Gus Malzahn previews Auburn spring practice

AUBURN, Al – Auburn head football coach Gus Malzahn previews what’s ahead for the Tigers as they begin their spring practice schedule.

 

Auburn Coach Gus Malzahn press conference

Opening statement…“We’re excited to start spring practice today. Our team is in a great spot. We had some very good mat drills and we had some leaders step up. I know they are excited to be out there with their coaches. We have three goals going into spring; they are really pretty simple. Our number one goal is that our players have a great understanding of the base offense and defense. We are going very simple, like we have been in the past. We just want to make sure that the players know the proper techniques, alignments, assignments and everything that goes with that, so once we are done with spring and into summer, we can actually improve. Our second goal is to identify the strengths in all three phases. After spring ball, we will identify those things and get a plan to build around those strengths as far as the fall goes. Our last goal is really simple and it’s that each player improves. At the end of spring, I am going to get with each position coach and ask about each one of their guys, ‘Did they improve from day one to day fifteen?’

“A few player updates: Deon Mix is going to graduate and he is going to be a fifth-year transfer somewhere. Cameron Toney is also graduating. He doesn’t know if he will go that avenue or not. I would say this about both of those young men — they were part of my first signing class as a head coach. They are wonderful young men and they have done a great job in their time here at Auburn. They have great families and they are going to be successful in life. We are going to miss both of those guys. Markell Boston is no longer with our team. Darius Slayton had hernia surgery and he will be back after spring break for spring practice. Kyle Davis is taking care of some personal business and we expect him back with the team by spring break. Sean White is still recovering from his broken arm. K.J. Britt will also be out for spring; he had a procedure done on his leg. Brodarious Hamm and Tashawn Manning have both been cleared to participate in spring practice. I am excited to get both of those guys out there. They will be limited, we will just see how things go with that. We have also hired two new GAs. Cole Weeks will be working with our offense and Charles Moore will be working with our defense. We also hired a new analyst in Brian Blackmon. I am very excited about Brian. I think he will be an excellent college coach.

“Overall, I know that Chip (Lindsey) is excited to get out there with his offensive players to show what they can do. I know Kevin (Steele) is excited to get out there with his defensive guys. They have a year under their belt with his system, so I know they are a lot farther ahead. I am just really excited that we are going to get out there and have day one today.”

Will Sean White be out the entire spring…“We are going to see. He has done a few things with the trainers. He has tried to throw, but we are going to make sure we are smart. The thing about Sean is that we have a lot of information on him and he’s a veteran guy, so we are going to make sure he’s healthy before we get rolling. He will stay right there with Chip to make sure he doesn’t miss anything and he will be in all of the meetings.”

How will the quarterbacks divide reps…“Starting out, there are five quarterbacks. That is going to be the challenge early on, to make sure to give all of those guys reps so that Chip can properly evaluate those guys. I know that today we have 20 minutes of seven-on-seven and 10 minutes of one-on-one and that’s the first day. It will give us a chance to evaluate those guys. Obviously, you can’t go through spring with five quarterbacks; you have to narrow things down and I know that is part of his plan. Starting out, a lot of those guys will get an opportunity, which I think is a good thing. I know he is excited to work with all the guys.”

What will Jarrett Stidham do in spring…“I think he is like everyone else. We want him to improve and get a good understanding of the offense and to evaluate him, but that goes for everyone out there. He just happens to be a new quarterback. With all the guys, we want to see what they can do and get a good understanding of them and get a good understanding of the offense and the defense.”

Will John Franklin III work exclusively at quarterback… “He’s going to start out at quarterback, and he’ll get reps today and tomorrow at quarterback along with the other four guys, and then Sean (White) will just kind of be watching and making sure that he doesn’t get behind with everything. And Chip, in time, will narrow it down. He doesn’t really have a timetable right now, but, obviously, he knows that you can’t go through spring with five quarterbacks, so in the time that he feels comfortable and confident, that’s when he’ll narrow things down.”

Could Franklin change positions… “John is open to helping the team with whatever, but we just felt strong that he should start out and try to win the job at quarterback, and so that’s what we’ll do.”

Will you wait until August to name a starting quarterback with White injured… “Obviously, we want to make sure that (at) all positions we put the best player out there, so there’s no timetable as far as naming really any position or quarterback. But we are sensitive to the fact that Sean is going to have a hard time going through spring, so we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”

Could you name a starting quarterback after spring… ”I doubt that very seriously, but at the same time, Chip will have a recommendation, and we’ll go from there.”

On the plans at right tackle and left guard… “First of all, Braden Smith is going to get some work at tackle. That’s probably where it needs to start. He’ll be out there at right tackle. The great thing about Braden is he’s a veteran guy. He can play anywhere, but he’ll start out at right tackle. I know Mike Horton, obviously, played right guard. Marquel Harrell will play left guard. Of course, we’ve got Tyler Carr that can play either guard, also. Darius James, obviously, is the returning starter at left tackle, and I think he’s in a good spot. He’s had a very good off-season. He’s got his body really looking good. Prince Tega (Wanogho) and Prince (Micheal) Sammons, obviously, at tackle — we’ve got a lot of different options. I know Coach (Herb) Hand is going to look at a lot of different things, especially the first two weeks before we get to spring break, and then we’ll kind of start narrowing things down. But, at the same time, we’re wanting guys to compete.

Will Austin Golson remain at center… “Yes.”

What players have stepped up as leaders… “Tray Matthews is one of our team leaders. He’s a guy that really has emerged. Chandler Cox is one of our team leaders that has really emerged. And I always look at team leaders, not just on their side of the ball, but guys who have the ability to affect the whole team. Daniel Carlson is also one of those guys. I know that’s unusual for a kicker to be a team leader, but he’s not your average kicker and I think everybody in this room already knows that. I really feel good about where we’re at going into spring. Once you get to spring and you put the pads on specifically, usually a couple of other guys can step up from a team leader standpoint. It doesn’t always have to be an older guy. Sometimes, it’s younger guys, and we’ve got some younger guys that have performed very well on the field that have the ability to take that next step.”

Replacing the punter… “Punting, obviously, Ian Shannon has got a chance to win that job, and I think he’s in a really good spot mentally. He got a chance really to sit back last year and gain experience. He got a couple of reps, so that’ll be a big factor that if he can wrap that job up in the spring. Coach Horton is another guy that I’m excited for; I think he’s going to do a great job with our special teams. Obviously, he’s been here for four years and been a big part of the special teams, and I think he’ll do an excellent job leading that group.”

On Markell Boston no longer being on the team … “Really, it was me. He didn’t meet our standards, so he’s no longer with us because of that.”

Have he and Chip Lindsey discussed their game plan…“We talked about that before he was hired. He’s very familiar with what we’ve been successful with. He’s just going to add some bells, whistles and flair to what we’re doing. I really expect our offense to start taking on his personality. At the same time, he knows we have to run the football effectively. We’re going to keep what we’ve done very well, and he’s going to add to it. He’s a quarterback developer. Our goal is to be more balanced. We needed that over the last two years. We’ll work very hard in the spring to do that.”

Does that mean changes in the passing game…“That’s the plan. We have to be more balanced. We’re going to do that. We’re in a good spot to do that. We have young receivers. Most of the receivers that played last year were freshmen or redshirt freshmen; they have a year under their belts, so we’re really hoping to take that next step in the spring in the passing game. We’ve had one of the better running games in our league. Obviously, we want to keep our strengths.”

On the tight end position…“Chip has a lot of experience emphasizing that position by throwing to tight ends. Larry (Porter) is a football coach; he can coach any position. He’s going to do a great job with that group. He’s also in charge of our H-backs. I’m really looking forward to watching that position develop during the spring. We have a good plan to get those guys more involved.”

On the wide receiver group…“We have quite a bit of depth. If you looked last year at this time, we didn’t have a lot of wide receiver bodies. Most of the guys who played were true freshmen coming in. We do have more depth. We also have the ability to use our tight ends split out a little bit. I know Chip is planning on doing that. We feel really good about our receiver depth. I think we have plenty of them to develop in the spring.”

On the injury status of the secondary…“(Jeremiah) Dinson has been cleared.  Jayvaughn (Myers) and (Jamel) Dean will not go through the spring. I’m excited about Dinson. He obviously went through a very tough injury. Everybody saw that. He is an outstanding young man. He’s a tough guy. He’s one of those savvy guys. He played well as a true freshman. I’m very excited to watch him this spring. I’m just glad he’s back out there in the middle of everything.”

Is there is a timetable for Myers and Dean…“It’ll be after spring. We feel like most of these guys will be ready to go full speed by summer workouts. That’s the plan.”

Status of Paul James III and Jaunta’vius Johnson…“Paul James III will be back. Jaunta’vius will be out for the spring also. We expect him to be ready to go in June. We’re excited to watch Paul do his thing.”

On Kyle Davis’ status…“He should be back in the next week or two. He’s a part of the team. He’s taking care of some personal business.”

On Stephen Davis Jr.’s status…“Stephen Davis Jr. is no longer with us.”

How quickly will Jarrett Stidham be involved…“Chip is going to throw him in there. He’s going to throw all five of them in there. Like I said, we have enough things early, especially the first two days, to be able to evaluate them. He gets a chance to evaluate them throwing the football, making reads and communicating. I’d say it’s a little bit more of an accelerated pace to evaluate the quarterbacks. After this first week, the goal is for Chip to have a good idea of at least their talent and where they are from an experience or mental standpoint. He should be able to make some decisions and give reps to a handful of guys out of five. That’s by design. At the same time, he’s coming into this thing new. He wants to give everybody a chance to compete and win jobs. That’s his approach.”

On Scott Fountain’s status…“Coach Fountain is looking for an on-field job somewhere. If he doesn’t get one, he’ll have an analyst role with us.”

On Woody Barrett’s adjustment in year two…“You can see Woody’s body starting to develop. He’s had a good off-season up to this point. I know he’s excited. Any time you are a highly recruited guy and you redshirt, it takes a little bit to get back in the flow. He knows he’s competing now. You can see a difference in him. He specifically did a good job in bowl prep when we scrimmaged. I know he’s excited. He’s worked really hard up to this point. I know Chip is ready to see what he can do too.”

On staff vacancies…“Right now, like I said, I’m waiting on Scott. I do have one analyst position open. I don’t know when I’m going to fill it, I don’t know if I’m going to fill it, but we feel good about the guys we’ve got. We’ve had two on each side of the ball and we’ve had one specialist for a total of five.”

On previous analysts…“Rob (Coleman) is the athletic director at Cabot High School in Arkansas. It’s where he’s from, and it’s a really good job. Jonny (Brewer) is with Rhett (Lashlee) up in Connecticut, very excited for him, and Jeff (Norrid) is trying to get into the NFL, which has been one of his goals for a long time. All three of those guys were excellent workers. They’re very smart football coaches and very good people. I really appreciate their time with us.”

On delegating more…“Like I said before, I’ve got a lot of confidence in Chip, and I’ve obviously got a lot of confidence in Kevin. I’m looking forward to being the head coach and I think we’re in a good spot staff-wise. I think we’re in a good spot player-wise so I’m just really looking forward to getting out there in the spring and watching everybody do their job.”

On meeting with other coaching staffs to trade ideas…“Usually it’s by group, by an offense or a defense or special teams. Sometimes it’s by position coach, but it’s always trying to better yourself.”

On his circle of influence…“I’ve got my own little group that a lot of times we share ideas with, but I’ll leave that up to Kevin and leave that up to Chip and leave that up to Tim. If they would like to visit with certain staffs, I’m open to that. Then I’ll tell you when that happens.”

On using green jerseys in winter workouts…“We’ve done that every year, but I don’t think they’ve always filmed everything, so that may just be the marketing department. We’ve continued to go with the green jerseys.”

On position changes on defense…“I think everything is pretty much intact with what you would expect. I do know there are some young guys there that will probably mix and match, maybe some corner with safety or something like that, but the older guys are pretty much set. Of course, that’s a great thing. We’ve got a defense coming back that has a lot of guys back with a lot of experience who were very successful and you know, just building a format. In our league, there’s nothing like experience, especially quality experience. There’s been success, and when you look at our team, the thing I’m excited about is we’ve got a lot of experience back really in all three phases. We’ve got some successful experience too, so that’s what’s exciting to me.”

On Byron Cowart moving to interior line…“He did a little of both. He’s still going to have the ability to do both. He’s a guy I really think is looking forward to spring. He’s got a little different mindset than he’s had before. I’m really looking forward to watching him progress through spring.”

On Braden Smith playing some right tackle…“Well, Braden has played at tackle some in his career. I think obviously he’s one of the best linemen overall in our league in just how versatile he his. He’ll help our team and it’ll also help him at the next level, too.”

COURTESY AUBURN SPORTS INFORMATION

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