Jason Caldwell

Quoting Coach Gus Malzahn: Arkansas Game Week

Comments from Auburn's head football coach are featured as the Tigers prepare for their seventh football game of the season.

Auburn, Ala.--Comments from Auburn coach Gus Malzahn's weekly press conference are featured. The Tigers, who are 4-2 overall and 1-2 in the SEC, will play at Arkansas (2-4 overall, 1-2 SEC) on Saturday at Reynolds-Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville.

“We go on the road this week against a good Arkansas team. I really feel like their record is deceiving. The schedule they have played is a very good schedule, a lot of top 20 teams. They have competed very well and had a chance to win -- a few of those could have gone either way.

“Offensively, Brandon Allen, their quarterback, has as much or more experience as any quarterback in the league. The running back Alex Collins is a very explosive guy. He can hit it inside -- his speed could bounce it outside -- he is definitely a concern. Hunter Henry, their tight end, is probably one of the best in our league and one of the best in the country.

“Defensively, they are very sound. Their defensive coordinator does a very good job. They are very good with their run fits, and they do a good job with keeping things in front of them. The bottom line is we have to play our best game to go there and win. It is a tough place to play, and like I said, they are a good team.”

On Auburn's win at Kentucky--“It was pretty much what I thought. Our guys played hard. We did improve. Obviously there are areas we need to focus on, and we have done that. We will continue to do that. Our guys won on the road and that is really what we took away from it.”

On the growth of quarterback Sean White--“He has improved each game. I think the big thing from my standpoint is he is protecting the football. He protected the football very well the other night. We had zero turnovers. When you go on the road and you have zero turnovers, you have a big chance of winning the game. He also stood in the pocket very well with guys around him and delivered the football. He has improved and just needs to keep doing that.”

What improvements does White need to make? “I think it is just experience  -- just playing and being out there, and seeing how you react, and how your teammates are going to react. I think it is just more experience.”

What is backup running back Jovon Robinson not playing? “A lot of it has to do with he was injured, like I said a couple of weeks ago. He is starting to get healthy, and you could start seeing him more and more. It is also a combination of Peyton Barber performing extremely well, too. But you could see (Jovon) Saturday, and you could see him here before the season is out.” Is it an ankle injury…“He tweaked it that very first game, and it was kind of slow healing. He’s getting healthier.”

Is he frustrated? “Probably so. He wants to play and wants to contribute.”

On Auburn's special teams performance--“We feel good about our special teams.  Our kicker has done a great job, not just with his kickoffs, but with those long field goals. Our punter has done an excellent job, too. His hang time with his distances matched up – he’s done a good job with that, and his placement.  Our kicking game we feel good about.  There are still things we need to improve, but for the most part we’ve done some good things.”

Are the Tigers close to breaking a kickoff return for a score? “We’ve been very close. We just need to figure out that next step, as far as returning it.  We have some guys back there that we feel that can do that if there’s a big enough seam.”

On freshman running back Kerryon Johnson's play--“He’s done a good job for us. We felt like, when we recruited him, he was very versatile and would give us a lot of flexibility.  He had the injury in fall camp, like we talked about, that kind of set him back a little bit, but now he’s getting healthier. He’s doing a good job, and he’s protecting the football.  With true freshmen, you’re always concerned about ball security, and his ball security has improved each game.”

On Johnson's potential the rest of the season--“He’s a guy that is very versatile.  He gives us a lot of flexibility, and we try to get him the ball different ways.  He’s been doing some wildcat, which could continue.” Will he throw out of the wildcat…“He could. I wouldn’t tell you, but he definitely could.”

 Talk about the difficulty of changing quarterbacks during the season--“There’s no doubt it’s difficult.  I think we’ve gotten through some of the difficult times.  We’ve improved the last few games, and the last game was really the first time it really looked like an Auburn offense, with the rhythm and everything that goes with that.  The challenge is to take the next step, and each week play better.”

On the progress of Carlton Davis at cornerback--“We’re to a point now where the true freshmen we’ve played, they’re no longer freshmen in our eyes. They have experience and they know how to react. He made one of the key plays for the entire game against Kentucky. He’s getting more and more confidence. He’s playing very good football. He’s a good tackler and he’s playing very well on special teams. He’s definitely been a bright spot.”

On the importance of DaVonte Lambert becoming a bigger contributor as he recovers from knee surgeyr--“He’s very important. You can see him improving each week. He’s getting more confidence in his knee. I think he had one of his best games, if not his best game, last week. Before he got hurt last year, he was playing very well and you can see him getting back to that level. It’s very important that he does that in the second half of the season. “

On preparing for potential bad weather in Fayetteville--“We have practiced in the rain a few times this year. I think we had one mist game already. We’ll do some things in practice to try to simulate the situation. We’ll simulate a lot of the factors like keeping the footballs dry, keeping your hand dry with the towels and everything that goes with that.”

How does the weather change  play calling? “I think every situation is different because it’s about how hard it’s raining, then you throw the wind in. The wind is sometimes a factor, too. I think it’s all just depending on how hard it rains, the wind, and all of those factors about how much it could affect the game.”

On Arkansas using the hurry-up offense at times--“I think, around college football, people are looking for advantages to help their team. People that do it think it’s an advantage. It’s something we’ve been doing a long time and we hang our hat on. Last week was the first time that we really got in a rhythm and started playing with the tempo that we want.”

Why was Auburn's offensive tempo better vs. Kentucky? “The bye helped. I think it was the bye and putting in some pieces of the puzzle and getting some consistency with personnel. I think it was a combination of all of that.”

On the Auburn-Arkansas rivalry--“They are playing good football and that is a tough place to play. There are some familiar faces on our staff that are from that state and that may have something to do with it.”

Are SEC road wins a confidence booster? “Road games in the SEC are hard to come by. Any time you get a road win, it will definitely give you confidence the next time you are on the road. We are going to try and take all of that to help us moving forward.”

On how much it meant to win at Arkansas two years ago with your history as a player and coach there--“That was a big win for us at that time. Like I said it’s, a tough place to play and a tough place to win. We are going to have to play our best game to get a victory there.”

 Does it mean more personally to win there? “No. They are all important and you are focused on winning SEC games for your school.”

On the challenge that Arkansas running Alex Collins presents--“He is a challenge. He can hit it downhill hard, he can make it bounce, he has speed and they do a good job with the way they get him the ball, like the little flip play they do to get him to the outside and other things. He’s a very good back and he’s getting used to getting the football with more carries. He’s impressive.”

Is Sean White is the starting quarterback? “Yes, Sean is the starting quarterback.”

Are you having fun this season? “Yeah, we won last week. I love doing what I do and I am blessed to be coaching football and coaching at a school like Auburn. I can see our team getting better and that’s the fun part for me.”

On his year as an assistant coach at Arkansas--“I just know that that year allowed me to get into college football and there are a lot of things I learned about college football that helped me later on.”

On the health of Montravius Adams and Roc Thomas--"They both practiced Sunday and we expect them to play.”

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