Gus Malzahn Previews Washington

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  • #57050

    The WarBlogler
    Keymaster

    Auburn Coach Gus Malzahn press conference
    Previewing the Washington game

    Opening statement…
    “I know our players and our coaches are glad that game week’s finally here. We’re looking forward to playing one of the best teams in college football. When I look at Washington, defensively, they were a Top 10 defense last year, they’ve got nine starters back and they fly to the football. You can tell they really know their responsibilities; it’s pretty impressive to watch. They’re very good against the run. The secondary statistically is one of the best in the country. 

    When you look at them offensively, their quarterback is a veteran guy, one of the most veteran guys in the country.  They have eight starters back. Their running back has had three straight 1,000-yard seasons; I think he’s set up to break their all-time rushing record in the history of their school. They have a big offensive line. When you look at their special teams, they’ve got the majority of their guys back. They’re very good in all three phases so it will be a big challenge for us and it will be a really good test about where we’re at this season with the first game.

    A couple updates: Richard McBryde is going to be out for the season. He’s a wonderful young man; he had a neck injury and he’ll be out for the season. We hate it for him — he’s been with us a long time and he was set up to have a very good season. Joey Gatewood has a thumb issue; he will not play this week. Cord Sandberg will be our number three (QB). I will say this, Cord’s really progressed and he’s really impressed Coach Lindsey with everything that goes with it. When you look at our depth chart that we released, you’ll see a lot of freshmen, a lot of young guys. There’s a good chance that the majority of those guys, if not all of them, will be on the field in some capacity on Saturday, but overall, like I said, we’re glad that game week’s here and we’re ready to get things going.”

    On depth at linebacker…
    “We feel like we have some depth there. Obviously, we have the three senior starters. We have K.J. Britt, Chandler (Wooten), and some of the freshmen give us some depth.”

    Status of Jamel Dean…
    “He had a finger issue last week, but we expect him to be fine.”

    Experience of Washington’s Myles Gaskin…
    “He should get a lot of attention. He’s set up to break their school record and they have had some great players. He’s a dynamic guy, a veteran and very experienced. That’s one thing when I look at this team — they are very experienced, an experienced team that has had success, that presents some challenges. They won 10 games last year and have the majority of their guys back, so that’s a challenge.”

    On Aidan Marshall winning the starting punting position…
    “He will be the first guy out there. He has improved, no doubt. The fact that he has experience, it was a real close race, we feel very good about him going out there. But at the same time, (Arryn) Siposs has a chance to play, too. We will see where that goes but we have two quality punters coming out of fall camp.”

    On the past two games at Mercedes-Benz Stadium…
    “That was last year. From a coach’s standpoint, every year is different, and this is the first game of the season. Obviously, we like playing there because that’s where they play the SEC Championship and of course that’s our goal every year. So we are looking forward to playing there and playing one of the top teams in the country. I know a lot of people have (Washington) as a popular pick to be in the final four and I think that’s well deserved when you look at them. Yeah, we are glad to be playing in Atlanta again.”

    On Sal Cannella’s improvement…
    “He’s one of the more improved players that we have. The fact that we had the two ACL injuries (with receivers) in the spring really gave him more opportunities and he’s really seized the moment. He’s a guy that Stidham trusts; he’s a real versatile guy, too. He’s not just a receiver; he can do different things. He can put his hand down, he can play H-back, and he can play receiver both inside and outside. He gives the offense a lot of flexibility and he’s improved. Last year was his first rodeo and there’s nothing like experience.”

    Will the offense start the season less slowly with a returning quarterback…
    “I think there’s a lot of different factors with that. Obviously, when you have a returning starting quarterback definitely helps. A lot of it has to do with opponents, too. When you are playing a really solid opponent sometimes your deficiencies can be recognized early. From a coach’s standpoint, there’s always some questions that we have going into the first game — how are people going to respond, especially if they are new people, new starters or freshmen. You feel pretty good about how you think they are going to react, but you don’t know until you go out there. I think there’s a lot of factors that go into that. We are playing one of the better teams in college football and we have our quarterback back. I think the fact the quarterback is back gives us a comfort, and we know what we are getting, at least at that position.”

    Emergence of JaTarvious Whitlow…
    “The thing that stood out about Boobie to me is his mental drive, his toughness, his want-to — the moment is not too big for him. For freshmen, that’s what you worry about, but he plays with an edge, and practices with an edge. He’s one of the guys that has got the respect of his teammates. That has a lot to do with him being in the position of where he’s at.”

    Are you more comfortable with your CEO role with Chip Lindsey being back for his second year…
    “I think if you have continuity, you have experience with the guys back, it does nothing but help you. Chip did an outstanding job last year; everybody can see that. He’s back for the second year and we have the whole offensive staff but the offensive line coach, but Chip was very experienced with J.B. (Grimes) before. J.B. was here in ’13, so it’s a pretty smooth go about it this time, compared to last year.”

    What do you personally do differently during preseason camp…
    “A lot of times I’ll focus on one position on offense. I am a lot more involved in special teams. I’ll slip over to the defensive field every now and then, but it is comfortable. Any time you have your coordinators back, from a head coach’s standpoint, you have a comfortable feeling.”

    How do you feel about depth in the secondary…
    “Those three freshmen you see on the depth chart, all three of those guys have earned that, and there is a good chance you’ll see those guys out there at times. Trying to develop that depth in the secondary — the first guys we put out there have experience, we know what we are getting, but those young guys are in a good spot. They just have to go out there and execute.”

    Expectations at running back this year…
    “We’ve got some talented guys — some inexperienced guys, but they are talented. I think you will see that group grow, and the thing that stood out to me is they all run hard. They are all tough guys, they are all a little bit different, but if you look back at our history, I’ve really feel like when we’ve been at our best at the running back position, we’ve had some different-type guys. I am excited to see how that group moves forward.”

    Who will be the third running back…
    “You’ve got Worm (Shaun Shivers) that I think is going to do a good job. You have Asa Martin that is going to have a chance to be out there. I say those four guys all have a chance to play this first game in some capacity.”

    Will there be a 1000-yard rusher from that group…
    “Well, we’ve had nine in a row. I like our chances.”

    Is there a different feel playing a Top 10 team in the opener…
    “Usually teams are excited no matter who you play week one. It’s not one of those things you have to worry about getting up for. The fact that we are playing a really high-profile game brings a little bit more to the table on both sides from a national standpoint.”

    On playing in Atlanta after two losses there…
    “Of course you hear a lot from the media, and I get that question a lot. And I’m sure fans think about that but really from a player-coach standpoint it’s a new year, and we’re playing one of the best teams and we’re playing right down the road in a place where we play the championship game. So we need to play well — we need to play well to win. But don’t get caught up too much in all of that. Every game is big, but it’s a new year.”

    How do you minimize penalties in practice…
    “You know in opening games, penalties are always something on a coach’s mind, turnovers, and really big plays in the kicking game. You see in a lot of opening games that there are mistakes in the kicking game. From a coach’s standpoint, those three things in fall camp we try to emphasize and overemphasize, and overprepare. Probably the biggest stress from a coach’s standpoint is the new guys — you feel like you know how they’re going to react and you do all you in practice, but there’s nothing like a game, and some guys are inexperienced and play better than they do in practice. But some guys don’t play as well as in practice. It’s all of those opening game things — it’s penalties, turnovers, special teams. They’re all big factors in the first game.”

    On blocking ability of running backs…
    “I know that Coach Horton is not going to put a guy out there that he doesn’t have confidence in, that can’t protect also. So all four guys that we talked about earlier are guys that he has confidence in to do both (running and blocking).”

    Have you focused on coverage units during preseason…
    You know that’s really one of our main focuses in our team — our coverage units. Our kickoff coverage, our punt coverage and our field goal protection. Those three phases have been a team focus since the last game, and I know we’ve improved in all three. We just have to show it on the field.”

    Growth of the offensive line…
    Probably the last week we started getting some consistency with guys where they’re at. They have improved the communication that goes with it. We’re feeling as good as we can right now. The group is playing with confidence. Obviously going against our defensive line every day in practice definitely helps you, too. I don’t think that we’ll be overwhelmed when we play someone. We’ll at least know how it feels like to go against a big-time defensive line.”

    Center position…
    “Kaleb Kim is our starter and Nick (Brahms) is right behind him. I know Nick is pressing him and starting to get healthier. He’s been practicing for almost two weeks and you can’t have enough centers and right now we have two. Kaleb has done a good job and has earned that spot. (Could Brahms play Saturday?) I think that question can be answered better at the end of this week. But I’d like to say that Nick can do it all right now. Like I said, he’s only practiced for about two weeks, but Tucker Brown is also a guy that has reps at center. I know we would feel comfortable with him going in. As far as Mike (Horton) playing center, I don’t know if we are at that point, but Nick Brahms would be our best solution. We could better answer that at the end of the week.”

    Who are the third tackle and third guard…
    “Bailey Sharp and Austin Troxell are two guys we have confidence in. Calvin (Ashley) we have confidence at guard; that’s where he really has settled in. I think he’s getting more and more comfortable at a daily basis at guard.”
     
    The three interior linemen (Harrell, Kim and Horton) have practiced together often…
    “Those are veteran guys. They’ve been around a long time. I know Coach Grimes is leaning on Marquel and Horton for leadership up front. Both of those guys have been very consistent, very solid. You know what you’re getting with those guys. They’ve really stepped up in a leadership role for Coach Grimes too.”

    Importance of offensive line play to Stidham’s performance…
    “There’s no doubt. You looked at our sack total from last year, it’s one of the most that we’ve had since I’ve been at Auburn and that’s been a focus — protecting our quarterback, not the negative plays, but the sacks. Of course that’s going to be a challenge against this group, with a very talented front seven with one of the best secondaries out there. We’ll have to do a good job of protecting him. I think that will be a big key in the game.”

    What has Nick Coe done to separate himself…
    “He’s been consistent. He’s really stepped up and that was a big factor.

    How comfortable are you with Anders Carlson…
    He won the job. He’s very talented, I think everybody knows that. We have confidence in him and he just needs to go out there and do it in a game. He’s done it in practice. He’s got a big leg, very similar to Daniel. He’s done a great job on the kickoffs and field goals. We have a lot of confidence in him and he’s got a big leg so don’t be surprised if we give him some chances from far out.”

    Is this one of your most talented defenses…
    “Right now, it’s one of them. We’ve got a lot of guys back that had successful defensive seasons and we’ve got a chance to be just as good or better. All of that is yet to be seen — we’ve got to transfer that over to games. But I like our defensive makeup and our defensive staff is all back; Coach Woodson came on board to add to that. The continuity of the players knowing the coaches and the coaches knowing the players — I think that goes a long way.”

    On Marlon Davidson…
    This will be his third year starting; he started as a true freshman and he has a lot of experience. I think the biggest difference now from last year is that he’s healthy. He was not healthy at this time last year and I think it kind of hurt him throughout the year. He didn’t ever get fully 100 percent. I think he’s healthy. He’s really playing good football now and I think he’s in a good spot.”

    Will Jamel Dean wear a cast…
    “We’ll see when it gets closer to the game.”

    Connections between the coaching staffs…
    “We’re familiar with them, they’re familiar with us. That’s part of it. We’ve got a lot of respect for their head coach. He’s one of the good guys in our business. He’s one of the guys that a lot of coaches look up to. He does everything first class.”

    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.

  • #57093
    McFU
    McFU
    Member

    Nice job putting this in print.  It is hard to hear the questions in these interviews so it is much appreciated that you have them listed.

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