Quoting Chizik: ULM Game Week

Gene Chizik comments on Louisiana-Monroe, the offense and Kiehl Frazier, the state of the team, and much more.

Opening statement…

"We're looking forward to another week. It's going to be a lot of fun. We have a great challenge ahead of us. Obviously Louisiana-Monroe is coming off a great win -- a great signature win for those guys. It's a great challenge for us.

"Just watching them on film, starting with the offense, the quarterback is an extremely talented young man, and he's very productive in what he does, and that's obvious. When you have 550 yards of offense against a very good SEC opponent, I think that pretty much speaks for itself. Defensively, we have our work cut out for us -- very challenging schematically with what they do on defense.

"We're looking forward to getting back out on the field and practicing again today and moving forward and improving. Our players feel that way. Our coaches feel that way. We're ready to get started again. Our kids had a great practice Sunday. We're very motivated, and they'll continue to be that way today. We're looking forward to this next opportunity that we have."

On the ULM defense...

"As I said earlier, schematically, it's very challenging. Arkansas is a very well-coached team and always has been and very talented, as well. They were able to get to Tyler (Wilson) several times, as we know. Early in the game, he threw an early interception. It's a challenge. Schematically, it's not something you see every day. If you want to just give it some relevancy, I would say their defense was kind of like dealing with an option offense that you don't see every day. Just on the defensive side of the ball, very schematically complicated.

"I think that's part of the problem Arkansas faced last Saturday night. It's going to take a lot of work. They're all over the place. They do a great job scheming. I think the last two or three years they've been tops in their league in rush defense so it's hard to run the football. Then they get after you on the pass and really dialing in on your pass protection and getting to your quarter back. We have our work cut out for us in terms of that. I think that's what we're talking about with this is going to be a great challenge.

"This was not a fluke. This is a good football team. They were down at one point in the game 21 points and came back and were able to take it to overtime and two other times they left the ball in the red zone, once right before the half, and they didn't score. They had their opportunities even before it got to overtime. That's just the reality of the game. It's going to be a very big challenge for us, and I think our guys are going to be ready for it. We'll be up for it and ready to go."

On ULM quarterback Kolton Browning

"He really has matured. The thing that he does really well is he makes plays with his feet. What I mean by that is it's not always him carrying the ball. You saw him in the game because they brought a blitz from his right. He stepped up, and then he was able to find the seam and then run it in for a touchdown to win it.

"It's not just running the ball. He buys a lot of time with his feet right now to give receivers time to get open. You can tell there's some chemistry there between the wide-outs and the quarterback simply by them understanding that there are going to be times where he's going to be scrambling and buying time, and those guys shift down in different areas and give themselves a chance to get some extra yardage and extra completions simply because he buys time.

"He's extremely confident in what he's doing. There's no question about that. He does it well. When you have 550 yards of offense in a game, that's usually not by accident. Very well coached. He certainly makes it happen on their offense, and they have a lot of other players around him. They have some receivers that have really made some big plays at the right times of the game to keep drives alive or whatever the case may be, and I'm talking on third and fourth downs when it's critical, they've done that. The quarterback is not the only player they have offensively. They have some guys that know how to get open and are in sync with the quarterback."

Any possible changes in the secondary…

"We'll start with the beginning of the week, and we'll look at how practice goes, and the competition will continue to be there. Right now, we're not anticipating there being any changes. By the end of the week, that may or may not change.

"We're really looking at practice reps and how well they're practicing, how well they're catching onto the game plan. Again, when I say that there's going to be competition all over, there's going to be competition as we move throughout the season as well."

On facing the ULM passing game and the importance of continuity among players…

"That's the case at every position all the time. There's no question about it. We're always going to try to keep some continuity in there, but again, guys have to make sure they're on top of their game when it comes to doing their job within the structure of the offense or defense. We have several guys that we're rotating in there. You're not just going to see guys who haven't played at all suddenly in there. You're going to see guys we've been rotating and getting reps. Continuity is certainly something that you want, but again, if a guy is being productive more so than the person in front of him, that's who you're going to see."

On Kiehl Frazier saying he made a mistake on 75% of the snaps against Mississippi State

"I wouldn't say that that's accurate. I would say that's a young guy putting a lot of pressure on himself and wanting to shoulder a lot of the blame because he feels like he can play better. I can assure you there are a lot of guys out there who made a lot of mistakes. It wasn't just Kiehl Frazier.

"I said it to our team, and I'll say it to everybody. It's a team game. Obviously Kiehl was one of many that want and need to play better, but we need to coach better. It's a team game. It's not about one guy. 75 percent of what he did, that's not necessarily accurate. That's a young man trying to shoulder the blame, and as I said, it never goes down to one guy."

On the sense of urgency for the team…

"I think there's definitely a sense of urgency that every game is a must-win game for us. Certainly with us being 0-2 right now, the sense of urgency this week is definitely high, but it's high all the time. They understand right now that this is not a game that we're going to walk in, and it's going to be a blow-out of any sort.

"We know that we have our hands full, and that's good for our team. We need to be challenged. We need to continually be challenged, and we look forward to that. Every game is a must-win."

On Christian Westerman playing against Mississippi State…

"I think that Christian's worked extremely hard to get an opportunity to play. We felt like he made a lot of progress, and again, when you start talking about offensive line play and developing offensive linemen, you always want your first five and then you want your sixth guy, your seventh, your eighth. You'd always like to be able to say you have 10 guys that you can throw in there, but that's not always necessarily the case. We're certainly working towards that direction, and he's an example of that."

On Greg Robinson's health status…

"I'm not saying he's 100 percent, but I think he's a tough kid, and he wants to play. He's fine. It's nothing that's going to keep him out of the game, but I'm not going to say he's 100 percent. Just beat up, a little banged up."

On how Tre Mason and Mike Blakely might split carries against ULM…

"We'll work through it during the week, but we feel like both of them are very capable of doing the job. Sometimes you give it to a running back because he gets in a groove and he's really playing well, and that's kind of the first week with Tre. He got in the groove. He's carrying the ball well.

"Sometimes you go into a game having opportunities that you know equally could unfold 50-50. Will that always be the case? Not necessarily. A lot of it is we have confidence in both guys, but as the games go on and how it unfolds, running backs getting into the groove, so to speak, that can change the way you distribute the ball."

Has he been pleased with Auburn's special teams play…

"I feel like that's been pretty much a staple for us that we've been able to count on. So far this year, it really hasn't changed. When we've needed to try to flip field position with our kicking teams, we've done it. We haven't had a whole lot of opportunities with our punt return game, but obviously our kickoff return game, I think that's the fifth touchdown we've returned here over the last few years. I think they're productive. They can certainly improve. There have been some other returns for 20, 25 yards, but overall, special teams is something that I really feel we can hang our hat on and we feel good about. They have to improve. We know that, but up to this point, I feel good about where we're at on special teams."

On Auburn's punt return game…

"I think it's a mixture of things. I think that's part of it. I think the nature of the two punt teams we just played, they're spread punt like we are. If you notice on our punt team, we don't give a lot of opportunities for people to return punts simply because of the coverage element and how fast our coverage units are and the placement of the ball. Those are the two determining factors when you're talking about covering punts.

"Quan (Bray) really hasn't had a chance to do much other than fair catch most of the time. I think that's kind of the nature of the punt schemes we're seeing. He'll get his chance. There just haven't been many up to this point."

Is it important for a young team such as Auburn to experience some success…

"I think so. I think everybody -- you and I and everybody -- everybody in your life wants to experience some success. It's no different in football. We have a team right now, and we've struggled. That's no secret, but we have to make our own success. We can't wait on a break or lucky or whatever. We have to create our own success. That's what we practice every day, and that's why we're going back out there today fired up about another opportunity to get out there and do that."

On the safeties making a lot of tackles against Mississippi State…

"I think you have to understand that some of those are designed that when you drop them down in the box, many times they're unblocked guys down there to make the plays. It's not necessarily always a good thing that safeties are your leading tacklers on the team, without question. But it's not the tell-all that a safety is your leading tackler, meaning that if you're playing an eight-man front or something of that nature, those guys are designed to do that.

"We're just working on getting better on defense, period. We had some improvements on Saturday in some areas. Third down I think improved. Our defense is no different than our whole team. We have areas that we significantly need to improve, and we've identified those areas starting with stopping the run. But again, if you look at the play action game Saturday, we had opportunities to get our hands on footballs and make interceptions, and we didn't do it. The play action right now with the tight end down the middle of the field -- those are things that we have to improve on. It's no different than the rest of our team."

On the morale of the team…

"It's real simple, and I'll tell you what I told our team. This is a man's game, and it reveals everything about who you are. So you know what? We're manning up, starting with me. It starts with me. We understand that we're very deficient, and we have to get better, and we have to improve. That starts with me.

"It reveals who you are. We're not going to walk around right now and let our circumstances let us hold our head down and say ‘Woe is me,' because that's not what you do in your life, so that's not how we're going to do it here. That's exactly what I told the team.

"It's going to reveal who you are. There are no holes to crawl in. There's nowhere to hide. You either improve or you don't improve. That directly starts with me and goes to everybody after me. So that's what we're doing. There's nobody trying to hide anything. It is what it is, and we're trying to move forward and improve. That's the way our players reacted Sunday, and I was very proud of the way they came in here, watched film, practiced. I expect the same thing today."

How confident is he in the health of Clint Moseley's shoulder if he had to play…

"I think his shoulder has made some progress here in the last few weeks. I don't think there is any question about that. To say that it is 100 percent, I don't know that I can say that, but I would feel confident that if he had to go into the game, it wouldn't be an issue."

On James Owens…

"Outstanding. This is a great man right here and his wife … You talk about an Auburn man … You talk about a guy that is really going through adversities with some health issues and things like that. It's awesome to see them sitting here in the front seat. That's what Auburn's all about. Of course, Ladarious plays for us, and I know how much Ladarious loves his aunt and uncle, and so it's just great to have them sitting here, and the award and honor is well deserved. That's what Auburn is all about, but we wish him the best when it comes to a speedy recovery to the best of everybody's ability. He's a fighter, and that's what Auburn's all about."

On if he has heard anything from the NCAA about Jovon Robinson

"I'm worried about one thing this week. I'm focused on Auburn football and winning a game, so I'm not getting into any of that. I've got one thing on my mind."

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