Quoting Coach Gus Malzahn: LA Tech Week

Comments from Auburn's head football coach are featured prior to the Tigers' Homecoming game.

Auburn, Ala.--Comments from Auburn football coach Gus Malzahn are featured from his Tuesday press conference as his Tigers prepare for Saturday’s 3 p.m. home game vs. Louisiana Tech.

“We’re playing a very solid opponent in Louisiana Tech, an offense that throws the ball well,” Malzahn said. “They’ve got a running back in (Kenneth) Dixon who is 21st in the country in rushing and has some big-play ability. The defense presents a lot of challenges and a lot of multiple fronts.

“They have a lot of unique things on the back end that they present some challenges with. We really talked to our team about improving. We have got to get better from our last game and I believe our guys are committed to that and looking forward to this week of practice.”

On facing Manny Diaz’s defense in 2010: “There’s no doubt that they did a good job of defending us in 2010 when he was at Mississippi State. They had a very good plan. They executed that plan and made it very tough on us. We had to earn it and we were fortunate to win that night.”

What are the strengths of that defense: “It’s the different fronts and the different coverages behind the fronts and everything that goes with it. At Mississippi State they had some very good players to go along with those schemes.”nate to win that night.”

On finding an offensive identity: “We have a lot more information about our strengths and what we want this offense to be than we did this time last year. We have got to execute better. We know who we are at this point and we know where we’ve got to get. We have a lot of room for improvement and that’s what we’re focusing on.nate to win that night.”

”The expectations, as far as execution from last year to this year, are completely different. We made way too many mistakes last game. Our opponent had some things to do with that, but overall we weren’t happy with the way we executed. We need to have a very good week of practice. We need to come out and be better this Saturday than we were last Thursday.”nate to win that night.”

What are Auburn’s foundation plays: “That’s just the execution part of the base runs and base passes. We need to be able to execute them at a high rate. That was the most frustrating thing for me. We need the basics fine-tuned, all 11 guys doing what they’re supposed to do. That’s what I meant by the foundation plays. We’ve run these plays too many times to be making mistakes.

“I always look at myself. If you’re responsible for something and it’s not working or as efficient as you want it to be, you have got to figure out the way you’re teaching it or explaining it. That’s the way I work so we’re going to go back to some basics and improve. When I say that, we’re not sounding any big alarm and I still think we execute some plays at a very high rate. The difference is that the expectations are very different this year.

“We have to be a team that gets better each week. We’ve got to see that improvement in the little things. When everything is not clicking perfectly, the better opponents and better personnel you face expose that. I think that’s what happened. It was really good for us. When I said this was a good learning experience that we got to win a game with, that’s what I meant. We’re not too far away, but it’s just a matter of us getting better at what we do.”

On cornerback Trovon Reed’s transition to defense: “We are pleased with Trovon and what he has done. We are putting him on an island some out there. He understands offenses. He understands distance so I think that has helped him. He has very good ball skills having been a receiver for three years plus. He will get more and more comfortable as the season goes on, but we were very pleased with him and his play.”

Will there be more opportunities for Roc Thomas: “He is one of those guys that will play more and more as the year goes on. We put him back there at kick return, trying to find ways to get him the ball. As the season goes on he will be more and more involved in the running back position. Any freshman holding on to the ball is always a concern, but you have to give them the opportunity to get out there and do their thing. There was the one fumble two games ago, but it is just a matter of getting him more opportunities to do what he can do.”

On Cameron Artis-Payne’s potential to match Tre Mason’s productivity: “We had a lot of confidence in Cameron last year. This is a matter of getting some momentum going. Tre was really playing his best, getting better and better. Cameron is a big, strong guy. He has been doing a great job with his pad levels on third-and-one-to-two and finding that seam and going with it. He is not second-guessing himself. It is a matter of him establishing himself.”

On the emergence of Johnathan “Rudy” Ford at safety: “When we signed him we thought he would be a phenomenal running back, and I still think he could be a really good running back. Last year at this time he asked if he could go over to defense and help with depth at defensive back. He found a home and you can see his confidence level rising every game. He has turned himself into a very good tackler. He is very quick and he is a playmaker on defense.”

The punt coverage was not as effective at Kansas State: “When you punt the football you want your hang time to match up with the distance to give your guys time to get down there. This was the first game we experienced some major wind for Daniel (Carlson). Also, we didn’t get down in our coverage lanes. They kept holding us up and they had some blocks at the point of attack. Overall, that was an area we didn’t feel good about. We’ve got to figure out a way to improve that area because we are going to face some very good punt returners.

On effect of the wind at Kansas State: “We haven’t had a lot of wind like that. It’s a matter of the more you do something, the more comfortable you are with it.”

On other kickers spelling Carlson at Kansas State: “The volume of his leg doing everything is something to be considered. We are trying to get other guys who are specifically good at certain things on the field so that we can take some kicks off Daniel’s leg so you will see that more and more.”

Will other teams learn from Kansas State’s run defense: “The only thing I’m concerned with is our execution. Defenses are going to do different things to stop different things and you’ve got to have an answer. You’ve got to be able to execute that answer. Our quarterback runs the ball well and we’ve got some perimeter runners that can run the ball well. That’s part of the game. We weren’t able to properly execute some of our answers.”

Has the defense taken a step forward: “We have definitely improved. We are very good right now at stopping the run. We are working on improving in all areas and putting more pressure on the quarterback in pass situations. I like the direction we are going and I think we are improving.”

Jordan Diamond is a backup offensive guard for the Tigers.

What is the status of Jordan Diamond: “Jordan Diamond had surgery and will be out for this year.”

On the status of suspended safety Jermaine Whitehead: “Nothing’s changed.”

On the importance of timing for the offense: “It’s very important, especially when teams really roll extra guys down. They try to funnel everything back inside. You have got to be able to execute your answers and we are working hard to do that. We are very confident that we are going to do it, but it was good that we were put in a situation where we didn’t execute things.

“Any time you can learn lessons and still win, that’s a real good thing. We didn’t play our best but last year at this time, we wouldn’t have won that game. Our guys found a way to win.”

On off-field issues with seniors this year: “You look at each individual situation as a coach, but we’ve got a very solid group of seniors. They are a very close group.”

On defensive end Davonte Lambert: “He is getting more and more comfortable. Each game he is making plays. He is starting to understand what Coach Garner is asking him to do. He is able to start playing and reacting and not having to think so much.”

Is the focus too much on Nick Marshall’s performance: “I think it’s everyone. I know for whatever reason the focus is always on our quarterback and what’s wrong with Nick. There is not a whole lot wrong with Nick. There are a couple things that we expect him to be really, really good at, and if we’re not, we’re going to get on him, but what the casual eye doesn’t see is that everything around him needs to be right.

“We need to be at the right depth, the right protection, and everything needs to be right. Bottom line is our quarterback wins. He knows how to win. If you compare him to all the other quarterbacks around the country, when the game’s on the line we’ve got the best guy. He’ll continue to work, but we have a lot of confidence in him.”

On receiving a text from Arkansas coach Bret Bielema after the win: “Yeah, that was real nice of him. He had been there before and so he knows exactly what we were dealing with and just said congratulations. I texted him the same thing back with the way that they played the last two weeks. We get along a lot better than everybody thinks.”

Do you have a zero tolerance policy on domestic violence? “There’s no doubt about that, and I would expect that most programs around the country have that. There’s no doubt about it. You don’t even go there.”

On having six SEC West teams in the top 17: “I think it speaks for itself. Arkansas is a team that I think could be in the Top 20 before long. You look at our schedule, and I’ve said this before, but it is probably one of the toughest, if not the toughest schedule in college football. In regards to rankings, I think with our schedule we’ll wait until November, and then we will start worrying about all that. It’s a man’s schedule. We’re going to take one game at a time, and that’s what we need to do. The only thing we can look forward to is the next game with the schedule that we have.”

Was Hal Mumme an influence when Malzahn was developing his offense in the late 1990s: “I don’t know. I probably enjoyed watching Kentucky when they were throwing the ball around and all that. You know, I was over at Delaware and the Wing-T with the book. I had three or four guys that were Arkansas high school football coaches with me that I really respected and kind of looked up to. I would see the things that they were successful with and just try to model myself after their approaches. I would just kind of take what we had and make the best of it. I kind of made it into my own.”

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