Gene Chizik's BCS Press Conference

Auburn head football coach Gene Chizik takes questions on a variety of subjects.

Scottsdale, Ariz.--Comments from Auburn head coach Gene Chizik's BCS Championship Press Conference are featured:

Well, obviously it's a blessing to be here. And our football team has had a great few first days here. And we've had some really good practices.

We understand what's in front of us. We understand the tall order of this game and what it's going to take to be able to win against a great Oregon team. And we are continuing to prepare. We've got a couple more days which we need. We need every minute we can get.

But really proud of our football team. Really proud of our players and the way they focused and done the things they've needed to do to win the game. So it will be a great game. I think it will be a game of the ages. I have been blessed to be a part of another national championship game that was exciting and fun and all those things for fans. I think this one will be very similar in nature. And it will be a great game. We are looking forward to playing on the 10th. And we'll be ready to go.

Having been in a championship game, are there things that your players are going to run into just before the game, maybe emotionally, whatever, that they don't yet know that they are going to have to deal with?

You know, I think every player is different. There is emotions that--it's an emotional roller coaster. It really is for the whole month. I mean, it really is, with knowing the game is so far away and then knowing the game is getting closer, as many practices as you have in between. But when it comes closer to game time, they'll all be focused and ready to go. Their emotions will all be different. Everybody handles it differently. But they'll be ready to play.

A lot has been made about Cam Newton being very much like Vince Young. Do you think he has the ability to be able to take over a national championship game the way Vince did?

Well, I think that on offense, there's ten other players out there. And let's make no mistake about it: One guy can't do it himself, and one guy hasn't done it himself. Cam has been surrounded by ten other very good football players on the offense that have given him the chance to make those plays.

Obviously he is extremely skilled and athletic and he can make those plays. And he can do those--he can do those things that some people will go "wow." There's no question about that. But can he take a game into his own hands and does he want to have the ball in his hands when the game is on the line? Yes. There's no question about it. And there's nobody I rather have than to have Cam as the guy that has it on when the game is on the line. But he's capable--he is very capable of playing well in these big games. And we know that because we've seen him week in and week out.

Can you talk about your offensive line. I mean, obviously they've been excellent for you all season. How they've run, did you expect them to be this good?

I felt like they had an opportunity to be good. I felt like there was a lot of experience going into the season and I feel like--I felt like there are better days that were ahead of them for sure.

I feel like from about ball game No. 3 on we really challenged them. We didn't feel like they were playing up to the potential that they had, and we challenged them. And the great thing about our team and our guys, particularly our offensive line, is they respond. They've responded well. And I think their confidence has been week by week lifted by the way they've played. So really proud of those guys, and I think they've come a long way.

A lot of games are won and lost on special teams. Your thoughts on Oregon's punt return team and Cliff Harris and what he does?

Phenomenal punt return team. You know, he's one of those--he's one of those guys that has a knack.

You know, great punt returners, obviously they got guys blocking for them and they got guys that, you know, do the dirty work, so to speak. But when he gets the ball in his hands, he can make one guy miss and then he's gone. And he is as good as I've seen. But everybody around him makes his job easier because, I'm going to tell you, they battle you all the way down the field. Their hold-up returns right now, they will battle all the way down the field. They will give him a crack that he can hit, and when he sees it, he will hit it and it is hard to catch him.

What can you guys do? He has taken four back to the house. What can you do?

We have been really good on our punt coverage. We have kind of a different--we have a unique punt coverage-type unit that allows our speed to be able to get down the field and cover a little bit better than your conventional units do. We have a lot of running backs and wipeouts and skilled people on those units because of the way we protect it. So we are not going to change anything. We've worked really, really hard on staying in our lanes and trying to squeeze the lanes and squeeze the ball, which you have to do against those guys. But the main thing we are going to have to do is beat the guys that keep us from going down the field, which they are extremely good at.

What do you make of Oregon's offensive play call signs? Have you ever seen those?

I have.

Do you know about that?

We have quit trying to figure those out. We are not sure what they mean. We just know they are really good at what they do. But everybody has got kind of a unique system. We have a unique system offensively ourselves. You know, when you run these type of offenses, they over the years have gotten extremely creative on how they proceed.

I know you have some characters on your team. Is there anybody who kind of makes you go, "I got to keep a little bit more in check," some of the guys who are a little bit more outrageous, kind of make you cringe sometimes? Like, "oh, we got to reel this guy in a little bit?"

We got a few of those. The guys on our team, our team has got a great--you know, the chemistry of our team is so good because we do have so many personalities, some really strong ones. And it is a great mixture of guys because they've all got good hearts. And they can get a little out there sometimes. They can get a little outrageous. But for the most part, they all do well.


Well, I could probably start on offense and start with our whole offensive line. They're kind of behind the scenes doing all the tricks. You got Zac Etheridge who likes to play tricks on the coaches.

Like what kind?

Like little videos he will pop up through our video coordinator that we didn't know were going to happen.You got, of course--Cam's personality is just--he lights up the room when he walks in. He loves to talk. And he loves to do his thing, which is great. Nick Fairley, same. Nick is a guy that just loves to have a good time. He is always having a good time out at practice. He is working hard, but he is going to have a good time.

And, again, when I think you have a really good football team, you usually have unique individuals within your whole team that definitely create day in and day out a whole different picture.

Is there anybody who comes to work every day kind of sour, like mad at the world? You know, what I'm saying?

No, we really don't. Ours are really the opposite. We got to keep them in check. They are happy guys. They enjoy what they're doing. They enjoy playing football at Auburn. The great thing about our team, if you really watch our team close, they love to have fun and they love to do--they love to kind of be on the edge out there.

But when it's time to start playing football, they lock in and it is time to go and they know how to switch it on when it is time to go to work and practice and get the work done that they need to do and there is no question. In the weight room, too. They know when it's time, it's time.

Do you ever pull any guys, in particular, aside and tell them, hey, we have to send this message to the team today?

This is the message that I want you guys--the tone I want you guys to set? I don't think there is any question. I think you always have those guys on your team. And without going into any details of who they are, I can start with my seniors who have been around, seen a lot, done a lot. And they have done a great job this year with our football team.

And I feel that there are several guys that I can pull up and say: Look, this is what we got to get down now. I don't like the focus of this guy. You need to help me with this guy. You need to get with this guy. And they say, I got him, Coach, I got him. So it is always good to have those guys.

What about a guy who gets it done every day but is kind of the whipping boy, you know what I mean? You have to get on him but he takes it in stride and he's just a guy who gets it done. Is there anybody like that on your team?

No, not really. We don't really have any whipping boys (smiling). If you put it like that, we got the guys that get it done every day, the Zach Claytons of the world. We don't have to say a word to him. He just goes out and works every day. Very unheralded guy.

We got the same guys on offense, you know what I mean? Darvin Adams goes out there and gets it done every day. I mean, I could go throughout the team. Onterio McCalebb, you have got to say "whoa" with him; you don't have to say "sic 'em." He will run all day out there until his legs fall off. You got to tell him back off on him and say we need to slow you down, you need to slow down, because he can run fast and he can run long.

So we've got our different guys that we know we got to watch. And Terrell Zachery goes to work every day. I mean, just--you got to pull them back. They are never going to say anything to you. They are just going to keep going until they can't go anymore. We have to do a good job with our guys because we got a lot of guys like that, that we really got to pull back on.

Can you talk about this being the hottest ticket ever for BCS and what they say -- it is maybe one of the hottest tickets, top five in the world in sporting events and everyone maybe that graduated Auburn since '57 wants a ticket?

I know it is a hot ticket. I don't know exactly when you alk about "hot" where it ranks in terms of the hottest. I know it costs a lot of money to get here and get one of these tickets, supposedly, now. But to me it starts with a great testament to college football. I mean, if you look around at this, I mean, is it not obvious to everybody the enormity of college football and what it's become?

I'm not really sure why this game really has been kind of tagged as the hottest ticket maybe ever or whatnot, I'm glad it is, because you know what? These guys who work so hard all year, they deserve a lot of recognition. And they get it. This is a once-in-a-lifetime deal. You never know when you are going to come back. But the bottom line is that we're excited to be here and I hope the ticket keeps getting hotter.

A lot of people are expecting a high-scoring game. Do you?

I know y'all want me to say yeah, I do, I expect a high--scoring game. I don't know what to expect. I really don't. Going into these games, you know what?

I will take a 10-9, 8-7, 15-14, 65-64. Don't care as long as Auburn wins by one, you know? There's obviously a lot of ado made about the offenses, and rightly so. But at the end of the day in my opinion, it is going to come down to defensively who ends up executing the best. That's the bottom line.

Because everyone is talking about those offenses, is there a level of disrespect or extra motivation there for your defensive guys?

I don't think it is disrespect. I think that--I have been into all those games where you say what you want to say every time you turn on the T.V., okay? Our players are going to be seeing whatever they see.

They are going to be listening to whatever they are going to listen to. They are going to get on the Internet and read whatever they are going to read. At some point you get tired of hearing about it. Whatever it is, whatever the case may be. So I don't think it is a matter of disrespect.

I think it is a matter of people are talking about the offenses and, again, rightly so. But the bottom line is the defenses right now are going to have to come through to win the game.

I talked to a lot of your coaches and players, a lot of mixed, differing opinions among them about the BCS, especially considering the fact that you were involved in the team that was so-called left out. What do you think?

I think, again, arguably over time, I think that more times than not the BCS has gotten it right. I mean, yes, I was a part of 2004 team that we felt like at that time we certainly deserved to be in the game, but it didn't work out. And there is going to be that time when maybe it wasn't exactly what that particular group of people thought should happen.

But, for the most part, if you go back and look through the history of it, it is usually pretty close to being the right thing. So, hey, is there a perfect scenario out there that's better than that? I don't know. There is a lot of speculation on how and why and playoffs and how it's going to work and how many games are we going to play and how are we going to do this. Till they come up with one that makes sense for everybody, then everybody is still going to have an opinion, and that's okay. Right now I'm playing for the national championship, so I'm good with it.

Can you talk about the day you chose your offensive coordinator, Gus Malzahn?

When I took this job, I felt like obviously one of the most important hires is your coordinators. And Gus was my first choice. Did not know Gus, wanted to get to know him and wanted to make sure he was the right guy that's going to lead our young guys first. I knew he could coach football.

And but it is very important for me to hire coaches that I know will be good around these young guys. I want to know if guys will be good for coaching my son if my son were ever to play. And Gus is a phenomenal man. And he is obviously very good at his craft and what he does. And he has been everything that we hoped he would be. And he is a great football coach so I'm just blessed to have him on our staff. He's got a great relationship with all the kids, our coaching staff. And our relationship is second to none. And he is a huge part of it.

The players talk about that he is able to strike that balance between being intense but also being mild mannered. Can you talk about that personality?

All coaches are unique in their own way. They are all unique in their own way. And he's got that way about him. He is very focused. He is one of those guys that probably can't do two things at once. But he can do the one thing that he's got in his mind the right way. And very focused guy. But he gets his points across. He doesn't have to be a scream at you, cuss at you. That's not what he does, you know what I mean? That's not him. But the way he does it is unique to him. The players love him because he's different. But they all have a great deal of respect for him because of his knowledge of the game and the position he puts our offensive unit in to win. They respect that.

You said that at the end of a game you wouldn't want the ball in anyone's hands but Cam. How does he compare to Vince Young at this point getting ready for the national title game?

Very similar. Very similar type of players. Two very competitive guys. Two guys that obviously touch the ball every snap. So they touch the ball every snap and they have the ability to have their hands on the ball in the last play of the game, one way or the other. I tell you what, we got a lot of great players on our football team. But if I got to put that ball in one guy's hands to win the game, that's where we go.

Back to the tickets, have you been getting killed for requests for tickets? I mean, just keep coming out of the woodwork? Do you want one, Mike? (Laughter).

We have. We have. It's been a good thing. You get a lot of brand-new good best friends. You get a lot of new best friends. But we have. The requests have been off the chart. And I know there's thousands of Auburn fans coming out here right now without tickets in hopes to get one. So that just kind of shows you the passion of our people. Yes, it's obviously a hard ticket.

Can you talk about what your team has done to prepare for Oregon's pace of play and how you guys feel like you have succeeded?

For about the last month we've tried to pace our defense in a few different ways. We have done it versus the scout team, which isn't exactly the look you want all the time. But it is as close as we could simulate it. And then we have gone against our offense, our best against best in sets of plays in order to try to really get a play off anywhere between 9 and 11 seconds. That's good for our offense because we do that anyway.

It let's us have a greater variety of plays that we can run doing it. And it is certainly good for our defense because the bottom line in this game is defensively we have to get lined up. Everybody has got to be in the right spot. There has got to be a lot of formation recognition. And we have been able to do that versus our offense at the end of practice well for both conditioning and for the process. So that's been good. A lot has been made about Oregon's real early curfew and the fact that they are more focused in than maybe you guys are. Do you see that happening with having a later curfew than Oregon does and that sort of thing?

I'm not aware of Oregon's curfew and I'm not aware of Oregon and I'm not aware of anything being made of it. But if there is, Oregon does what Oregon does and Auburn does what Auburn does. So we've got a very focused team and we are going to continue to prepare the way we think is the best way to prepare.

Both teams have been so fantastic in the second half and the fourth quarter. Does that put more fresh shoe on you not to get down early?

You don't ever want to get down. I mean, the bottom line is we have been in the games where we've had to come from behind. They have been in games where they have had to come from behind. The fourth quarter is going to be very interesting. We feel like we play very strong in the fourth quarter. We know Oregon plays very strong in the fourth quarter.

And it is going to be one of those situations where depending on how close it is in the fourth quarter, both teams are going to be fighting their rear ends off and clawing to get that win. So it is always important not to get behind. But if you do, I think both teams have confidence they can come from behind and win.

For whatever reason, Heisman Trophy winners coming into this game haven't had a whole lot of success. Have you talked to Cam at all about that?

Can you talk a little bit about that in general. The first part of that question, have Cam and I talked about that? Absolutely not. I mean, that's an individual basis and people are going to speculate on all kinds of reasons why. That's an individual – that's an individual – on an individual basis thing in my opinion. We don't ever talk about the negatives. That's not what we do.

Cameron knows this is a huge game and he expects to play well. We expect him to play well. If he didn't get the Heisman Trophy, this conversation would never have been had. So our expectation to him doesn't change because he won the Heisman Trophy.

Besides pace, what problems does this Oregon offense present?

I think they're loaded with speed from beginning to end. They've got speed at the wideout positions obviously, tailback position with two or three of their guys, a lot of speed. Quarterback, a lot of speed. It is just the tempo is what everybody talks about. But the reality of it is they have got some really great players on that offense, and let's not lose sight of that. Anybody can go out there and run plays fast. Execute them well. They are very well coached and they have got great players on offense. So the problem is not limited to one entity. I mean, there is a legit offense. It has got many weapons and a great scheme to go with it.

Coach Gene Chizik

Do you think that Auburn's speed matches Oregon's? That you are as fast as a team? Obviously it looks like you are certainly bigger, but are you faster as well?

I have no idea. I mean, I don't know. I got no idea. We will see on game day. We got a fast team. They got a fast team. We will see on game day.

Bobby Lowder, Robert Lowder, your trustee, is a gentleman who has had an enormous influence on your university over the last three decades. How have you seen his influence specifically as a football coach?

You know, in my two years there, Mr. Lowder has done some great things for Auburn, but there hasn't been that much contact. I'm very appreciative of all he's done for Auburn University. Just don't see him much. He is busy with a lot of things going on in the business world. But very appreciative of what he has done over the years for Auburn.

Have you seen his role change from when you were an assistant coach to when you came back?

I'm not sure about all the particulars of his role. I just know that he's a great Auburn man and a great Auburn supporter.

Any update on where the NCAA investigation is right now with going into this game?

I'm not focused on any of that. I'm focused on the game.

When you first got here, you were not exactly well received by the fans. I'm sure a lot of them have changed their mind at this point. But when you did first get to Auburn and you saw some of the negative reaction, what were your feelings?

To be honest with you, you know, when I flew in the night I took the job, there was about 800 fans at the airport that were awesome. So I don't know what the appearance was on the outside. We've got great fans. But if there is a minority out there that had an opinion that was contradictory to what I saw, that might be the case. But I know that the Auburn fans have been awesome. And that's all myself and my family have experienced since I got there, just like when I left. So not really sure exactly what the numbers were and how many of them there were. I just know that the reception I got from the day I stepped on campus was awesome and it has been awesome ever since, two years later.

What, if anything, did your time at Iowa State prepare you for where you are now? You had some tough times at Iowa State. How did that prepare you for Auburn?

I just think your first two years as a head coach, you navigate your way through head coaching things that you aren't necessarily privileged to be able to do when you are a coordinator. We have done nothing different at Auburn. We were trying to build a program that was down. We were on the right track. There is no question, wouldn't do anything different. So we came to Auburn. We laid down the same plan, different circumstances. Hadn't changed. So every year you learn as a head coach. Every year you learn what to do a little bit better here, little bit better there. But, in general, overall, I have not changed in four years.

How much pressure on and off the field does Cam take off his teammates? In other words, they have to concentrate so much on Cam on the field, how much does that open for players on the field? And then off the field in a situation like this, does that take pressure off them because he is so central of a figure?

I'll start on the field first. There's no question he adds a whole other dimension to his offense that you have to pay attention to. Any time you have one guy, doesn't matter if it's a quarterback, wideout or a tailback, that requires that attention, then obviously you take pressure off other guys. It opens up other avenues for other players which we are very in tune to. If you are going to play X amount of guys down here for him, then it opens something up for this guy over here. So we know that. So that's real and that does happen.

Off the field, you know, we don't – everybody gets what they get, you know what I mean? Our players understand. I don't want to say that that takes any pressure off him. They don't have any pressure on them off the field anyways. But they are all very understanding of the attention. And everybody is good with it.

As a guy who has always been a defensive guy, when is the first quarterback that you remember who started this evolution toward Cam Newton in terms of being a weapon the way he is? You talked about Randall Cunningham or Vince or any of these guys. In your mind, where did that start?

Well, one of the first guys is Vince simply because, you know, you had those athletic quarterbacks in the past that scrambled and got – made some plays on their own, got some extra yards. But when it really started to become challenging is when they started using the different schemes that they were using with quarterbacks. Even back to Brad Smith at Missouri, this is where – that's one of the earlier ones that I kind of remember that they schemed the offense based on him being able to run and throw. A lot of times – ten years ago it was, boy, I got a great athlete at quarterback like Charlie Ward, but it was play-action pass, he makes stuff on his own, maybe an option here or there.

The offenses have now been expanded by ten because they have all kinds of different quarterback runs and misdirections. They are taking a tailback running game and remove the tailback which removes somebody from being able to play the run and do the same thing with the quarterback. That's where it became very challenging. So the Brad Smiths and the Vince Youngs and the things of that nature, those are probably some of the earlier guys that have really kind of pioneered this thing.

As a guy who has always been a defensive guy, when is the first quarterback that you remember who started this evolution toward Cam Newton in terms of being a weapon the way he is? You talked about Randall Cunningham or Vince or any of these guys. In your mind, where did that start?

Well, one of the first guys is Vince simply because, you know, you had those athletic quarterbacks in the past that scrambled and made some plays on their own, got some extra yards. But when it really started to be come challenging is when they started using the different schemes that they were using with quarterbacks. Even back to Brad Smith at Missouri, this is where – that's one of the earlier ones that I kind of remember that they schemed the offense based on him being able to run and throw. A lot of times – ten years ago it was, boy, I got a great athlete at quarterback like Charlie Ward, but it was play-action pass, he makes stuff on his own, maybe an option here or there so it becomes challenging.

And will defenses eventually catch up to him? Probably. Don't know how long it will be. But they will find a way to stack enough people in there, do enough on the perimeter to be able to probably play and prepare against these offenses a little bit differently than they have.

When you have an Alabama so-called big brother right in your backyard, talk about the impact of what you're trying to do to build your program, knowing that there's such a large shadow quite nearby, how that impacts what you are trying to do?

You know, the challenges that we've had are like any in-state rival. You've got two people in the state that are vying for the same players. You got two people in the state on the same side of the conference that arguably if you don't beat them, you are probably not going to win your side in most cases. It is a lot of fun. And so very challenging for your guys. We love that challenge. We take that challenge 100 out of 100 times. And we have since we have been there. We will continue to do it. We enjoy it. So it is what it is all about.

Is it satisfying to be here?

No, I'm not satisfied to be here at all. I'm just kidding. Yes, very satisfied.

Can you talk about your relationship with Trooper Taylor, what led you to sign him up to your staff?

Trooper Taylor and I have gone back a lot of years. He is a great football coach, number one. But what people don't probably know, there's a great story behind him and his hat turned backwards. There is a great story behind all that. He is a great human being, great family man. This guy cares about our players like nobody I have ever seen in terms of being a sounding board for them, being a part of their life and a lot of our guys lean on him. Doesn't matter what position they play.

He is our assistant head coach for a reason. I don't have two assistant head coaches. I don't have associate head coach. I don't have an assistant, associate head coach. I have got one assistant head coach, and it's him for a reason. His role that he plays on our team is invaluable. People are going to arguably say he is a great recruiter and things of that, that's all fair. But what he does behind the scenes that people don't know from a football team in terms of the way he handles our football team and these kids, he's as good as it gets. He is a huge part of what we do.

He also mentioned to you about the Baylor job. He said he teases you about a Baylor job that he got ahead of you?

Well, it was years ago. It was years ago. Of course, that's his alma mater. So I hear Baylor quite often. But, yeah, it was something we tease back and forth about.

I talked to Eric Smith and he said he appreciated the way the coaching staff stood by him rather than threw him under the bus when he was going through some off-the-field trouble. Is what he has become this year not just on the field but as a person, does that validate the path you took with him and not throw him under the bus but kind of sticking by him?

Everybody is going to make a mistake. Every case on our football team individually is different. And if a guy makes a mistake, he has got a good heart. And you know that it was that single mistake, we don't throw him under the bus. It is just not what we do.

Our deal is we know we have to win football games. But we're trying to mold young men's lives. We are trying to do the right things right now to give them an opportunity to leave Auburn and do something really good. The easy thing would have been saying okay, you did this and this. You're gone. That's not how we operate. I want to know the guys' hearts are trying to change. I want to know the guys are trying to do the right thing.

Because if every one of us got thrown under the bus when we screwed it up, where would we all be? Every one of us. So Eric's a great – when I look back and I look at the road that Eric has traveled, I'm really proud of him. He has been great for us at Auburn. He has grown up a lot. And he has done everything we've asked him to do.

Do you remember first practices when Cam showed up, scrimmages, anything where you guys went back in your meeting rooms and said "wow" or plays or anything like that early on?

Yeah, right when he walked out and we saw him in his uniform, that's when we said "wow." I hope he can play like he looks. Spring practice was interesting. There were days in there where we had our potential "wow" moments. I feel like when it comes to throwing the football, there were some things that we could get polished up. He had a nice release. We knew he had a good arm. We felt like repetitions in this offense would eventually accumulate and it would become muscle memory basically for him. We felt like when it became that, when it became that muscle memory, I see it, I see it, I do it, I see it, I do it, we thought he could be extremely, extremely productive in our passing game.

I wonder when you feel like you won over the fans and felt this is a good guy, this is a good hire? Again, somebody asked that earlier. I will say it again. When I came to Auburn, I got off that plane, there was about 800 people waiting for me and it was an awesome reception, and it has never changed. We got great fans. There is always going to be a few people that disagree with anybody's hire in college, NFL. But we don't concern ourselves with that because the majority of our fans obviously are all in, have been all in, and I don't think that's changed.

You have been part of three undefeated seasons. Are you the common denominator, the missing link for all these themes?

No, no, just a great part, just a part of the whole. Just a part of the product.

What did you take from Mack that you applied as a head coach?

A lot of things. Mack Brown is the best football coach that I've ever had the privilege to work with and be around. And I took a lot of things from the way he approaches game, from the way he approaches his players, the way he recruits. And so I give a lot of credit to Mack and my two years of being with him and being with a guy that knows how to do it right, a guy that does it right. I'm very appreciative of my two years there with him. And our relationship today is still very appreciative of that as well.

I know it is not the first or last time you will be asked this question. What will it mean to you if you do, in fact, win the national championship on Monday?

I'm just going to be so happy for our players, so happy for our coaches. Just the work that goes into this. The outside world will never know, they really won't. Y'all don't know, no one understands the work that it takes to get to this. And then just for us to win it, to see our kids' smile, if we win this thing, like this and all the other games, there's not a better feeling in the locker room. I will be extremely excited for our players and coaches and our fans.

We'll have thousands of fans here from Auburn that have no ticket. Just want to be here. And our fans have been...we have got the greatest fans in the country. We have got former NFL players that are going crazy right now that just are absolutely off the hook with excitement.

All of our alumni and our students, our fans deserve it. It has been a long time. It has never happened in the BCS. It will be for me personally, it will be great to see them have a good day.

All the guys were kind of joking around, telling me something about Cam that we don't know, can't play basketball. He is a good dancer. All these small ears, all these different things. They had fun with it. Is there something that we don't know about Cam Newton that you know?

I have seen him dance with my son during practice when he was really supposed to be paying attention but we caught him on film. He doesn't know that yet. He is a great--he's a team guy. They love him. They can give him so much grief. Let me tell you what, he is a baby at heart now. He has got the heart of a – he has got the heart of a child. I mean, that's the way he is. Just watch him with children. You can walk in through a crowd of 200 people and the first person he will go up to is the young boy or young girl 100 percent of the time. It is the way he is with my son.

I don't feel comfortable making a comparison between the two. I only know what I see on film. I see an extremely talented team with a lot of speed.

To say that when we play Alabama or we play Georgia or we play LSU or what not, speed comparisons, I have no idea. They are all fast. When you are all fast, you are all fast. And they are really good at what they do. So we'll know exactly how fast the team speed is on Monday night, but we know that it's going to be challenging.

Is there any way that practicing against Cam has helped your defense?

No question.


No question about it. Well, I mean, you know, just dating back to spring practice. The speed of the tempo of our offense, that's huge. The fact that you are playing against a guy right now that can run it or throw it and having to vent to defend all of the different run quarterback run-game issues that are out there, that's very challenging. And so I think practices and playing against that since last year definitely helps us.

How much of a burden does it put on defenses when you have an offense that's quicker and you have to turn them around and get them back out there?

It can be problematic at some point not to score fast. It is if you go three and out fast. That's not the problem, scoring fast. We will score in two seconds every time we get the ball. Where it becomes a little bit challenging is that your team in three and outs, when you are trying to go fast, has to have a quick turnaround. We've done a good job of, in my opinion, being able to really gauge what do we need to do right now. Do we need to slow it down? Do we need to speed it up?

If you don't have the other team with their hands on their hips bending over, there is no reason for you to continue to go fast, you know what I mean? So we are looking for all the signals that say, let's speed this thing up because we have the ability to do numerous different speeds.

You talked about some of the NFL people that have been excited about what you guys are doing. Have you heard from anyone particularly interesting from the NFL or otherwise during this process? When is the very first time that you met Chip Kelly, first meeting?

The first time I met Chip Kelly it was very recently. Either at the Home Depot Awards or Heisman. I think we were together at Home Depot and then the Heisman Awards. That was the first time I met Chip. Your first question about the NFL guys?

NFL guys or other interesting sort of people, somebody maybe you have heard from during this process that's kind of interesting.

Well, I mean, mainly our guys. I have stayed in touch and we stay in touch with all of our guys that are still playing in the NFL. On their off weeks they will come to our games. We have really tried to get them to come back to Auburn as much as we can. And there will be 20, 25 of those guys here this weekend. So somewhere in that neighborhood, I think.

If they can make it, they are going to be here. But they are all excited about it. They text and we call. Just an exciting time for anybody that ever played here at Auburn. And all those guys are one of the reasons that Auburn is great. So it is going to be exciting to have them back and be around the guys and see the guys.

Anyone most enthusiastic, would you say, of these NFL guys?

They all are. I don't want to say one name because they are all great players and they are all great Auburn men. They are all fired up.

Your take on discussion of whether Nick is a dirty player or not, just the aggressiveness seems to bring that out. Your thoughts on that.

Yeah, I think it is absurd, to be honest with you. The bottom line is and it is real simple. You have a 315-pound defensive tackle and you can't block him, sometimes he's going to be very aggressive and people are going to get hurt. We don't want that. We don't want to see anybody get hurt. But when you can't block a guy that's 315 pounds, that happens.

He plays hard for his school. And he plays hard for his teammates. And there is no mention, no talk of, no never, never anything that has to do with any dirty play. The first time I heard that, again, it is absurd. That's not what we teach. That's not who we are. That's not who he is. I will tell you what he does: He plays really hard for his school and his teammates and he is hard to block. If you let him go free and he doesn't get blocked, I don't know what's going to happen. But it is usually not going to be good.

How hard of a job was Iowa State?

Iowa State was a rebuilding situation for myself in our assistants. I had a great two years there, learned a lot, did a lot, made a lot of strides. Put down an idea of where we wanted to go and how we wanted to get there. Obviously along the way we would have liked to have had more wins. But we were looking down the road on how to build a foundation and do it right. We did it. It was a situation where – again, it was two years.

Did you get satisfaction about the improvement when Rhodes came in with some of your players?

We recruited a lot of those guys. We played 11 true freshmen my second year there. We did that because we wanted to be able to have a future there that was really, really good. Wouldn't have changed it. Wouldn't have changed anything. Any time I see those guys, I have a really high level of respect for do well, I'm excited. I mean, you do it for these guys. You do it because you want these guys to do it well. And so when Paul came in and obviously he has done a great job, I'm happy for their staff. I'm happy for their administration. I'm happy for those players. Got no regrets.

A lot of people like to paint Gus Malzahn as an offensive genius. Is that pretty accurate, do you think?

Genius? He's really, really good at his trade. I'm not really sure what a football genius is because everybody runs the same plays, they just get to them in a different way. But he's at the top of his trade. He is a great football coach and is a great person and a very innovative. And very astute when it comes to paying attention to the details. That's what makes him really, really good. Again, he's the Assistant Coach of the Year. That pretty much says you are at the top of your trade.

Talk a little bit about Oregon's passing attack?

I think their passing attack doesn't get near enough credit. It doesn't get near enough credit because, let me tell you something, yes, LaMichael James and that offensive line, they're very productive. But if you really watch the games close right now, watch how many times off their passing game, take a look at their play-action game, they've got guys running down the field open by 10 yards. There is not anybody 10 yards from them. It happens all the time. p> Again, that's a product of everybody getting a line. That's a product of moving really fast, not being able to recognize formations. It is very evident to me that those passes that you're talking about, the passing game, they are back breakers. They are – the game is close and they get the tight end running right down the sideline untouched for a touchdown. They have got wipeouts right now that run post routes right now that nobody's within six, seven yards of. It is all off that play-action game. And Darron puts the ball right where he needs to put the ball. So it is to me completely unnoticed and underrated unless you have watched 12 games because I have seen them all.

Do you guys got to worry about being lined up in a hurry?

Absolutely. That's the name of the game. If you are not lined up, you don't have a chance.

Cliff Harris, their punt returner, leads the nation in returns for a touchdown. Have you guys worked extra on the punt return coverage?

Absolutely. Our punt team right now has been very effective all year. We have a little bit different idea when it comes to our punt coverage because of the scheme that we run. We just feel like, you know, in our league there's so many great punt returners, that if we don't get some immediate coverage down the field, that we are going to have problems. So we've got more wipeouts and running backs and corners on our punt coverage where more people have linebackers and defensive ends.

It's basically predicated upon the way we scheme it. So that helps us in terms of covering the field. But Oregon does a great job. Cliff does a great job of seeing a seam and hitting it. But what the other ten do is they give him a chance because they do a great job of holding up and battling those guys down the field and getting this their way and giving him a chance to make a cut in one of those seams. When he hits it, he is gone. Very good at what they do.

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