Gus Malzahn previews UL-Monroe

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Auburn Coach Gus Malzahn press conference
Previewing the ULM game
Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Opening Statement…
”Saturday was a big win for our program. I am very happy for our players and our coaches. I feel like we are in a good spot for the rest of the season. We are in a position where we can really improve in all three areas.

“Turning over the playcalling to Coach (Rhett) Lashlee is something that really hit me after the first game and is 100% the best thing to do for the team. I really feel like Rhett, Herb (Hand) and the rest of the offensive staff really did a good job with that. I think we had six drives of 50 or more yards. The big thing is our red zone offense. From an offensive standpoint, the number one focus is to be more productive in the red zone.

“Defensively, I thought our guys did a very good job. It was the first time that we faced a pro-style, 21 personnel team that was very talented. I thought our defense responded very well. A huge time in the game was when the offense turned the ball over and, on the sudden change, the defense held them to a field goal. I really felt like that was a sign of good things to come and things we can build upon. Overall, I am very happy with how they responded Saturday.

“Moving forward with Louisiana-Monroe, our focus is going to be on us getting better in all three phases of the game. That is going to be our focus in practice this week and playing them on Saturday.”

Status of Paul James…
“Paul James has a knee injury and it doesn’t look like he will be back for the rest of the season. That is very unfortunate. It happened last week in practice. He was really doing a good job of improving, but it looks like he is done for the rest of the season.”

On his decision to turn over the playcalling…
“When you’ve been coaching for a long time and doing something for 25 years, that’s what you are used to doing. My plan in the off-season was to be more involved, but sometimes reality hits you. In this day and time, to be a head coach and call an offense is not realistic, at least for me. It hit me after that first game and it’s what’s best for our team. We have great offensive coaches that will do a great job with it. I think we get better every week. For me, during the game it was very refreshing. I could be there for the special teams and the defense. I wasn’t caught up in the next play. It will definitely help me and help me during the week to be there for our players as well, which is really the most important thing.”

On not using pulling guards against LSU…
“Each game is a little bit different. There are reasons for sometimes pulling the guards or sometimes you don’t pull guards. The other night we really primarily stuck with the inside zone and we felt like that was the best thing for us. They were playing some odd front and sometimes in the gap game. When they play odd, you can’t get to the backside backer when you pull through, and we were concerned about that and we were right. Each week is a little bit different, but that was really the main reason. Sometimes in odd front you can get to the backside but their personnel was really strong. That was one of the best defenses that we’ve faced, if not the best defense we’ve faced.”

On handling his new role as a CEO during practice and games…
“I think it’s like I said, you do something for so long and sometimes reality hits you. It hit me after game one and even game two and game three, I slowly started to let Rhett [Lashlee] and Herb [Hand] be more and more involved. Then it just finally got to a point that this is what is best for our team and in this day and time and in this league I don’t think it’s realistic. That’s what hit me and that’s how we got to this point. I feel very good about moving forward with where we are at. We have the potential to grow a lot on offense and like I’ve said before, these guys have been with me a long time and I have confidence in them. We just have to solve our red zone issues. That’s our number one focus right now. We are going to spend more time in practice. We are going to evaluate the whole deal in the red zone. If we can solve that, I think we can be a pretty good offense.”

On Malzahn’s day to day routine now…
“The biggest difference is I am not going to be in the film room for 20 hours a day. I am going to let them do it now. I will still be on top of things and involved, but it’s going allow me to be there for my players more. I think that’s the biggest thing. It was very refreshing last week from my standpoint and as far as our preparation standpoint — overall, just being more of a head coach, game manager and everything that goes with it.”

Will he still oversee the game plan…
“Yes, I’ll still be on top of things in all three phases.”

What he will do during the game…
“I got down on the other end, if you didn’t see. I can really see the defense in a different way. I can really see how everything is unfolding. At the same time, as far as the special teams and defense, it was really good.”

On adjusting to his decision to let go of playcalling duties…
“I think you just do what’s best for your team. Like I said, it hit me pretty hard after the first game. That’s how we got to that point. Last week was very refreshing during practice and preparation. I wasn’t coaching angry Saturday. I think that’s very big. It was very refreshing for me. That’s what I’m going to do moving forward.”

Was he coaching angry…
“At times. You saw the looks on my face, didn’t you? If that’s normal, then I’m definitely doing the right thing.”

Were the playcalling responsibilities wearing on him…
“I wouldn’t say that. I would say that you do what’s best for your team. Sometimes reality hits you. When you do something for 25 years, it’s hard to change, but the time is right. I’m looking forward to transitioning that way. After one week, I feel very good about that moving forward.”

On coaching angry…
“You know, I probably shouldn’t say that. Maybe negative is a better way to put it. I felt like I was too negative for the first couple of games. That’s probably the best way to say it.”

Did that come from frustration…
“Yeah, living and dying with every play. It was really refreshing for me to be on the opposite end of that. When you don’t live and die by every play, you can look ahead to see the big picture. That’s probably the best way to put that.”

Did he talk about his decision with other coaches…
“You know, I’ve got my group of friends that everybody knows like Chad Morris, Mike Norvell and Hugh Freeze, but it’s kind of a gut feeling. I kind of knew it already. It’s just a gut feeling. You just know. You know what’s best for your team. That’s how I got to this point.”

Are the red zone issues due to playcalling or play design…
“I think it is all of the above. Before the last two years, we were one of the best teams in the country, year-in and year-out. Beginning last year and the start of this year, it’s been the exact opposite. I think it’s just an overall evaluation of all of the above: an evaluation of the scheme, what fits our players, the playcalling, all of the above. That’s our number one concern from the offensive standpoint. That’s the number one thing we have to solve. We’re going to focus on that like crazy. Let’s put it this way, you will see some different things in the red zone moving forward.”

Do Daniel Carlson’s abilities influence the calls in the red zone…
“No, not down there. The only time that comes into play is when you have the ball on the 35- to 40-yard line. He has great range. I would trust him from 60. You may see that moving forward. That’s really the only time. When you get down in the red zone, you want to score touchdowns. I don’t care who your kicker is, you think they’re going to make it when you’re down there. It really doesn’t affect me.”

On the importance of having no negative running plays Saturday…
“I thought that was really key. That goes back to Rhett and Herb and our offensive staff. I thought they did a really good job adjusting. As far as our running backs were concerned, I thought Kerryon Johnson was a full-grown man. He was as physical as I’ve ever seen him. He ran with passion and he broke tackles. They have a lot of guys who can really tackle. I thought it was a really physical game. There were a lot of questions concerning our running back position at the beginning of the year, but I think those question marks have been answered through these four games.”

How are the running backs physically after Saturday…
“It was a very physical game. I thought everyone saw that.”

Will the freshman running backs (Malik Miller and Kam Martin) see more time…
“We feel that they are in good spots. They’ve been mainly getting the number two reps in practice for four weeks. They got some playing time in game two and our confidence in them has been growing. They’re both very talented. If called upon, we expect them to do well.”

On Kyle Davis’ role…
“Kyle is a guy that we are trying to get the ball to. He didn’t go through spring ball, and he broke his foot late in the summer. He only participated in about three practices before our first game. He’s still learning as we go. His role will increase each week. We have to learn how to bring our other young receivers along as well.”

On the luxury of having a kicker like Daniel Carlson…
“He’s a game changer. He’s a weapon. You’ve got confidence to let him kick it 50-plus. There probably aren’t a whole lot of coaches that have that luxury. He’s a guy that is kicking just about every one in the end zone, so the stress of covering kicks — we’ve played three Top 20 teams that all had great returners back there — and he’s kicking the thing in the end zone and hitting people. Don’t try to catch his kicks.”

Has he had another kicker like Carlson…
“Cody Parkey was pretty good, but I don’t think Cody had quite the leg. Daniel, he can kick them from 65, and he can kick them pretty regularly from 65.”

About the oak tree at Toomer’s Corner being set on fire…
“First of all, the lady that caught the guy and had enough courage and guts to go call him out, I think that’s big. And I hope they punish the guy big time. It’s what I hope. It’s unfortunate. It’s really unfortunate.”

On Les Miles…
“Les is a legend. Les is a guy that he’s has helped make the SEC what it is currently. He’s one of those guys. He’s a great coach. He’s a great person. He’s a guy coming into the SEC I looked up to. He always treated me great. You look at our league and we’ve lost some legends the last year with Mark Richt, Steve Spurrier and now Les Miles. It’s unfortunate. He’s one of the best in the business.”

Does Les Miles talks in odd phrases when he talks to him…
“That’s what makes him who he is. That’s why people love him. I hate it.”

Will Les Miles get another head coaching job…
“If he wants to. He’s one of the best coaches in America. He can land somewhere if he wants to. But if he wants to go pro, he can go pro. He’s one of the best there is.”

Have the expectations in the SEC gotten too high…
“Those are two of the best to coach in this league in recent history, so I don’t know.”

Did anyone influence on his decision to turn over the playcalling…
“Zero. Zero. I’m the one that decided it.”

What does Kristi Malzahn think about his decision…
“Uhh – that’s probably about it.”

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