Malzahn Looking For Better Execution

Auburn Coach Gus Malzahn is looking for better execution on both sides of the ball from the Tigers. He also talks about the return of Justin Garrett and Dee Ford to practice.

Auburn, Ala.--A win is a win and that was the case for the Auburn Tigers in the season football opener against Washington State, but for coach Gus Malzahn there was plenty to be critical of from his team after reviewing the game film.

Saying the offense was "below average" in its execution, Malzahn said the problems came from more than just the struggles at quarterback position and Nick Marshall.

"The thing about an offense is all 11 guys have to be doing their job or it gets pretty ugly," Malzahn said. "Most of our plays that we didn't execute, it was one or two guys, but it still makes everything look really bad. I believe we'll have a chance to get better and improve in that area."

On the other side of the ball there were several things to be excited about, namely the play of freshman defensive tackle Montravius Adams. Also the second half performance of the defense was something a huge step in the right direction, but Malzahn said it's not good enough as they prepare to face better competition in the coming weeks.

"Defensively, it's kind of the same thing," Malzahn said. "One or two mistakes makes you look different, too. But I'm going to tell you this: A lot of that first game was about evaluation for us. We learned a lot about our players. We thought we had ideas about certain things, and some things were exactly what we thought and some things were a little bit different."

Malzahn and offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee are hoping that the evaluation gets to continue this week with two more expected starters. Both missing the season opener along with Jeffrey Whitaker, "star" Justin Garrett and defensive end Dee Ford both practiced on Monday and should be getting closer to a return. Malzahn said he's still not sure when that will be however. Asked if that meant this weekend he only said "we're hoping".

Better Feel For Linebackers After This Week:

Auburn's linebackers didn't have much production against the pass-happy Washington State offense last week, but that will likely change this Saturday against Arkansas State. A team that had four 100-yard rushers in a win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff last week, the Red Wolves will be physical up front and Malzahn said that should make for a better gauge of where his guys are after week two.

"It'll be a little more evident," Malzahn said. "We'll learn a lot more against more of a running team. Sometimes when teams pass the ball as much as they did, it takes the linebackers kind of out of the game. I think we'll learn more as we go, the more we face running teams."

Grant Can Go:

Auburn junior running back Corey Grant was a state 100 meter champion at Opelika and even though he's nearly 30 pounds heavier than he was for the Bulldogs, he can still motor. He showed that Saturday night with a 75-yard touchdown run against the Cougars, his first touchdown since his high school days. When asked what his 40-yard dash time was, Grant said he had not been timed since the spring of 2012, but his last recording was 4.29 seconds.

"Corey's got real speed," Malzahn said. "I think that's evident. He's very strong. He can break a tackle, too. He really impressed me. I was here before and I knew what he could do, but he wasn't eligible that year. You saw him on the scout team. But he's got a chance to really help us."

Changing It Up:

This weekend will be a unique situation for Malzahn and offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee as on the other sidelines will be many coaches and players very familiar with not only the offense, but how things are signaled in from the sidelines to the field. Keeping that in mind Malzahn said they will definitely make sure to do things a little different in game two.

T"he unique thing is that we've done his before when Rhett was at Samford," Malzahn said. "You got to think ahead when you're playing somebody and all that and you got to keep the integrity of your system and your communication system. That's always something you're aware of when you got somebody that used to work with you. We thought through that."

Whitaker's Return?

Auburn senior defensive tackle Jeffrey Whitaker was called one of the leaders, if not the leader, by Malzahn on Tuesday. Missing the first game because of surgery on his right knee, Whitaker is not expected back for at least the next few games according to Malzahn. Playing as a true freshman in 2010, Whitaker never redshirted for the Tigers and that could be an option down the road. However, Malzahn said that hasn't been discussed to this point and they're hoping to get Whitaker back on the field this season.

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