Gus Malzahn Previews Texas A&M

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    Auburn Coach Gus Malzahn press conference

    Tuesday, September 17, 2019, previewing the Texas A&M game

    Opening statement…
    “First of all, we’re glad to be 3-0 with where we’re at. I think we’ve improved each game and we’ve got to continue to do that. We open up conference play at Texas A&M this week. You can kind of tell a different excitement, not only from our players, but our coaches. The conference season is here and that’s kind of what we’ve been gearing up for these first three games. We’re playing a very talented Texas A&M team, a team that played Clemson really closer than the score if you watched the game. Offensively, they have a veteran quarterback, they’ve got some very talented receivers. They’re very good at throwing the football, but at the same time, they can run it. Defensively, they’re third in our league in total defense. They did a very good job against us last year defensively. We’re really playing one of the better teams, we feel like, in our league, on the road. This will be our first road test, as far as the league goes, with our freshman quarterback. We’re excited for the opportunity. Just as far as the injuries are concerned, Prince Tega (Wanogho), Derrick Brown, Seth Williams, Shedrick Jackson will all practice in some capacity today. We’ll see how they’re doing. I’m not ready to say – it’s still day-to-day — but they’ll be out there, and we’ll be evaluating. Derick Hall — it looks like he will not be able to play this week at this time. But the rest of them, we’ll see how they do today. We need a good practice today and we’ll get ready for this game.”

    What is the situation with [Anthony] Schwartz and the cast…
    “There is still probably going to be some protection. We are hoping that it won’t be the club that it was last week, but he did catch a ball with the club. Matter of fact, he made a good catch, so no matter what he has on his hand we are going to throw it to him.”

    On Seth Williams…
    “He has worked hard. He was in rehab last week and he told me when it happened that he was determined to get back, so that is a positive. But at the same time, we will see how he moves around today and see what he can do. We will need to make sure that he is in a good spot before we play him.”

    How important it is to have Prince Tega (Wanogho), Derrick (Brown) and Seth Williams back for this week…
    “Well, they are going to practice today. But those are three impact players now and you know your impact players — when you play league games especially on the road — they are very important. So we will see how they move around and how they do today.”

    Auburn’s run game vs. Texas A&M run defense…
    “Their run defense is very good. What all stood out to me last year and this year is their run fits — I mean their linebackers know their gaps and their gap integrity on defense and run fits is very impressive. You know they do a good job of setting the edge, they do a good job on their back end and they mix up their coverages with their pressures and everything. Last year, they did a very good job against us. I think we were fortunate to win that game, the way we played offensively, if it wasn’t for the last two series.”

    Shaun Shivers rushed for over 100 last week and Kam Martin had over 70; do you have a clear second running back…
    “Well, I think you just saw both of them are capable. You’ll see multiple running backs on Saturday. The good thing is that we have a lot of guys with experience. D.J. Williams is a guy that has been banged up; we are hopeful he’ll be able to play this week. Harold Joiner got some carries late, too; like I said we’ve got some depth there. You’ll see multiple guys on the field on Saturday.”

    About D.J. Williams…
    “We’ll see. He’s a confident guy. That’s a tough question to answer for our opponent but I will tell you he performed very well in the spring and he had a very good spring game, too. Probably the best way to answer it is we do have confidence in him, if we play him.”

    On Kellen Mond…
    “He looks like a veteran quarterback. He looks like a guy that’s been in the offense for two years. He can flat out throw it. When he tucks it and runs it and when he goes north-south he can really run. So he presents a lot of challenges and offensively they do a lot of different things. Like I said, they mix up the run and pass with different formations and different personnel groups. He looks like he’s in command of the offense this year.”

    On not having Smoke Monday available for the first half…
    “Smoke’s a good football player, not just in the secondary but he’s one of our best special teams guys, too. Any time you lose a guy like that for a half, that’s a big blow to us. It’s an opportunity for other guys – we’ve got other guys ready to step up — and the good thing is he’ll be fresh when he shows up in that third quarter.”

    Who will be the fourth safety…
    “We’ve got multiple things we can do. We’ll be fine at safety for the first half.”

    On Owen Pappoe…
    “We had high expectations after the spring for Owen. He’s handled it well. He’s like Bo—every rep he gets, every game he gets, he can get more comfortable. You’re just talking about a different speed of the game than it was in high school. He’s a talented young man. We’re really happy with his progress and we really feel like he will continue to improve.”

    On Bo Nix playing in a road environment at Texas A&M…
    “The fact that we had the first game on the road — although we had more fans than Oregon, it was still an exciting atmosphere and a big game — he has that in his back pocket as far as experience on the road. What we are going to see is us truly on the road at one of the loudest places in our league, so we are going to do a good job preparing for the crowd noise and we have done that the last three weeks, even when playing at home. I think it is like anything else with a first experience, but he is a great competitor. I have said before that the moment will not be too big, so we will have to handle the noise and everything that goes with it.”

    Nix’ progress in the redzone…
    “I think that with every snap in every game, the game will slow down for him. He knows to slow down, because we got a little quick on the one on Saturday in the left corner of the endzone. I really believe that each week the game will slow down for him a little bit more, but I am very confident in his abilities. You have to keep in mind that was his third game to play college football as a true freshman. He will keep improving and he is going to be an outstanding quarterback in this league, I can tell you that.”

    Do you have conversations with Boobie Whitlow about being more patient with the ball…
    “Yes.”

    Is it a fine line…
    “I don’t know if it’s a fine line, but I do tell him to slow it down a little bit. He has gotten better and you have to keep in mind that he was a quarterback in high school. Last year was really his first rodeo for being a running back and this is his second year playing the position. He is still learning, but he has improved this year from last year as far as understanding and pressing the line and slowing down. Yes, there are some areas to improve on; we address it and he will continue to improve in that area.”

    On Joey Gatewood’s involvement the first few games…
    “Keep in mind, it was a really good quarterback competition in the spring and fall camp. We have a lot of confidence in him. I know we’ve been running the ball a lot with him but he’s capable of throwing it, too. We’ll continue to go game by game to see what his role will be. It could be different in each game. He also has to prepare to be the No. 1 quarterback if something were to happen to Bo Nix. He gives us a different threat and we put him on the field with Bo some last week. We’ll see where that goes.”

    On Jeremiah Dinson…
    “Jeremiah is really one of our team leaders, if not our team leader. Just everything he’s gone through — his teammates and coaching staff have tremendous respect for him. That was a tough play (when he got hurt at Texas A&M in 2015), his shoulder and knee, and then to return there again, it has to be special for him. He’s one of our best football players.”

    On Big Kat Bryant’s improvement and the importance of a pass rush against A&M…
    “I think Big Kat is improving. The pass rush and the importance of disrupting the quarterback’s timing and making him uncomfortable is the biggest deal with him. When (Kellen Mond) is comfortable, he’s very accurate.”

    @AuburnEinstein

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