Opening statement: <> "Everybody knows we have a great challenge this week, another tough road game against a very good football team, as we all know. It's going to be a great challenge for us. We're going back on the road, and I feel like our team is getting a little bit better of an idea of playing on the road and the challenges of that come with these tough SEC road games. That's good that we're starting to get a feel for that, but it's going to be a great challenge for us.
Obviously, this is a very good football team, obviously a challenge in the West for the SEC West Championship, there's no question about that. They have a lot of returning starters from last year's team, so it'll be a lot of fun for us. We're going to go back to work today and try to get better at what we do. This is about Auburn, it's not about Arkansas. We'll continue to try and improve ourselves."
On anything that Arkansas does with its schemes that are more difficult to match up with this week
"They execute extremely well. There's no question about that. I think everybody knows they have three very talented wide receivers that are very explosive, very fast. They're very good with the ball in their hands after the catch.
"Their running game is always extremely physical, they have big backs. Their quarterback is very well coached. We have to play much better than we have the previous two outings to give us a chance to win. I'm talking defensively as we know that, and this is an offense that is tough to slow down. They're pretty much number one in the league in about every category with maybe the exception of rushing. They're good at what they do.
Tyler Wilson passed for 510 yards last Saturday to set an Arkansas single-game record.
"They've been in the system long enough now to have a great feel for it, and they have really good players. Arguably one of the best receiving corps in the country. They have a quarterback who's a young guy who's playing very well in the system. He's thrown for 10 touchdowns and only three interceptions, I believe if my memory serves me right. He's just a guy that played against a very good defense last week, and they're very productive. They're just a good all-around football team, and we have to play better defensively."
On how Arkansas' offense is different from other teams' offenses
"There are some really good concepts in there. I don't know that it's necessarily night and day different than what everybody else does, but they execute it extremely well. There are some very good concepts in there both running the ball and throwing the ball. I'd say just looking at that offense over the years, the difference is that they execute it as well as anybody in the country executes an offense."
On the differences in game planning for a dominant run team versus a dominant receiving team
"It's pretty different in some ways, but in a lot of ways, it's very similar, too. We have to go into every game, and we have to stop the run first. There's no question about that. When you have a team that's throwing for 350 yards a game, that gives you a little bit different train of thought just because that's where their production has been so over the top in terms of compared to everybody else. We have our work cut out for us. Their concepts are different throwing the ball than last week, so those are different, too. A lot of different things to cover that are different in a sense. It's going to be a challenge."
On game planning for high or low scoring games
"I don't think so. If you're planning on defense, your hope is it's going to be a low scoring game for them, and if you're planning on offense then it will be a high scoring game for you, but you never know."
On the importance of tackling and eliminating yards after contact
"They have a lot of great receivers, and they have a new tight end, a young guy that's getting used to playing. The receivers that they have, there are three or four different really good ones. I don't want to slight anybody because they're all good, but what they're all good at, you can tell there is definitely a conscious coaching effort for them to make yards after the catch. It's going to be huge for us to be able to tackle these guys in space and to be able to tackle these guys and limit those yards after catch because that's exactly where they will hurt you. That's going to be a big key for us."
"I was extremely impressed. I didn't know a lot about him because you usually don't know a lot about backups going into games. You know who they are, but you don't really know how productive they can be. I thought he did an unbelievable job on the road in a very critical game at the time of coming in and playing very sound and solid football. For a guy coming off the bench and not expecting to play, I thought he showed an unbelievable amount of poise, and I thought he played really well."
On the key to increasing pressure on the quarterback against South Carolina last Saturday
"Execution I think is what it was. I feel like we executed better, and I think we did a better job of getting them in the right places and the places that they needed to be, for the most part. Guys have to be in the right spots, and they have to execute it the way they've been taught to execute it. I thought it was the best job of execution we've had defensively this year."
On Michael Dyer and if he will practice any lighter this week
"He's doing fine. He's going to practice as normal, as usual. He'll be excited to play, and obviously going back to Arkansas, it will be exciting to play, and he'll be ready to go."
On Emory Blake's status with his ankle injury
"We won't know until later on in the week, but I'm not hopeful right now on Emory. I'm not going to rule him out, but we are planning to play without him. That's going to be our two top receivers that we're not going to play with him and Trovon (Reed), but again, I think that gives great opportunity to some other guys. It's where (Quindarius) Carr and Travante Stallworth and Quan Bray and DeAngelo Benton, speaking about a guy who stepped up to the plate last week, it's going to be a great opportunity for those guys to step up if he does not play. Again, we'll keep working on it until the end of the week, but I'm not hopeful right now."
On the struggles of a young team playing with a lot of injuries
"It's this time of the year. We're at the midseason point. We're getting into the meat of SEC play, and it's just where we're at. We're beat up, we're banged up, that's kind of what comes with the territory. It's been a little bit different this year, comparatively speaking to last year, but we're going to hope the ones that are injured keep getting treatment and working toward getting better, but we're going to worry about the ones that can play and not the ones that can't.
"It doesn't mean we don't care about them, it just means that we're going to go with the ones that we have. They're working really hard. We're proud of them, and they're getting better, so we're going to continue working in that direction."
On the defensive line playing well and making the linebackers' jobs easier
"I think so. I don't think there's any question. If we're getting penetration, and we're controlling the line of scrimmage like we did last week, which we did, then it makes everybody's job from the back easier. Linebackers, safeties, everybody. We're going to continue to improve up there, but I felt like we saw some strides on the defensive line last week."
On recruiting in Arkansas
"I just think that over the last five or six years we've been able to recruit the state and have some success there. I don't think it has anything to do with the state. We're going to recruit wherever we feel like there's an opportunity to have young guys who are interested in Auburn. With guys like Kiehl (Frazier) and Michael (Dyer) that we have from Arkansas on the roster, we just show them what Auburn has to offer. We do have some Arkansas connections obviously with (Offensive Coordinator) Gus (Malzahn) here and some things of that nature, so that always helps. We recruit them like we recruit anybody else from any other state."
On if the defense's confidence has increased
"You hope they're getting better every week in terms of trusting each other and relying on each other as a unit. I think they are. I think this is going to be a great test because there are going to be some things that happen in this game right now that they're going to have to overcome in terms of negative things happening. That's just the pressure this offense is going to put on your defense.
"I think this is going to be a phenomenal test for our guys. We've faced some really good offenses up to this point. That's 100 percent fact. This one right here may be the best out of all the ones we've faced. I think it's going to be a really good test for our guys right now because I think they do feel like in the last two weeks, progress has been made. This will be a great test for them."
On what he attributes to winning close games or games that the fans didn't expect them to win
"I don't know. I know the way our football team and the way in the three years I've been here, I can speak for us. I can speak for the three years that I was here as a defensive coordinator. We've just had a bunch of guys in the six years that I've been here that really believe they're going to fight down to the end, and if you keep working hard and keep pressing, then good things can happen in the end.
"I've said this before, but I think for you to have the ability to win games in the end, I think you have to have to have done it previously. For teams that can't quite close the doors on those type games, there's a bit of doubt that probably creeps in their mind a little bit. I don't think in the two and a half years that I've been here in the games that we've played, I don't think there's been any of it in our kids' minds. At the end of the game if it's close, they think they can win.
"I think that probably goes back to ‘it's happened before.' I know our guys feel that way now. I know that's how we've felt the previous two years, as well. What that's attributed to as far as years passed going back in history, I don't really know."
On facing athletic players defensively each week in the SEC
"I think so, I really do. I think this league is full of talent, and it's at every position. You're going to see linebackers that are just unbelievable, and then you're going to play another team and you're going to see two or three defensive linemen that keep showing up and popping up. You're going to see defensive backs that just make tremendous plays with the ball in the air. It's all over the league. I think there's so much talent from top to bottom. You just even look in our west side alone and how many great defensive players you can think of. There are a lot of them. Again, just the whole league I think top to bottom has them."
On looking back at last year's high scoring game against Arkansas and having confidence going in
"We obviously go back and watch. We went back and watched 2009 and 2010 to really look and see, with the same coaching staff, what the ideas were in ‘09, what they were in '10, what we can do better in '11.
"Every team is different. We don't go back and say ‘Boy, because we scored X amount of points last year, we ought to be able to do the same.' It's a new team. Not to say that we don't have confidence that we can win the game, but it's just a new team. You start all over. Who do they have back? Who do we have back? How are they playing now? What are they doing good now? What are we doing good now?
"There are just so many variables and so many different circumstances now than there were last year. We know what we're good at right now. We have an idea of what we're good at and what gives us a chance to win. We have an idea of what we're not good at that we have to hide. That's more of how we're approaching the game.
"We feel like the same things that are going to win games every week for us, that's what's going to give us a chance this week. We have to play great on special teams, we can't turn the ball over, we have to slow down the offense, we have to try to possess the football. It's a different team trying to accomplish all those goals."
On what the team is good at right now
"I think that we made some strides this past week, certainly defensively, on third downs. I think we've made some improvements there with pressuring the quarterback, whether we were blitzing or not. The last couple of games, we've started to get turnovers defensively, which I think we've improved there.
"If you go to the offensive side of the football, we were able to possess the football a good bit of the time Saturday, which certainly helped when you run 90-something plays. I think we have a better idea running the football now of what we can and can't do. We certainly haven't arrived in any of the areas, but we have a better idea of where we're at."
On concern over inconsistency in the passing game
"Anytime any part of your football team is not being productive, there's always concern. It's always something we're looking at trying to figure out ways to improve it. We know we have to improve there. We know we have to improve offensively all the way around. We have to find things that we are good at and that we can do, and we have to do those things, but we know we need to improve at that."
On the temptation to micromanage or become too involved with the defense
"As I've said before, I have assistant coaches that I trust and that I can count on. I'm involved with every aspect of our game. Offense calls, defense calls, special teams calls. Again, just trying to keep a good overall balance, that's my job. I am involved with every aspect of our team. I have guys that that's what they get paid to do. They're working really hard at it, and we all are together. On game day, I trust them to make the calls. It doesn't mean I don't have input to either add to it or change it, but I try to stay pretty even with that."