Malzahn Says He Is Pleased With Practice

News, notes and quotes on the Auburn football Tigers are featured as they continue preparations for the national championship game vs. Florida State.

Auburn, Ala.--The weather was dark and dreary on Saturday, but that didn't dampen the spirits of Auburn head football coach Gus Malzahn or his players as the Tigers worked out for two hours at their indoor facility on Saturday evening.

"We had to go indoors because of the weather--we split half of the field offense and defense," said Malzahn, who noted he liked what he saw. "I have been very impressed with our focus, their attention to detail. They have been excited about practicing, excited about getting better, which is very encouraging, especially when a game is nine days away.

"Overall, I was real pleased with our guys and where we are at right now," added the coach, who noted he had a relaxing Christmas break spending time with his family back in state of Arkansas.

Malzahn said that Auburn's opponent in the BCS National Championship Game is very impressive on video. "It is very unique for the fact that they have had hardly any close games," he pointed out.

"When you are watching it, from an offensive standpoint watching their defense, their backups are in there as much as their starters are because they are just blowing people out. That is very unusual.

"They get a lot of turnovers," he added. "I think they are leading the country in interceptions and defensive touchdowns. They are very impressive with what they are doing."

Asked about trying to predict tendencies for a team that has only been behind once all season, Malzahn said, "You are always looking for information. You are exactly right, they haven't trailed in the second half hardly at all so that is the challenge. They are a very good team in all areas. They beat everybody pretty soundly.

Junior tight end H-back C.J. Uzomah said he has been impressed with what he has seen of the FSU linebackers after spending free time with fullback/H-back Jay Prosch studying video of the Seminoles in game action. "They play fast, they play hard and they don't really take any plays off," Uzomah said.

"We haven't really been able to see the pace affect them, but they play hard and it is going to be a challenge," Uzomah added.

Uzomah said he had no doubts that Auburn would be able to get back in the national championship picture after Malzahn took over as head coach, but admitted he has been surprised at how quickly the turnaround has taken place.

"The kids that I came in with like Tre (Mason), Quan (Bray) and Greg (Robinson), we all wanted to win a national championship and we wanted to have a repeat of the 2010 season so here we are reliving it," he said. "It is truly a blessing."

Tre Mason

Uzomah gives a lot of credit to Malzahn for the team's success. Asked about the coach's strengths as a leader, he said, "Just being a players' coach. We respect him. Anytime he says something we take it to heart.

"We know he is genuine in what he is saying," Uzomah added. "At the same time he can make jokes and we can relate to him. He is kind of a goofy coach. He makes a joke and we are kind of laughing and he says, ‘I guess that was kind of funny--ha-ha.' He is just a great coach and we learn a lot from him.

"He remembers everything," Uzomah pointed out. "He will say something about our freshman year with Tre being too early on a motion and messing up the timing of a play. He will just know that third quarter, nine minutes in, ‘Tre, you did this.'

"Tre is like, ‘I don't even remember this, how do you know?' He is just like ‘I know everything" and we will laugh and we will be just like ‘that's cool.'"

Jay Prosch

Prosch agrees with Uzomah that the new coaching staff sparked the turnaround that has made his senior season so much fun after a dismal junior season. "That is just all Coach Malzahn coming in and bringing a new system and all the guys getting excited about it and buying into it really," Prosch said. "Then, along with that, them pushing us to the max in the offseason and working us hard and building our confidence back. That's what happened."

In other news and notes:

*Malzahn said that everybody on the roster will be making the trip to California, even injured players who are redshirting or still not healthy enough to play.

*The head coach had praise for quarterback Nick Marshall, who has received extra attention from offensive coordinator and QB coach Rhett Lashlee in the extended practice time since the SEC Championship Game.

"He wants to be good and he's coachable," Malzahn said of the juco transfer. "He just wants to get better and he's got a great attitude and ‘coach me, Coach' attitude--what can I do to help us?"

Dee Ford lifting with encouragement from his teammates. Auburn has lifted throughout the season and that has continued during bowl practices.

*The Tigers, who worked out in shorts and shoulder pads on Saturday, have two more days of practices before flying to California on New Year's Eve. The Tigers will practice at UC-Irvine that day while FSU will practice at Orange Coast College.

*Malzahn and FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher will be at Disneyland for a press conference at the ESPN Zone. Fisher and the Seminoles will be on first at 4 p.m. PST on New Year's Eve with wide receiver Rashad Greene and cornerback Lamarcus Joyner representing the Seminoles. Senior defensive end and junior center Reese Dismukes will represent the Tigers.

*On January 2nd offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee will be at a press conference along with Uzomah, Dismukes, Prosch running back Tre Mason and quarterback Marshall.

That same day FSU defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt will be at a press conference along with Joyner, defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan, safety Terrance Brooks and linebackers Telvin Smith and Christian Jones.

*On January 3rd Auburn defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson will participate in a press conference along with Ford, defensive tackle Nosa Eguae, cornerback Chris Davis, safety Jermaine Whitehead and "star" Robenson Therezie.

That same day FSU co-offensive coordinators Randy Sanders and Lawrence Dawsey will do a press conference with Greene, quarterback Jameis Winston, center Bryan Stork, running Back Devonta Freeman and tight end Nick O'Leary.

•The Tigers go into the championship game turnover neutral after 13 games with seven interceptions thrown and 11 fumbles lost. Auburn's defense has intercepted 13 passes and recovered five fumbles. The Tigers have scored 73 points off the 18 turnovers and given up 41 points off of 18 turnovers.

*Kickoff for the BCS Championship Game is set for 7:20 p.m. CST (5:20 local time). Brent Musberger will do the television play-by-play for ESPN with Kirk Herbstreit the analyst and Heather Cox the sideline reporter. The game will also be telecast on ESPN2, ESPNNews, ESPN?Classic and ESPN Deportes.

*Talking about Auburn's success running the zone read plays that have helped the Tigers lead the nation in rushing at 335.7 yards per game, Malzahn said his team's physical offensive line deserves a lot of credit for making it happen.

"That is exactly where it starts," he said. "It starts up front with our offensive line and with Jay Prosch and the physical part of that. All the other stuff is fine, but you've got to get movement up front, you've got to be very physical and so far our guys have done that"

Malzahn said Auburn's emphasis on the zone read plays evolved during the season as it became apparent Marshall was good at running those plays. "I think you always build around your quarterback's strengths and that's Nick's strength right now, but I still believe this, and I'll say this again, Nick can flat out throw it he just needs to get more comfortable doing it. I believe this off period has helped."

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