"We're very excited about another opportunity. I want to encourage all our fans who were so outstanding at our last ball game here two weeks ago, I want to encourage all of them to continue where they left off in making this environment just an incredible environment for our young guys to play ball in, and just an incredible experience for anyone who came to the game. I want to encourage them to come back at 11 a.m. Saturday, because this is going to be a great game.
"I know that on the outside looking in, Arkansas hasn't done exactly what they wanted to do and what their expectations were at the beginning of the season, but it's still a very good football team that's very dangerous. After spending the last couple of days really watching them, it's very glaring that they have some very good football players on their team, and I think that's why they were ranked where they were at the beginning of the year. They're very dangerous. I think that there are some explosive plays and some turnovers that -- if that doesn't occur with their football team -- I think it's a much different team in terms of their results. So they're dangerous.
Tyler Wilson is averaging 338 passing yards per game to lead the SEC.
"Any time you have a quarterback that's extremely productive, extremely confident and has as much experience as their guy has, I think that it's always challenging. Again, on paper, it doesn't necessarily look like what it does on film because they have some very dangerous players on their football team. It's going to be a great SEC West matchup. We need to go back out there Saturday and play passionate and intense and hopefully play better than we did the last time we were out at Jordan-Hare. That's our goal, and we'll continue to work on that today."
On the importance of the bye week?
"I think it was big. When you have time to mentally reflect on the previous month, I think that's always big. There's a fine line in there on what you're going to do in that off week in terms of trying to stay sharp, yet at the same time trying to get some time off and be able to reassess and reevaluate things. I think we were in the right direction with that. It's always valuable to get that time. Everybody asks, ‘Is that the right time?' It was good for us. It could've been good for us three weeks from then, too. You always need that time to kind of back off a little bit and reflect, so that's what we did."
On the importance of the October schedule?
"It's very important. With our schedules in this league, as we all know, every month is an important month. There's no question about it. We have this 11 a.m. game this week here at home, and then we have a couple of very tough road games that we have to go play, and every game is extremely valuable. One isn't necessarily more important than the other right now. Our intent is to continue to improve and win one game at a time. That's what we're focused on. This month's going to be a taxing month, but really and truly, what month isn't?"
Does he feel the team is better now than at the beginning of the season?
"I think so. I think we've played some very quality opponents that have proven over the last month that we've played some opponents that have all, in their own right and in their own different ways, had a lot of success -- every one of them.
"It'll be really interesting to see just how far we've moved since the last time we played. Practices have been very sharp and very precise and very energetic. I think we have a hungry football team that wants to win. I don't think there's any question with that. They've never taken a step back in terms of how they've worked, which doesn't surprise me. We just have to go out there, and we have to get a win."
Was it difficult playing LSU so closely and then not playing the next week?
"I think you can go either way on that. When you play that well and you're that disappointed in a loss, we felt like we left some things on the field that we could've converted on and won the football game. You're always chomping at the bit to get out there again the next week and want to wait as short an amount of time as you can before you do that, but that's just not the reality of it.
"We won't live in the world of what-ifs. We had the week off, and our one goal in having the week off was to improve. I feel like we've done that. I feel like we'll continue to do that this week, but we have to go out there and show it Saturday."
On dealing with the pressure of the Arkansas game? "There is pressure in beating everybody that we play. We have the urgency and importance of winning every game that we play. In college football, as a player and a coach you've got to have a very short memory both winning and losing, and you've got to move on to the next thing.
"I think our guys understand that, and our guys that have been with us for a few years have experienced a lot of great things and we've experienced some disappointments. That's the journey we are on. That's the journey that we have taken. So there will be more great experiences, and there will be some disappointments along the way, too. That's part of growing up, and that's part of the journey we are on, but our expectation going into every game is to win. The pressure is no different in this game than in any of the previous four."
What did the team focus on during the bye week?
"I think over our whole football team, we've been able to go back and really assess things in a little bit more depth and detail than you would if you had an upcoming opponent.
"You can start on defense and work from the secondary all the way up to the defensive line and see things secondary-wise, playing the football in the air. We've got some pass interference penalties right now where we could have played the ball better in the air, squeezed routes more to put ourselves in better positions to knock the ball down, or getting disruptions in the passing game. At linebacker, misfits on long runs and blitz intensity and the defensive line executing stunts and twists and blitzes. You can go through the whole gamut defensively.
On Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson?
"He's an impressive young man. One of the things I thought about him two years ago when he came into the game -- I just thought that when you look at a quarterback and you say, ‘What are the intangibles of a quarterback that you look for at that position in a young man?' and that is the competitive nature of that guy, he's got it.
"I like the way he carries himself, the way he talks and then ultimately how he plays on the field. He's very competitive. He is one of those guys every week; you are going to get a battle from him, and it doesn't matter what the circumstances are, it doesn't matter what's going on around him. I know that his teammates know he is ready to go fight another day, and that's very obvious with him. He's a very impressive young man.
"Everything that he was built up to be in the preseason, he still is. Again, I know things haven't gone exactly the way they envisioned them going, but that hasn't changed him in his quality as a quarterback."
What has he seen from Arkansas on film?
"I mentioned it earlier. I think they are leaving things on the field. I think that when you look at explosive plays both offensively and defensively, they are giving up more explosive plays than I'm sure they would like, and then, the turnovers. If there are less explosive plays and the turnovers aren't what they are, I think you are looking at a completely different football team in terms of being in games and winning games. They are probably feeling a little bit like we are feeling right now; we left some of those things out on the field that we've got to improve on. Those are two things that are glaring to me."
How do the receivers need to react this week without Quan Bray?
"They've got to grow up, they've got to step up and they've got to play better. It's that simple. They've got to play better. If the ball hits them in the hands, they've got to catch the ball. We haven't done that every time. When we ask the route to be at 15 yards, it needs to be at 15 and not 12; we haven't done that all of the time. That whole group of receivers from top to bottom -- it doesn't matter who is playing in the game -- they've got to improve their game, they've got to step it up and they've got to be productive."
Are any guys making a push for increased playing time?
"I think you see a lot of young guys that are starting to get it. If you watch a guy step up and kind of stand out on special teams, usually that is a good indication of those guys really having an opportunity to keep working, offensively and defensively.
"That's not 100 percent, but some of those young guys are doing that. Case in point is the Josh Holseys of the world, and Jonathan Jones, and Ricardo Louis and guys like that that, when they show up, because they have a knack to be a football player, then guys like that have an opportunity to come on.
"I'm not saying that is going to happen until they continue to work and prove that we have a lot of faith in them being out on the field, but I think guys like that are guys you are going to see a little bit more from, if they continue on the path of improvement."
On how Emory Blake's role has changed now that he is the leader of the receiving corps?
"One thing about Emory that is 100 percent true in his career since he has been here since he was a true freshman is that he is not afraid to compete. When the game is tight and is on the line and we have got to have a catch, if we put that ball somewhere around him, he's usually going to catch that. That's just called delivering as a receiver. That's what their job is. That's why they are on scholarship. They've got to be able to do that.
"The problem we have right now is we don't have enough guys right now that are living the same life, and so the younger guys right now are going to have to come on. We have talked to them this whole week about the level of consistency of their play. It's not acceptable. They've got to look at Emory, they've got to see what it looks like -- he's been doing that for his career. I'm not saying Emory has arrived -- he's got to improve in his game as well -- but more times than not, if you throw a ball near Emory and it's catchable, he's going to do that, whether he's taking a big hit or not. He's been that reliable. He needs to come on and continue to do that. He still needs to improve his game and we've got to get some other guys to jump on board."
"Philip is a tremendous young man, and I'll start there. He's one of those guys who, again, has been very productive for us over four years on the field. He's been a clutch guy, he's made big catches, he's made big blocks and he's a guy that decided to come back.
Philip Lutzenkirchen is a senior tight end.
"We want him to continue to improve as well. We need him to continue to be productive. Off the field, he is one of those guys that is not about him. He wants to be the right guy off the field, too. We are proud of Philip. Philip needs to continue to be productive as the season goes on, and I think, if you talk to Philip, he knows there have been some really big-play opportunities out there where he's made a catch, and he knows he's got to do more with the ball in his hands after the catch and some things that he takes to heart. He's got to make those things happen. But, he's a fantastic young man, and I'm glad to have him at Auburn. He's an Auburn man."
What effect has Lutzenkirchen had on his teammates?
"On the practice field, he's working. At the end of practice, he's gassed and he's tired and he's put in his day's work, and I think the other guys see that, and I just think that you create a lot of credibility for yourself when you are a very productive guy consistently. He's been that since he's been at Auburn, this being his fourth year, so in that regard, the guys have a high level of respect for him."
Has Auburn established any consistency in the starting lineup in the secondary?
"We are working in that direction. We want continuity back there, but we've got new coaches and we've got new things going on defensively that require different things each week. We are trying to find the guy that, no matter how the game plan changes, no matter what we are asking you to do, that you are going to play within the structure of the defense.
"We are getting closer to feeling a comfort level, but there are some younger guys pushing some older guys, and that's just the way it is. We'll continue to do that. If there has to be a different guy back there because one is not – again, through practice and the game cumulative effect -- is not getting the job done, then they are going to be watching. They are not going to be playing. Continuity is obviously what we are looking for. We are getting closer to it, but that doesn't mean there won't be other changes down the road. We've got some guys really pushing and competing, and that's the good news."