Auburn, Ala.--Comments from Auburn head footbal coach Gus Malzahn are featured from his Tuesday press conference. His Tigers, who are 2-2, will play at home at 3 p.m. CDT vs. San Jose State of the Mountain West Conference, a team that is also 2-2.
“Last week’s game obviously didn’t turn out how we wanted, but there were some bright spots that we can build upon. Our defense really played well; I said earlier that I feel like they played well enough to win. We really took a very good step in the right direction. Also, I felt like Sean White gave the offense a spark, and he did some very good things. Sean will start again this week. We really feel like he has earned that. If you take away the red zone struggles, we felt like we got better on the offensive side of the football, too.
“We are playing a very solid San José State team. Offensively, they are averaging 450 yards per game. Their tailback will get your attention. He had 300 yards rushing last week. Defensively, they are a very sound group. It is a lot of the same guys we faced last year, just a year older. Our focus is on us getting better, and us getting a victory. That is what we are focused on.”
On Sean White’s performance-–“You are always curious about how one of your players will respond the first time he plays college football, more importantly when they are a quarterback. Pre-game I watched him close. You could tell the moment wasn’t too big for him then. He didn’t have a bright-eyed look like he was scared. Right before he went out for the first drive you could tell he was just ready to go, and just needed to get hit once. I felt like that first drive with a new quarterback, he did some very good things. He had some pressure one time and made a very good throw down the field. He did some very good things. There are a couple of things that he can build upon, and I think he will get nothing but better with experience.”
Is the quarterback decision week to week? “Right now, where we are at, he (Sean) did a very good job for us. We feel like he is going to get better. He is our starting quarterback this week, and we feel like he has a chance to be a very good quarterback in our system. We are just going to take it like that.”
Will Jeremy Johnson play? “Sean White is our quarterback this week. As far as packages, we’ll see how that goes, but Sean is our quarterback this week, just like he was last week.”
On getting the ball more to playmakers–“We have targeted our playmakers quite a bit the first few games, but there have been some issues either with not being able to get it to them or double coverage or pressure. We will continue. That’s what we need to do as the offensive staff -- figure out ways to hit the playmakers better than we have the last few games.”
On wide receiver Duke Williams’ performance? “There have been some double coverage issues. The other night we were trying to get the ball to him early, and there were some double coverage issues with that. Sometimes the protection broke down in the reads, but he is an impact player -- there is no doubt. We need to find a way to not only get the ball to him, but there are three or four others that I feel we need to do a better job of getting the ball to, also.”
Will the tempo pick up as White gains experience? “You would definitely like to think that. We learned a lot about Sean and how he would react. Going into the game, we felt like we were trying to build around his strengths and things he felt comfortable with, such as concepts or plays and things like that. You definitely learn from game experience with a quarterback about what they’re comfortable with and what more you can add to them. That’s where we’re going with Sean. Overall, he did a very solid job.”
Sean White made his college debut vs. Mississippi State.
Was the change of tempo intentional? “At times it was. There’s no doubt. There were certain situations when we needed certain personnel in for certain plays.”
What is the identity of the offense? “I think the big thing was when we changed quarterbacks. When you change quarterbacks, there will be some transition. That’s kind of been slowing the process down of finding our identity and strengths, but we do have quite a bit of information now. We do have a plan moving forward, so we’re hoping that will come together really quickly.”
On Duke Williams facing double teams–“You have to understand in our offensive system there are progressions and reads. A lot of times, if someone is covered, the quarterback will go somewhere where someone is open. There are times, in certain situations, that you will throw to someone who is double-covered, if you feel comfortable with that. There are progressions so it’s nothing that (Williams) is doing wrong or that he needs to do better. It’s all part of an offensive system.
"Like I said earlier, we need to be a little more creative to get guys open. At the same time, when you have a new starting quarterback, you want to make sure that he is comfortable, so there’s a balance there. That’s what we’re trying to balance. I believe we only turned the ball over one time the other night. I thought that was a step in the right direction, especially compared to the first two games where we had three turnovers. Also, we only turned the ball over one time with a new starting quarterback. If we can continue to protect the football, that will really help us with our progressions in everything, not just our passing game, but our progression with our offense moving forward.”
How many progressions are there in an average pass play? “Anywhere from three to five. They also have scramble options so there’s a lot to it. It’s not like you can just go out there and throw to one guy. There’s a lot to it.”
On the health of wide receiver Ricardo Louis–“He was banged up. He’s been banged up for a couple of weeks. Hopefully, we can get him back healthy where he can have a bigger role. He’s one of our impact players. I think everybody saw that the first game. He’s been a little banged up and we’re hoping that he’ll get healed up in a hurry.”
Are you using the buck sweep more? “It’s what teams are giving you and how they are playing. We have been able to get to the edge a few times and our guards are very active in the play. The power, the counter, the buck sweep and the zone are what we do.”
On dealing with the offensive struggles? “We take great pride in scoring points around here and playing well on offense. We haven’t done that yet; there have been times where we have done some good things, but we haven’t been consistent. Usually by this time, we have a good idea of what we have and what we don’t have and we can build around our strengths, but the change in quarterback has put us a little behind. I still feel very confident that we can be a good offense. Even though we didn’t get it done in the red zone, there were some good things. We saw some extended drives; I believe we had four of 10-plus plays against a good defense. We are going to get better on offense; there is no doubt about that. It is frustrating because our expectations are to be very good on offense and I still feel like we will do that. We just need to do it soon and start making that step every single week.”
On the strengths on offense–“I believe we can run the football. We have to be more consistent at that because we are a run-to-play action team. The Achilles heel this year has been explosive plays. We haven’t had the explosive plays that we have had in the past and that’s what we need to do as coaches -- figure out how to manufacture those things with our guys and within our system.”
How he would rate the rhythm of play? “At times we have had the type of flow we want, but not overall. There are a lot of factors that go into that, with not only new guys, but new quarterbacks, and how confident you are with being able to execute certain things and certain looks. At times, yes we have been in a rhythm and at times no, I’ve not been in a rhythm. It has been a combination of both. I think it’s pretty obvious. We are not playing offensively as good as we have in the past or as good as we would like. We have not been in a rhythm and we have to figure out a way to do that.”
Is the running back situation clearing up? “It is starting to clear up. The fact that a few of those guys have been a little banged up has slowed it down a little bit. Things are starting to become clear and each week it will clear itself up, I believe. (Peyton Barber) He’s the starter. Peyton has shown a lot of toughness and done a good job for us. He’s also protected the football.”
Are the substitution patterns making the upcoming plays predictable? “Yeah, and at the same time, we’ve got tendencies; we’ve got to use those tendencies against the defense for our advantage. So there is something to be said for that, and that is always what we’ve done a solid job of in the past. We need to continue to do that.”
Have you substituted more this season? “We probably have.”
Does substitution slow the offense down? “It has at times. Like I said earlier, we are not playing very good offense right now, so that is one of the problems that we are looking at that we need to correct and we need to get better at, and we need to get in a rhythm. We are looking at everything. When you’ve got new faces at a lot of new positions, you don’t want to give too much where you can execute, so we are kind of trying to figure all of that out each week. I’ll say this. The positive the other night was we actually got into some rhythm at times. The first game we did at times, but the next two we didn’t. Things are starting to clear up, and I can definitely see us getting better.”
Why change plays on the goal line after the timeout? “If you look at that, you have a special play, they call time out and they see exactly how you’re lined up, so you’ve got to assume that they are pretty good coaches and they may be playing for that look. And the play that we had that we snapped over his head, I felt real good about, because it was just the opposite of the alignment, so we felt good about that. If the snap had been there, I feel real strong that we would have scored, but we didn’t. We snapped it over the quarterback’s head. Our center has done some very good things. This is the first year he has played center, and so each game he’s learning. He’ll get better, and he is going to be a very good center. But that was what we were thinking. Any time something like that happens, it’s easy to second guess. Bottom line, we didn’t score. We’ve got to find a way, and I’ve got to do a better job of making sure we score.”
Will Roc Thomas play this week after being hurt vs. Mississippi State? “Yeah, I think he’ll be ready to go.”
On Jovon Robinson’s ankle injury limiting his playing time? “That has something to do with it. He’s still battling that. If he can get healthy, it is a possibility (for him to be in the rotation).”
On freshman running back Kerryon Johnson–“He’s played well for us. There’s no doubt.”