Auburn, Ala.--Comments from Auburn Tigers head football coach Gus Malzahn are featured from his Tuesday press conference as his Tigers prepare for this week's road trip to Texas A&M.
“We are playing another very talented team this weekend on the road. Their only losses have been to Ole Miss and Alabama; two quality opponents.
"Offensively, they are as talented as anybody that we have played. They have a true freshman quarterback in (Kyler) Murray that is dynamic with his feet. He was a great high school player that we are very familiar with, we actually recruited him. He is somebody that will definitely get your attention.
"Defensively, John Chavis has made a big difference. He has his stamp on there and they are playing very hard. They have two defensive ends that I think are as good as anyone in our league, and they are definitely two guys you have to be aware of from an offensive standpoint. Our talk with our staff and players is we have to find a way to put together our offense and defense and special teams, and play well in all three areas. That is our goal moving forward, and that is what we are going to need to do to beat a team like this on the road.
“On another note, Stanton Truitt is out for the year. He is going to have surgery on Thursday. It has been tough on him. He has battled a lot of injuries. He is a great kid and I definitely feel for him. He is a dynamic type player with his feet, and that will be tough on us not to have him for the rest of the year. It is his same shoulder as last year.”
On Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett: “You could tell last year as a true freshman that he has that “it” factor. If he knows it’s a pass he makes it extremely challenging on you. Last year he made a difference making plays in our game when he blocked the field goal. He actually blocked a punt this year. He just has a knack. He is a playmaker, and he is someone that you have to be aware of from an offensive standpoint because he can change the game.”
On the Shon Coleman and Myles Garrett matchup: “That will be a big matchup for the game. Shon has a year’s experience under his belt so that will help, but yeah that will be a big matchup.”
On quarterback Sean White’s knee: “He is still a little banged up, but we are expecting him to play. He showed a lot of guts and a lot of toughness. We really weren’t expecting him to play. We got there in pre-game and he was very determined and said, ‘I’m ready to go, I can do it.’ It is still a little sore, but we expect him to play this week.”
On Sean White practicing this week: “That is going to be the question. We will see how he does. I expect him to practice more than he did last week. I think we are at that point knowing more about him and what’s wrong with him. So we expect him to practice more than he did last week.”
On Jonathan Wallace playing quarterback: “He is getting reps in practice. We gave Jonathan reps, but Jeremy (Johnson) got the majority of the reps last week in practice. We will continue to keep giving Jonathan reps at quarterback. He will also split time at wide receiver too. Moving forward that is what we are thinking.”
On offensive rhythm when changing quarterbacks: “That is always something that you have to be aware of. With the plan that we had moving forward with the information that we had, it felt like there were certain things that even if Sean (White) could play, we needed Jeremy (Johnson) to be able to do. Also, Jeremy had the whole package of the offense too. KJ (Kerryon Johnson) is going to be a wildcat guy moving forward. We really think that he has some skills that we can expand that package. So moving forward, not just this year, but next year, he will be a very good wildcat guy.”
On Kerryon Johnson not playing much in the second half of games: “He is the type of guy that needs to be on the field more, and not just in the second half, but in the first half too. We have to do a better job of getting him on the field more.”
On Peyton Barber's health: “Well, Peyton, we expect him to play this week. There were some questions going into the game. He didn’t practice a lot, but we do expect him to play. Jovon (Robinson) is a guy that gave us a shot in the arm, and I think everybody saw that he did some good things. He’ll have a bigger role, but at the same time we’ll see once we get into practice and how everybody’s doing.”
On Texas A&M being a defining game in the past two seasons: “In the first year, we went there and we were a team that was still trying to figure out who we were. It was a big win, and they were playing very good at the time. Then last year, towards the end we had the fumble going in and we had the fumble exchange there at the very end when we fought back, and that was definitely a tough loss. It seems like they are very talented again. We’re playing at their place, and we need to play well. That’s what I was saying early on, we’ve got to get our offense and our defense to play well at the same time. We’ve not done that yet. That’s our goal, and that’s what we’re talking about form a coach’s standpoint in our players.”
On Austin Golson performance at center: “We felt like Austin had his best game overall last week. They did some things up front that definitely caught your attention. For him to have his best game against that group, you know I thought that really set some things that can give him some confidence the rest of the year. Keep in mind this is his first year to play center, and so that was very encouraging. I think he is very encouraged too.”
On Jeremy Johnson’s passing vs. Ole Miss: “You know, one of the bigger plays in the game was the one to Tony Stevens, and he put it about where it could only to be. Then, it was off the wildcat, and they played it pretty good off a trick play. That was a big time throw I felt like. The other one at the end, he was just trying to make a play. He’ll come back next time and he’ll have the check down, but he was just trying to make a play for us.”
Did subbing Jeremy Johnson for Sean White at quarterback impact the offensive flow? “At times it could. There was one time that I think Sean’s knee brace was broke, and he had to come out and come back in. That’s just the way it was last week. You know, when we didn’t know if Sean was going to play, that was our plan. I’ll say this, we’ve got confidence in Jeremy. Jeremy’s practiced better and well. If he’s got to play, he’s going to play well and that’s our mindset. I know that’s his mindset.”
On the play of Tony Stevens at receiver:“Tony’s a guy that we’ve been kind of waiting on. The last few weeks you can see he’s been more in the game plan. He’s practiced extremely well, and he’s starting to get that confidence. That’s encouraging for us because he’s big, tall, fast guy. I really like where he’s at the last few games.”
On difference between last week’s red zone production compared to previous weeks: “We had the close one to Ricardo. It was a boom-boom play that was one of our timing throws. As a coach when things don’t work out, we’ve got to do a better job putting them in a position to be successful in the red zone. That was really the thing that stood out. We’ve got to get better at that, and I’ve got to get better at calling plays down there, too. You can always say ‘what if’ and all that, but the bottom line is when you don’t score touchdowns, from a coach’s standpoint, we’ve got to help them. That starts with me, and that’s a focus that we’re really working hard on moving forward. At times, we’ve been really good down there. We’ve got to be more consistent down there, especially when you’re playing the top teams in your league and one or two plays can make a difference in the game. Really, that’s what happened there.”
On how the offensive line has performed in the red zone: “I think overall, from a season standpoint, our offensive line has performed solid. Obviously when you are playing against better teams you have to raise your level a little bit and at times I think our guys have done that.”
On the frustration of the lack of red zone touchdowns vs. Ole Miss: “I think it goes back to getting a plan and if the play doesn’t work, you have to get another plan and we just didn’t do that. I am going to take responsibility for that and we have to figure out a way to get into the end zone, whether it’s throwing or running. We just didn’t do it Saturday. That was a big factor in the game. I think we had one play that was either called back or close, but we have to get into the end zone.”
On the play calling setup between Malzahn and Offensive Coordinator Lashlee: “It’s the same system that we have used for a long time. We lean on each other and we think a lot alike. Bottom line is, we didn’t get into the end zone when we should have.”
On the execution of third-down plays on offense: “I think we were leading the league in third downs and we felt good about the plan and the way we operate. There was some third down and ten, plus and you always want to stay out of that. Our philosophy on third and ten plus has always been to not turn the ball over. That’s when a lot of turnovers come. You have to do better than 2-15 when you are playing one of the better teams in your league. We will keep working hard for that.”
On using his offensive and defense starters against each other in practice: “We go fastballs every week against our one on ones. We usually do it for 10-15 minutes during the week and we’ll continue to do that. That’s been our philosophy for a long time. Carl (Lawson) has been a factor. There’s no doubt.”
On Carl Lawson’s health after making his return vs. Ole Miss: “He came through great. He just said ,“I’m a little out of shape.” He’ll get in better shape as he goes, but I think that really helped him confidence wise. He’s healthy and ready to go.”
On the difficulty for players to return from multiple injuries: “I think it’s hard, but it starts with leadership. It starts with the relationships between players and players, and coaches and players. We’re going to keep battling. We’ve just got to figure out a way to get our offense and our defense to play well during the same game. I think we can play with anybody if we can do that.”
On being out of the college football playoff picture: “All we’re worried about is Texas A&M and winning that game. That didn’t cross my mind.”
On pressure of making a bowl game: “We’re focused on Texas A&M. We need to play well in order to beat a good Texas A&M team on the road. That’s our only focus. That’s what we’re talking about and that’s what we’re preparing for.”
On the amount of time Carl Lawson played: “I think it was about appropriate.”
On getting the offense and defense to play well at the same time: “I think everybody will know when we play well offensively and defensively at the same time. We haven’t done that yet.”
On Daniel Carlson’s performance this season: “What did he do, break the school record last week? Four field goals 50-plus (yards)? From a coaching staff standpoint, we have a lot of confidence in him when (the ball) crosses the 30 or 35 yard line. He has a high success rate. He’s done a great job. If you look at the kickoffs too, he has to be one of the best placekickers in college football. I think at the end of the year, everybody will see him up for all of those awards and I think that will be very warranted.”
On T.J. Davis’ health status: “T.J. is still not quite ready to roll. We were hoping he would be a couple of weeks ago, but he still has a few setbacks.”