Gus Malzhan previews Auburn’s matchup with Texas A&M

AUBURN, AL. – Auburn head football coach Gus Malzahn previews the Tigers’ game against Texas A&M.

Opening Statement …

“We have a big game this week against a top-20 team. Offensively, Texas A&M is a very talented group, specifically the wide receiver position. Their quarterback is a veteran guy that has played well in some big games. He is very good with the zone read and throwing the ball as well. Texas A&M’s running game is very sufficient also.”

“Defensively, we have gone up against John Chavis, their defensive coordinator, a lot in the past. We are very familiar with each other and he is one of the best in the country. You can tell the difference between this year and last year that he has made. They are starting to click. They are very aggressive, they can really run and they can be very disruptive up front. As a group, their defensive ends have to be some of the best in the country. Number 15, Myles Garrett is a special player. I haven’t seen many players like him, with his skill set in our league. He is definitely an impact player that we are going to have to be ready for.”

“As far as our team, we very happy to have a victory Saturday and I am very happy with the way we played as a team. I think we have some things we can build upon and we have to continue to improve. We have got to play better than we played last Saturday to win this game. It’s a big game. We are playing at home and I am very excited about that and I am also looking forward to watching our guys play.”

On the confidence in the tackles handling Texas A&M’s defensive line …

“Being able to protect our quarterback is going to be a big factor in the game. We are going to have to do some things to help. We will see how the game goes.”

On the offensive tackles progression from week one to week two …

“They progressed very well. With the offensive line as a whole, the improvement from game one to game two is going two is usually your biggest improvement with an inexperienced group. I really felt like they did. Their communication was better, they worked better together and that group will have to continue to improve each week to jell.”

On Darius James performance…

“I think he’s done a solid job. We did something similar with Robert Leff last year. When the number two offensive line got in last week, I thought they executed at a very high level. Sometimes, when you go with the number two offensive line and they’re getting their first work, it gets a little sloppy. One of the things that really stood out to me last Saturday, with all of the guys that got a chance to play, was the execution level of our number two offensive line.”

On Prince Tega Wanogho’s development…

“He has a chance to be a really good player. It was good for him to get out there, and get some work. He did some very good things. He just needs experience.”

On Ryan Davis’ extensive playing time…

“Ryan is one of our better practice players. I said that about Darius Slayton, but Ryan has really earned everything he’s gotten. He’s a dirty work guy. He goes full speed in everything he does. It’s just one of those things. He’s going to get more and more comfortable playing the wide receiver position. He played quarterback in high school. We feel like he will have a chance to be a really good receiver after everything is all said and done.”

On Jason Smith’s lack of playing time…

“Kodi (Burns) has this standpoint of ‘you earn what you get.’ Jason is continuing to work hard. I think you could see Jason’s role grow more and more as the season goes on.”

On freshman running backs getting experience against Arkansas State…

“I think it’s very important. Those are two guys that we’ll need to count on later in the season. It’s not only important that they get in there with number two offensive line, but I think both of them got reps with the number one offensive line also. That’s kind of rare, with the way we’ve done things in the past. Giving those guys some confidence and experience will do nothing but help us later on. We’ll need both of those guys before the season is out.”

On the downward trend of redshirting players…

“I think it’s the way you recruit. Guys want to play earlier. A lot of guys, especially if you have a good recruiting class, have a chance to come out in three years. I think that’s been what’s happened with us. I’m not sure about everybody else around the country. We played 10 true freshmen, and 18 freshmen altogether the other night. We’re still relatively young in some areas. That’s encouraging, as far as moving forward.”

On this week’s significance in gaining momentum …

“I think it’s a big game. It’s our first SEC game. Anytime you play within your league, it’s a huge game. We have to take it one game at a time. That’s been our focus. Last week we thought about Arkansas State, we didn’t think about A&M and we didn’t talk about A&M. This week is the same deal. The difference is, we’re going to the SEC. Since it is SEC play, we need to raise our level. Our coaches and players understand that.”

On this game’s impact on the rest of the season …

“We have played some extremely close games with them before. We’ve had some very good games. I really think it is the first SEC game, it is the opener. I really think that’s big enough within itself. That’s our mindset right now.”

On how John Chavis has changed over the past two years …

“He’s one of the best in our league, probably one of the best defensive guys to come in the league. Last year was his first year and you could see that he was trying to get it how he wanted it. Now, this year you can tell a difference. They have improved and they will continue to improve.”

On Trevor Knight and his ability to run out of the pocket …

“Like you said, he can run. When a quarterback can run that changes thing. Like I said earlier, he’s a veteran guy. He’s played in some big games. He’s done a good job running so far. He’s done a good job throwing to the receivers who are extremely talented. He’s also carried the football, specifically off the zone read. He’s made some plays with his feet. He can straight drop back pass if it’s not open and he’s been very good at that. That is definitely something that will concern you.

On Texas A&M’s rush defense …

“It’s the defense coordinator’s second year and I think you can tell the difference that he’s been there. The guys understand what he wants. They also have a lot of guys returning, that definitely helps.

On Sean’s ability to run and the effect that has on his and the offense’s confidence …

“I thought having rushing yards was a big factor. We talked about that in the offseason. We are at our best when our quarterback is a running threat. I thought the fact that he had 60 yards rushing was very good. That’ll help us moving forward. That has to be our mindset. I’m not saying he’ll rush for 60 yards every game but that is what has to happen. He’s definitely confident. Moving forward I know his teammates are confident in him too.”

On regretting not running Kamryn Pettway in last week’s game …

There are a few things we wish we would’ve done different the first game, but it is what it is. The fact that we have two guys moving forward makes us feel good. They are a little bit different, which I think is always good, especially from a defensive standpoint.”

On bringing back plays from last year that were successful against Texas A&M …

“Every year is different. New players and player improvement can change things. From a coach’s standpoint, you have to come up with a plan that you feel like is best for that year and that group. That’s probably more important than anything else.”

On looking at old scouting reports from coaches…

“I think you should lean on everything with the history and when you have history with people, but each team is different. A lot of times, the same plays don’t work as well because of their personnel or your personnel. Everything is different, but you do lean on all the information you can gather to give your team the best chance of putting a plan together for them to be successful.”

On Sean White’s preparation from last year to this year…

“I think he was pretty banged up that week. If I remember right, I don’t think he was able to practice, but he was in the meetings and everything that went with the preparation. If I remember right, we were hoping he would be available late in the week. I think we warmed him up in warm ups and I don’t think he could move. He was part of the game plan and knew what we were doing.”

On Sean White’s judgment when sliding after a run…

“There is a fine line. He’s a tough guy and you have to know when to get down and when to try to get the extra yards. That comes with experience, but we have definitely talked about the different things and different plays what we expect moving forward. He went out there and was trying to block one time and was flying around. There’s a time to do that and there’s a time to use better judgment. That is probably the one that stood out to me.”

On how the home team struggling in the series since 2012…

“I just think that’s the way it happens. I wouldn’t put too much thought into that.”

On Jalen Harris …

“Jalen is a guy that has really come along and improved. He had a good spring. He has got off to a good start when he has played. We have a lot of confidence in him. We recruited him specifically for this position and this role. We feel good about him.”

On throwing the ball to Harris more along the season…

“It’s possible. I am not going to say that. We are going to throw him the ball a lot this week… (laughs jokingly). Maybe.”

On Kevin Steele and John Chavis’ friendship…

“You have to separate because you have a job to do. You have to separate that. Once the professional side is after the week, you get back to being friends or buddies or whatever. That’s part of it and that happens at all levels. You have a job to do and I got a job to do and we will see who wins.”

On making it tougher to compete when there is a friendship between coaches…

“You have to separate it. That is the best way to put it. You have to separate it and you have to be professional. Put the personal feelings aside and after the game you shake hands and it’s over. You have a job to do.”

On Myles Garrett and Daeshon Hall’s ability to get around the edges and their aggressiveness…

“That’s part of it. You have to keep them off balance. When they know it is a pass especially #15 (Myles Garrett), and #10 (Daeshon Hall) is very good within his own right too, but when #15 knows it is a pass it is an extreme challenge.”

On looking at last year’s tape when Shon Coleman was very effective against Myles Garrett…

“You try to use things in the past, but every year is different. Shon is in the NFL right now.”

On using trick plays vs. Arkansas State …

“Yeah, who asked me that? Thanks for blowing it. You do your homework all week and you’re trying to score points. That’s all that really went into it. Not just them, if you do stuff like that, you give the rest of the year something that they’ve got to work on. We’ve got a few more. We’ll just strategically use things when they’re available.”

On how much it helps him as a play caller seeing guys execute things like they did vs. Arkansas State …

“I think it helps a lot. I think I said this last week, we’re still learning about a lot of our guys. If you look out there, we put some true freshmen out there at skill positions at times and just let them play. In the past, we may have just put them in for a play or two, but we let them play. So just learning about them giving them the experience that they need to improve, so that was kind of our mindset last week that we are going to play these young guys and let them play. Hopefully, the comfort level for them to play every play in and out and be able to execute at high level, but as far as an execution standpoint, that’s kind of what we talked about in the offseason. We’ve always prided ourselves in executing at a high level, and the frustrating thing last year and really the first game this year we didn’t execute at a high level, but that’s our goal. And like I said, offensively, we’re still a work in progress. We’ve got to keep improving. We’re starting to kind of put the pieces of the puzzle, but we’re still learning about our guys. Hopefully, in a short period of time, we’ll have everything that we are going to do moving forward.”

On how close Jeremiah Dinson is to coming back …

“I’m hoping we get him back before the end of the year. That’s my hope. He’s working extremely hard, he’s a great kid, and he’s a very talented young man, so hopefully we’ll get him back, but his status right now is uncertain.”

On true freshmen playing on the defensive line in the SEC …

“I think the special ones have a chance to. If you look in the past, there have been some true freshman defensive linemen in our league, and they earned it, and they were ready, and I think the same thing can be said for those two that you just said. Those guys were ready to play. They need to keep improving, but I think they will. Carl (Lawson) and Montravius (Adams) both played as true freshmen. By the middle of the year, they started feeling comfortable.”

On the Texas A&M wide receiver corps potentially being the best in the country …

“I think they’re in the conversation. Looks to me like they’ve got a lot of guys that are going to play at the next level.”

On any talk of Jeremy Johnson changing positions …

“No, not at this point. He’s going to keep practicing and keep trying to improve and do what he can to help our team.”

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