Opening Statement: “The off week last week was very good for us. It came at a good time, not just to heal up, but to really get a good plan together as far as the last six games. We are playing a very good South Carolina team that is very talented. It is a veteran team. They were ranked in the Top 10 in the preseason for a reason. They had a big win against a very good Georgia team, so we are expecting to really get their best and we feel like we will have to play well to win.
“On another note, Jermaine Whitehead has been reinstated. He practiced with the team Sunday. He is going to do everything he can to try to earn himself back on the field. I don’t know exactly how long that will take, I don’t have a timetable on it, but we will see how it goes. What he did is between him and me.”
On the team’s reaction to Whitehead’s reinstatement: “Seniors have a lot to do with decisions, so do coaches, but this was matter of fact.”
On South Carolina’s rush defense: “It looks like early in the year they had a new defensive scheme. They were trying to get all of that cleaned up, and it seems as though they still have a little bit of a transition. We know they have got some talented players. They have a lot of veteran guys back on defense that have played extremely well. We feel they are starting to figure out who they are and we feel they will be much improved.”
Why do top teams dominate at home: “Playing at home here in front of our fans is a big advantage for us. We’ve played well the last few years at home and we need to continue to do that. On the road, you have to have your best effort--not just the crowd and everything that goes with it--you have to just have that little extra.”
Is Jordan-Hare Stadium different: “I’ve had the unique experience of coming here coaching another team, and the unique experience of being a coordinator here and a head coach here. In my opinion, it doesn’t get any better than our home field advantage.”
Will Avery Young stay at right tackle or return to guard: “He has the flexibility to do both. We’ve not made any hard decisions. Today in practice we’ll kind of see where things are at, but he has the flexibility to play both.”
On having more offensive production on first downs: “A lot of it is execution, some of it could be strategy, some of it could be scheme, but that is a big factor and difference between this year and last year. It really comes down to the execution part. We were very efficient especially in the second half of the year last year, and we’re hoping that the same thing will happen this year.
“A lot of it has to do with the fact we’ve have some injuries up front. We’ve mixed and matched and we really haven’t had our guys in the same spot over and over again so you can get clicking, but we’re hoping the same thing that happened last year will happen this year as far as the second half being more consistent with our execution, especially in the run game.
“It all works together as far as, when something bad happens, it’s never just one thing, but I’ll go back to the point that if we can get our linemen in the same spot and stay healthy in the second half and really start working together and get some cohesion there’s no doubt in my mind we’ll be more effective and more efficient in the run game.”
Will Roc Thomas be more involved in the offense this week: “We felt good about Cameron Artis-Payne with the way he ran. We do have a strategic plan for the second half. Roc will have a bigger role in the second half.”
Have teams been defensing the zone read differently: “We were more effective with the zone reads during the second half of the season last year. We’re hoping the same thing will happen this year. A lot of it has to do with having the same people up front.”
Adding to the zone read package: “You try to add little wrinkles, but at the end of the day, the read is what you hang your hat on. There’s always going to be a few bells and whistles and things that go with it. Those are secondary plays. Our zone read is still our zone read.”
On productivity at receiver beyond Duke Williams and Sammie Coates: “I think overall we have done some good things with the passing game. At times we’ve been inconsistent with certain aspects, but all of that is correctable. As the second half of the season gets here, I think we can be more efficient and more effective.”
On the mood of the team last week: “They came with a lot of energy and there’s a lot of winners on this team. There is a lot of good leadership. We have high goals and they understand what we are about to get into. We know we have to play well. We have to get better. Our players are committed to that.”
On the SEC West: “It is the best conference in college football probably by a long shot, so whoever wins the West will have a big advantage.”
On his relationship with South Carolina’s Head Ball Coach, Steve Spurrier: “I’ve always looked up to Coach Spurrier. I’ve had nothing but respect for the way that he operates. He’s got a great offensive mind. I got to know him off the field. He’s a super guy, one of the best.”
Is that why you wear a visor? “I think so. I used to wear just a regular hat, a boring hat. Wearing a visor I thought was pretty cool. It was probably 2000, somewhere around there.”
Has he picked up things from Spurrier: “You know when he was at Florida he had the Fun N’ Gun. I think everyone was intrigued back then. He just had a different way of doing things and communicating and all that. Anytime that someone is successful, you look at someone, you try to take things that could help you.
“He’s got that air about him. When you look up to someone, you have respect for them. It’s really more of a respect deal, and you get to know somebody off of the field. He’s a great person and a guy that from time to time I’ll bounce things off of him. We visit at the spring meetings and everything that goes with that. I don’t get into Xs and Os, it’s more of the wisdom part. He has been there and done it and had unbelievable experiences especially in our league. Any time you can take something that can help you, that’s a valuable thing.”
On their golf games: “He’s better than I am. I don’t like that, but he is. He’s really good. He’s a competitor.”
On South Carolina’s defense: “They’ve done quite a few different things so far with the pressures and the coverages behind them so it’s just a matter of what they decide to do against us. It really goes back to we need to execute our stuff no matter what they give us, but so far they have done a lot of different stuff so we’ll see how they choose to attack us.”
Is there any difference in South Carolina’s defensive calls with the coordinator in the booth: “I did not notice a difference because of that.”
On Auburn’s pass rush: “That’s something we feel like we need to improve on. Ellis (Johnson) has a good strategy for that moving forward. That is something we’ve worked hard on.”
Will Braden Smith start his week or in the coming weeks? “He’ll definitely play more as the season goes on. He had a very good week of practice last week and he’ll be a factor moving forward. I’m not ready to say if he’ll start, but he has the ability to give us depth and help us. We definitely have confidence in him, especially now that he has experience and we’ve seen him on the field against other opponents. We do have confidence that if we put him in there he can execute.”
On Stanton Truitt’s injury: “Stanton Truitt had surgery and he will be out for the year. That is a guy who was coming along. He played well and hurt his shoulder and we wanted to do the right thing and get it fixed. We will seek a medical hardship for him.”
On responding to a loss: “Any time you lose your last game you can’t wait to get on the field and get out there. The thing about our team is that I feel pretty comfortable about how they’re going to respond because we have a lot of veteran guys who have been through a lot of different experiences. I expect our guys to come out and play extremely hard and do everything they can to try to win the game.”
On his assessment of Auburn’s H-Back position during the bye week: “It showed us what we feel like we’re strong at in that area and what we need to work on in that area.”
On Spurrier facing adversity: “He’s a great competitor. He’s one of the better coaches to ever come through the SEC. You know he’ll have his team ready. They were ranked in the Top 10 to start the season for a reason. They won 11 games two or three years straight and they have good players. We expect to get their best. That’s how we’re coaching.”