    “First of all, he has the ability. He has a very good skill set and it’s just been a process of him becoming more comfortable. The more that you are out there, and you get your number called and you are successful, the more success you have. Like I said, those guys are to a point now where they shouldn’t be thinking or playing like freshmen. They’ve played a lot of ball and I think Seth is one of those guys that could even take that next step the final part of the season.”

    On facing Texas A&M’s run defense…
    “Last week, we ran the ball better than we ran it all year. I don’t care who you are playing, you have to be balanced no matter who you are playing. You have to be able to run and pass to be successful. They are really good, especially when the defensive line really gets off the line and tries to play in your backfield, so we are going to have to do a good job of creating run yards.”

    Did the bye week help the offensive line heal up…
    “There have been some guys that have taken the toll of a physical season so far, but last week really helped give them a rest for these last four games of the season.”

    Is it important to the program for Whitlow to reach 1,000 yards rushing for the season…
    “We have had nine in a row, so it would be good to have 10. I think if he stays healthy then I believe he will have a good shot at achieving that mark.”

    You were on CBS TV in New York on Saturday…
    “I had that planned from way back before the season, and I was still able to recruit all day Friday and Friday night. Made a quick trip up to New York, and whenever you are able to do that it is really good for recruiting.”

    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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