Auburn, Ala.--Gus Malzahn had these comments from his press conference on Monday previewing this week's Auburn at Kentucky football game that is scheduled for Thursday in Lexington.
”First of all, the off-week was very good to us. It was good to have from a coach’s standpoint and a player’s standpoint being able to get a plan together for the second part of the season. We are playing a very good Kentucky team. They are very unique on defense with the way they go about their pressures and the different looks they give you.
"Offensively, they are a balanced team that puts a lot of pressure on defenses. We know that Kentucky is a tough place to play. I think we went there in 2010 when we won the national championship. I think we had to drive 80-90 yards and kick a field goal the last play of the game to beat them. We know it will be a tough place to play and I know that we will have to play well to win. Our kids are excited and I feel good about where we are at right now going into the Kentucky game on Thursday night.”
Any decision on a starting quarterback? “We don’t have a decision yet. By the end of this week we will have the starter. Sean White has done nothing to lose the job. He has done a very good job. We just want the guys to compete. I feel like Jeremy (Johnson) has done a solid job back in the mix. I think this has been good for both of them. We will make the call on that later in the week.” Game time decision? “It could be. It could also be as soon as we get done with this week’s practice.”
Will there be a package for both quarterbacks? “That is a possibility. This off-week we wanted to see how these guys would respond to competition--not just that position, but other positions as well. I think it has been very healthy for our whole team. That is a possibility as far as packages go.”
On playing a Thursday game--“I think because we had an off-week last week that it’s really not that difficult. You get into a routine, like yesterday was our Tuesday practice, today will be our Wednesday and tomorrow will be our Thursday. You really want to stay in a routine. It was good specifically with the things they do defensively. They are very unique, so it was good to have a little extra time to get all that figured out and everything that goes with that.”
Does the experience of playing last season at Kansas State on Thursday night help? “Thursday night games away are challenging, there’s no doubt, because of the crowd and everything that goes with that. The thing is, you know, we experienced that last year.”
On increasing the offensive tempo--“We are at our best when we are playing fast and we are getting rhythm and tempo so rhythm and tempo, that’s a big factor in our off week, and explosive plays. We have to get more explosive plays. That has been probably the biggest issue that we’ve had as far as getting into rhythm, as far as putting points on the board. We’ve got that plan during the off-week, moving forward personnel-wise and everything that goes with that, so hopefully that’ll carry over Thursday night.”
On the status of Xavier Dampeer, who has a jaw injury--“He will not play. He’s out for an extended period of time.”
On not being forthright about injuries on the offensive line last week--“I can’t remember the day you asked me but I’ve always been forthright with that.”
Who will be the backup center? “We have a couple different options. We’ve got guys that have taken reps before. Devonte Danzey is probably the first up. Deon Mix has also played a lot of center. We do have some options if something happened to our starter. (Danzey) has taken reps at center. (Deon Mix) does take reps at center; he has the last two and half years. We have some sufficient guys. Avery Young has taken snaps before in practice. He’s very athletic. We have a lot of different options. (Alex Kozan) has as well, but not as efficient as some of the others.”
On the Kentucky game being a chance to turn around the season--“It’s definitely a big game. I talked to our team about this this week. I think they understand that it’s a big game and it’s a game that we need to win. Our guys understand that we are playing a good team, a team that’s played three SEC games and won two of them. We’ve got to be ready and play good football.”
On message to team about the starting quarterback situation not being settled--The message is we are going to play the guy that gives us the best chance of winning. Our guys understand it. All the offensive guys understand it.”
On Kentucky's head coach, Mark Stoops--“He does a very good job. He was a very good coach as a coordinator. He’s got his program on the rise. I think they are playing their best football since he’s been there and he’s a very good coach. They do a good job in all three phases.”