Quoting Coach Gus Malzahn: LSU Week

Comments from Gus Malzahn's weekly press conference are featured as Auburn prepares to play LSU.

Auburn, Ala.--Comments from Coach Gus Malzahn are featured at his weekly press conference prior to Saturday’s game vs. LSU. Auburn, which is 4-0, is ranked fifth nationally while LSU, which is 4-1, is ranked 15th.

“We are about to start the meat of our schedule, facing a very talented, very good LSU team. They have a good mix of veterans along with some extremely talented freshmen.

“Offensively, they have two quarterbacks that can run the offense. They are starting the freshman against us. We know a lot about him because we recruited him. He is a very talented young man. They have depth at running back. They have a veteran offensive line, and they have some receivers that can hurt you in one-on-one situations.

“Defensively, they are giving up 13 points a game. They have seven starters back. It looks like the same LSU defense to me. They don’t give you any cheap ones; they make you earn everything. We have our work cut out for us on the offensive side with that.

“An update on our injured players--the status is still day-to-day with the guys that got injured last game. We are hoping to get these guys back for the game.”

On preparing for LSU’s running backs: “They have used a lot of running backs in the past. That’s what they do, but they are all very talented. As far as looking at them differently, they are all very talented. It is hard to distinguish one from the other.”

Status of suspended safety Jermaine Whitehead: “Nothing has changed with Jermaine Whitehead.”

On facing LSU freshman quarterback Brandon Harris: “First of all, he is a classy young man. He is extremely talented. He has an NFL arm. He can throw the football from one hash to the sidelines. He can run. He is a threat.”

“From time to time there have been a game or two where we spread the ball around a lot. As the season goes on usually what happens is the quarterback has a couple of guys he feels very comfortable with. I don’t really think that is a negative. There will be games where we spread it around and games that we won’t. A lot of it has to do with your opponent and how they are covering a guy.”

On the offensive line combinations if tackle Patrick Miller is out: “We have a couple options, but we did end the game a certain way. We do have a couple different options that we are looking at. We are hoping Pat will be back. As he practices today and tomorrow we’ll know more.”

Has Auburn been able to wear down opponents in the second half? “I think we scored quite a few points in the fourth quarter this past weekend. The big thing we have been focusing on is third downs. We have got to get better at third downs and get our pace going.”

Does LSU present special problems for the Auburn offense?M “They definitely make you earn it, there’s no doubt about that. Back in 2010 we played pretty well against them. We need a repeat performance like that. They do a very good job at attacking. They make you earn it. We will have to do a good job at executing all 11 guys.”

What are you working to improve on offense? “We’re just trying to improve our execution. We do have some new guys and some new starters. As a coach, even though we know a lot about our team, you still learn about your team the first few games. From a coach’s standpoint you’re just trying to give your guys the best advantage so you can to get them off to a good start.

“We have got four good games under our belt and we know a lot more about our players than when we first started. Any time you replace some offensive linemen, you mix and match and move them around, it takes a little bit of time for those guys to gel, too. We still have a lot of room to improve and we are in a good spot to do that.”

On the offense settling into a rhythm: “Well, we are 4-0 right now. We’ve been able to run the ball pretty well. We are Top 20 in the country in rushing. We have got a foundation and we’ve got the opportunity to get better. That was our plan last year, to get better each week. We’re ahead of that plan this year, compared to last year. The positives are that we’ve still got a lot of room to improve and I think that is a big factor from a coach’s standpoint.”

On the recruiting pitch to get Duke Williams to choose Auburn over LSU: “I think any time you recruit someone you refer back to success you’ve had, whether it’s individual players or just as a team. We’ve had teams where we ran the football extremely well and we’ve had teams where we threw the ball extremely well.”

On LSU: “When you turn the film on, from year to year it looks like the same LSU team. They are flying around. They have got a lot of talent. They have got some veteran guys. A lot of the time the freshmen are extremely talented so they get a lot of attention. They do have a lot of veteran guys back that do start or at least got to play last year. They are a very talented team.”

On last year’s improvement vs. LSU from the first half to the second half: “Well, that was one of the defining moments of our entire year last year. We got embarrassed in the first half. They got after us real good. Not a whole lot was good on offense, defense, or special teams. Our guys decided at halftime that they weren’t going to shut it down. They were going to keep fighting. We fought back, and it really gave us some momentum for the rest of the season.”

What do you like from Auburn’s running backs? “We’ve had some good yards after contact. That was what Tre (Mason) was really good at last year and Cameron Artis-Payne is really getting to that point. The other running backs are doing a solid job, too.”

Will running backs Roc Thomas and Peyton Barber see increased time? “It is a possibility. Like I’ve said in the weeks past, we’ve given those guys some reps with our first group quite a bit so when the time presents itself I believe both those guys can do the job that we need them to do.”

Will Cameron Toney play H-back? “It’s a possibility. We have not made any final decisions, but that is a possibility. That’s a unique position. There is a lot of thinking going on. There’s a lot of things, a lot of moving parts, but he’s a smart young man.”

Is last year’s loss to LSU extra motivation? “As far as your opponent goes you can’t get more motivated than you already are for a game like LSU at home. You use personal stuff to motivate you during the course of the year. As far as this game week goes, us and them, everyone is going to be motivated to play their best.”

On preparing for LSU quarterback: “We’re going to have a strategy. We expect them to play both of those guys. We’ll have a strategy for both. They both look extremely talented.”

On the health of LaDarius Owens “I think he got a little banged up, but he finished and should be fine. There were a lot of guys who got banged up Saturday. It was a physical game.”

On the success with punt returns: “That was one of our focuses. We were very good at it last year. Quan is a guy who had experience and we just asked him to raise his level. It was pretty simple--we just asked him to go more North-South and he’s really been doing that. He has got a lot of confidence right now and we’ve got a lot of guys around him that are busting their tails to block their guy. We had five true freshmen out there on that punt return so I think that’s a really good sign for the future, too.”

Will the punting rotation remain the same? “At this point I think we’ll keep pretty much the same plan.”

LSU’s receivers seem to get more national attention than Duke Williams: “We’ve not even thought through that. We do our job here and sometimes we’re under the radar, but that’s okay with us.”

On LSU’s Harris-Dupre quarterback/receiver connection: “With the couple of touchdowns, they were definitely on the same page. You can tell that they’ve worked together on their own and are two very talented freshmen.”

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