"This is a great conference opener. We're really looking forward to obviously a very tough game in Starkville against a Mississippi State football team that's very, very good and very talented: seven returning starters on defense, arguably, with guys with a lot of experience.
"Mississippi State has a very experienced offensive line, a great host of receivers and tailbacks, very talented guys in the return game with Johnthan Banks back there as a punt returner so this is a very talented team and very well coached. It's going to be a very physical game in Starkville, and we're looking forward to a great challenge.
"I want to address a couple of players that I know I'll get asked about. Jay Prosch is back in school today. He's going to be in school today and tomorrow. Arrangements for his mother's funeral are going to be on Thursday at some point. He'll get home Thursday. This is the way he wanted to do it.
"I'm very proud of him for the way he's handled it. It's a very tough time. He's going to be here today and tomorrow, go home for the funeral on Thursday, and he will be playing in the game Saturday as well as Reese Dismukes will be playing in the game Saturday."
Will Dismukes play as a starter or just be available to play?
"We're going to wait and see how the week unfolds, and we'll make that determination later in the week. As I said before, without going into details, when we feel like he's done the things that we've asked him to do and we're comfortable with that, you'd see him back on the field.
"Our main thing with all of our student-athletes is to make sure that we're giving them a chance to succeed. We have a very comprehensive plan overall moving forward so that Reese can go in a positive direction. That plan is going to be ongoing, and it's one that we feel comfortable with. He's done all that we've asked him to do, and he will continue again in this comprehensive plan to do what we need him to do moving forward in a positive direction."
Is DeAngelo Benton is still suspended?
"Yes. His status has not changed, so if it changes, I'll let you know."
Is Benton practicing with the team?
Does Chizik anticipate any players to play this weekend that didn't play last weekend?
"There is some on-going competitions everywhere. We've had one game to evaluate what we thought were our starters in game one. We expect a lot of improvement from game one to game two. Along with that, there are still going to be challenges for positions and guys that, as we move forward in the season if their production level is not up to our standards and expectations, then if there's a guy behind him that's challenging for a spot, those spots will certainly be open. We saw a lot of room for improvement as we broke the film down. There are a lot of guys who have to up their level of play."
On how Jay Prosch played Saturday?
"Jay did well. Obviously he's like the rest of our team--there's great room for improvement for him. Overall, for his first game in this offense doing the things that he needs to do to help us win, he was about on level with everybody else. He did some nice things and did some things that we certainly need to improve."
"Those are guys that right now are in backup spots and backup roles. Going back to what we just talked about, if you're in a backup role, you're still challenging for a position. Both of those guys are in a position where they need to keep working and challenging for one."
Are there any plans for the team to travel to Mobile for Prosch's mother's funeral?
"We're trying to work through those. The family has to do what they have to do in terms of time frame and some things of that nature. We're really trying to work through the details to see exactly what we can and can't do. That's kind of a work in progress right now."
On why the Mississippi State game has developed into a rivalry over the last several years?
"The last two games have been extremely tight. I think rivalries in our league are already there. The result of the last two games has certainly made this a very interesting matchup. Obviously, we're both on the same side in the West. This is a team that has continuously improved over the last three years. We were able to edge them out two years in a row.
"I know just by looking at the front end of their schedule, I'm sure that this game has been circled on their calendar for a long time--not that other ones haven't been--but this is certainly a game that I'm sure is very important to them, as it is us, at the beginning of the year to win.
"It's become--you can call it a rival if you want to--but again, if you're in the league, they're pretty much all rivalries. I think just by the nature of the way the game's unfolded the last two years, it certainly made it interesting for the fans."
Are there other players in Mississippi State's secondary besides Banks that have impressed Chizik?
"They really have. You have (Corey) Broomfield back there that I think they've kind of moved back to a safety position. You have Johnthan Banks. I think on defense, you're really looking at seven returning starters.
"One of the strengths of their defense is certainly their secondary. They have playmakers back there. They're aggressive. They hit. They run. They make plays with the ball in the air. Johnthan Banks probably could've come out if he wanted to, but chose to come back. He's that good, but so are Broomfield and some of the other guys back there. I think their secondary overall is definitely a strong point of their defense, not that their linebackers and a couple of their defensive linemen that are returning aren't. When you have seven guys returning on defense, that's a good thing. They're very sound, and they're very good at what they do."
On the balance of focusing on Auburn versus focusing on your opponent during practice?
"I think we've done a real thorough job of assessing all of the issues from last Saturday night that we feel are very fixable, and, again, you have some guys that were playing for the first time in critical positions. If you just take the defense, just missed opportunities at opportune times where plays have to be made. The same thing offensively, but we've made a very thorough assessment and evaluation of those things, and so you incorporate that into your practice time as you're preparing for the next opponent. You don't just go out there and say it never happened.
"Yesterday we spent some time cleaning up Saturday's issues, and we'll continue to clean those up as the week goes on, but preparation for your opponent obviously is at a premium for the week. It's really everything. You have to get it all done in a week."
What can be done in a week to improve tackling issues?
"Well, we can tackle. That will help. I think it's the way we approached the ball. It's not like we don't work on tackling. We have to approach the ball better. We have to be in better tackling positions. I think, and this is going to sound crazy, but getting yourself off the field on third downs and not playing 90-something plays in a game makes you better tacklers late in the game when you're playing 65 plays instead of 95.
"I think it's a comprehensive look at why we weren't tackling well and, again, some of them happened early in the game and some of them happened late in the game, but the bottom line is approaching the ball approaching the ball carrier, everybody coming at the right angles, nobody stopping when you think the guy may be down and finishing the tackle. I think those are all issues that, not only have we addressed, but will continue to address this week."
"Jonathan Jones is going to be a really, really good player here if he'll continue on the path that he's on. He's extremely conscientious in everything he does no matter what job or no matter what role you give him. He takes it very seriously, and it's very important to him. He's a very talented, gifted young man. He was one of the best hurdlers in the country in AAU. He's fast. He's a football player and I think it's showing up.
"We're going to continue to utilize him and some of the other young guys on our special teams, but he showed up Saturday, and we expect him to continue to show up, and we're going to give him bigger roles as he moves forward, but I really like him as a football player. He's a great young man, and he's going to get better. He'll improve."
On Avery Young's first career start vs. Clemson?
"I'll tell you he got put in a tough spot, and I'm really proud of him the way he handled it. We talked yesterday a good bit, and he was just talking about what a relief it is to have your first game under your belt and now you know what to expect, so he has a better idea of how to prepare for the week. He has a better idea of what to expect on game day, how to approach game day, what it's like on Friday night before your game mentally getting prepared. I just think there are a lot of first-time things in there for a young 18-year-old young man to deal with when you're asking him to go out there and do a man's job in a man's league. At that position that's very critical.
"But a good case in point for him is on the touchdown pass to Emory Blake. Not many people probably see it, but he gives a great second effort to finish off a guy that really could have impeded the quarterback's throw, and he picked him at the last minute on a great effort play. We showed it to the team because here was a young guy that was really just trying to figure everything out, but yet he was still giving really good effort, and it was a key block on that that most people probably didn't see. He has a lot of room for improvement, and he knows that, but I think there is a lot of value in it for him to have that first start under his belt like several others."
On getting receivers other than Emory Blake and Philip Lutzenkirchen involved in the offense?
"I think it's very important. I think we have to develop a trust that our other receivers are capable of making plays. We have confidence in our other guys. We have to get them the ball, and they have to show on game day right now that they can do something with the ball in their hands. We know Philip can, we know Emory can, and we have to get Quan Bray and Trovon Reed.
"Trovon had a great opportunity to make a huge play in the back of the end zone. Our point to him was you have to have to field presence and field awareness of knowing where you're at and you have to make that. That's a touchdown. You have to make that play. He knows that. Those are the things I think our receivers need to improve at in terms of field presence and making plays. We feel confident that they can and will, but they've got to do it on game day."
Is it hard to get new people involved if they haven't had opportunities to make plays in the past?
"It's not like we're saying that if you don't have more success, we're not throwing you the ball. That's not it at all, because they work very hard in practice, and they do well in practice. Again, but it's going to be important moving forward, that we develop some trust on game day in who's going to make those plays. Not that we have not developed the trust, but again we have a lot of games left so those guys have to step up, and they have to make plays when they get opportunities in the game. They have to step up and make those plays."
Assess the offensive line?
"I think it was a good first game in terms of being productive running the ball. I felt like there was too much leakage in our pass protection, particularly in the last two minutes to win the game. Our two-minute offense was below average. I think a lot of that was protection, but it wasn't just protection. It was everyone. It was routes being run, quarterback decisions and protection in the last two minutes.
"Overall, I am very happy that we have a good starting point, but we have a lot to learn from. We have a lot of great teaching moments for our offensive line for their first time ever being together on game day. We can all see there is a very good future for those guys if they continue to improve. They know that. They see why at times we were mediocre and I think they see a great future moving forward. It is going to take a lot of work, but overall, it was a good starting point, not great, but we will continue to improve."
On playing a team like Clemson in the first game of the season?
"I really enjoyed the game. I am speaking not just for me, but for all of the coaches and players. I think we all enjoyed the game. I think that there is a lot of value in playing someone early in the season that is that good. That football team is going to win a lot of games. They are the defending ACC Champions.
"I think it is a very good for our team to open with a team like that because I think you expose inefficiencies. I think it is glaring. It is a little different if you don't play that caliber of a team. Then you get exposed the next game. I think it was glaring. I think yesterday as we met as a team, we went through the game and it was very glaring to our team on where the improvements needed to be made. I think there is a lot value in that. Is it more than another team that maybe isn't as good? I think there is a lot value in getting exposed in areas that really tell you the truth. We got a lot of truths told to us on Saturday night. In the big picture, I think that is a good thing."
On assessing Kiehl Frazier's performance against Clemson?
"I am going to lump Kiehl into the same category as Avery Young in terms of us having a great conversation yesterday as well. I think he is very comfortable that he has his first game under his belt.
"He did some really nice things and did some things he knows that he needs to improve on. There were some passes that were great throws by him-- wouldn't change a thing. There were times where he bought time and bought first downs. His athletic ability kicked in, and he made plays with his feet, which he needed to do. There were also some wide open receivers that he missed that he knows he needs to hit.
"Overall, I am very proud of him. I think it is a good game for him to look at against a very good football team to say ‘Where do we go from here?'"