Jason Caldwell

Quoting Auburn Football Coach Gus Malzahn: Ole Miss Game Week

Auburn football coach Gus Malzahn talks about a variety of subjects as the Tigers prepare for Saturday's home game vs. the Ole Miss Rebels.

Auburn, Ala.-- Auburn, which is 4-3 overall and 1-3 in the SEC, will play host to Ole Miss (6-2 overall, 3-1 SEC) with an 11 a.m. start on Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium. The following are comments from Gus Malzahn at his weekly press conference:

“First off, our players and coaches are really looking forward to playing at home. It has been a while since we have been here, so we are excited about that. We are playing a very good Ole Miss team. You can tell they are playing very good football with the game they played last Saturday. I thought they played well in all three phases. They beat a very good Texas A&M team soundly.

"Defensively, they are very disruptive, and they are very talented up front. They do a lot of different things. They play an attacking style. They are also very good on the back end with their coverage skills. They have some veteran guys back there.

"Offensively, they have some wide-outs that are long and fast, and that are tough in one-on-one situations. They are getting their offensive line back intact; you could see that last week with their run game, and they have a dual threat quarterback. They present a lot of challenges. We understand we have to play well to win this game.

 “On another note, Carl Lawson will practice for the first time today, which should give our guys a lift. We will see where he is at. I’m not going to say right now if he will play this Saturday, but the fact that he is out there practicing will be good from a leadership standpoint, if nothing else.”

Have your previous players been successful in returning from injuries after one week of practice? “I think there have been some times. It just depends on how long they are out. Everything is different as far as that is concerned.”

Are there similarities between the Arkansas loss and last season's loss vs. Texas A&M? “We had a similar situation last year, and it did affect us.  There was some carry over. I think you can learn from things, and that’s what we’re going to do.  It starts with our leaders, starts with our coaches, and we have to put that behind us.  You can flip the film on and Ole Miss will get your attention in all three phases, so that will definitely help.” 

On competing vs. Coach Hugh Freeze: “He’s a great coach and he has great players.  He does a good job.”

On Ole Miss star wide receiver Laquon Treadwell: “He’s one of the better players in the entire country. He’s a force, there’s no doubt. We’ve got to have our attention on him, and he’s a great player. (Last year) I reached out to Coach Freeze, and just let him know that our thoughts and prayers were with him.  He’s a class young man and a great person.  He’s a great player.”

 Are the players eager to return to the field after a loss? “You know, I think so. Obviously, they’re disappointed.  After we watched the film we put it in the rearview mirror. That’s behind us. There’s nothing we can do about it now. We’ve got to move forward and look forward, and those kids have responded. They’re ready to hit the practice field, and I know our coaches are too. That’s part of it, and we’ve got to get better. We’re committed to doing that. We’re playing a very good opponent this week, too,we’ll just see where we’re at.”

 How can coaches help the players tune out criticism of the team's play? “It’s all about the relationships with the players and coaches, how close the group is and how committed they are to getting better. This group is a very close group. They’re going to continue to fight and continue to get better. Our coaches are in it with them, so that’s where we’re at, and we will continue to get better. I felt like we did in most phases last week. Even though we got beat at the very end, there were some real positives that we can take from that game and that we can use for the rest of the season.”

 How do you help players get over a tough loss? “You communicate. It’s about relationships, being honest with them and making sure they know that we’re in it with them.”

 On Sean White’s improvement at quarterback: “I think you can see it. It’s been three games since we have had a turnover so he’s protecting the football. He’s doing a good job with running our offense. He understands the progressions in the passing game. He’s just getting more and more comfortable every time out.”

On White's demeanor when passes are dropped, something that happened often at Arkansas: “He’s a tough kid. As a matter of fact, he’s an encourager. He said, ‘We’ll get it back to you.’ That’s part of playing quarterback -- how you deal with your teammates. He has a pretty good handle on that.”

On how you identify the team leaders: “You know right off the bat with the way they approach team meetings, their attitude and everything that goes with that on the practice field. That’s part of being a leader. Whether things are good or not good, part of a leader is being consistent. We have some good leaders on this team. There’s no doubt in my mind that our guys will go out there and we’ll have a good practice today.”

On how hard Ricardo Louis is on himself when the team loses and he doesn't play as he wants? “He’s extremely tough on himself. He was down, but that’s over. Now we have to move on. He’s going to get plenty of chances for the rest of the year. He’s one of our impact players and he’s hoping to make a lot of plays for us for the rest of the year.” 

Is there concern White has not thrown a touchdown pass? “No, not really. We had some opportunities. The last few game, we’ve scored points. We’ve gotten some rhythm. We’ve moved the football. We’re starting to improve and I think you can definitely see that. Those will come. He’s in pretty good control of the offense right now.”

On the difference between the Arkansas loss and last year’s Texas A&M game: “The reason I said that was because you draw from experiences in the past, and that was the closest thing from that feeling last season. We have to learn from that and work on recovering from that game. That’s the reason I said that. Our coaches are aware of that and were very up-front with our players. I feel very good about where we are from a player’s standpoint and a coach’s standpoint.”

What can he do differently as head coach to get the team back on a winning track that he didn't do last year late in the season: “It’s going to be the way that I approach it this week. I have to do a better job with our coaches and players than we did last year, because, as you can see, we didn’t play our best.”

On the performance of Kamryn Pettway and Jason Smith vs. Arkansas: “Jason Smith made a couple of big plays so that was encouraging. Pettway caught his first ball and ran over two people to get the first down. He is a guy whose role could expand in that area. He is still a freshman so he is learning, but he has done a good job.”

On what the game means to Austin Golson, who transferred in from Ole Miss: “It probably means a lot.”

On Golson not being released from his scholarship  by Ole Miss: “I am not getting into all of that. He plays for us now.”

 On why the Tigers ran the ball 21 times on their first 23 first down plays prior to starting the hurryup offense vs. Arkansas: “I think you take a look at all of your tendencies. You always try to use your tendencies against people and there are certain times that if you are effectively doing it, you keep doing it, and if not you change things up. We are definitely aware of that.”

 The biggest concern presented by Ole Miss’ defense: “The biggest thing is that they are very talented.  Dave Wommack does a very good job with them. They are very good, they show a lot of movement and a lot of different looks but their talent level is definitely impressive.”

On the play of walk-on wide receiver Gray King: “Gray filled in and did a very good job. He has been here a while and filled in in some situations and helped us on special teams so it was good to see him get two big catches the other day. I think he was happy to be out there.”

Is the defense regressing compared to last year, which statistics show is the case? “I think where we’re at, we’ve got to get better. Carl Lawson, that addition, being back here in the near future, I think you’ll see a vast improvement.”

 Does he think running back Roc Thomas will be healthy enough to play this week? “I do, I do.”


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