Quoting Gene Chizik: AU vs. Miss. State Week

Comments from the Auburn head football coach are featured from his weekly press conference.

Auburn, Ala.--The following are comments from Auburn head football coach Gene Chizik at his press conference prior to his team's SEC opener vs. Mississippi State.

Opening Statement:

"We finished reviewing last week's game. We learned a lot about our team and there is so much room for improvement in so many places. As I always tell our team, ‘it's never as good as it seems and it's never as bad as it seems,' which in this case was very fitting.

"We did some good things offensively, defensively and in special teams, but there is so much room for improvement and obviously that's why we have gone back to work as of yesterday preparing for a really good Mississippi State football team. They have great energy and new energy. Dan Mullen did a great job at Florida last year. His offense gives (us) a lot of things to work on, and on defense they are always flying around. They are a good team with a lot of talent. They had a great win on Saturday. They played real hard and with a lot of energy for Coach Mullen, so we have our work cut out for us.

"We have a great starting point for the season which is a good thing, because a week ago today we did not and we have a great plan as we move forward. I am excited about the game. It's the SEC opener and it is at home, which is exciting for the players and coaches."

On how advanced offensively the team was going into the first game

"I don't think we were that advanced. We still had a lot of question marks, but we are not more ahead than we thought and not that (far) behind. We have identified what we are not that good at and where we are stronger. We have to work in the areas where we are that are not good, but what we feel best about is that we have a great starting point."

On similarities between Auburn's offense and Mississippi State's offense

"There are a few similarities. They have two different types of quarterbacks that they use, which is different than what we do. One of them is more of a runner and play-action type player, but both of them can run the offense. The biggest difference between them is in physical appearance. There are some similarities and carry-over of what Coach Mullen did last year at Florida and what were are doing this year. Defensively that is an advantage for us because we see that type of offense every day, which will certainly help this week."

On advantages of going against a familiar coach

"It helps a little but we are so focused on our guys. There may be some advantage, but we don't worry about things like that. We worry about what we need to do and do it better than the week before."

On distributing carries amongst the running backs

"We are always looking for guys that can help take some of the load off our main guys. We feel that there are some guys on the right track, with running the football, but the more the merrier. With the whole season ahead of us, there are not too many weeks for us to catch our breath going all the way up to the Alabama game, it's going to be a long season. Especially once we get into the meat of the SEC schedule, I think it's important to have two or three running backs."

On what makes the "Wildcat" formation so difficult to defend

"Basically, when you have two quarterbacks in the game it spreads the defense out while still being able to run sort of a power running game, but with a quarterback instead of a running back. That is the advantage of running it, but teams are getting good at defending it, because they know what is coming and that's the down side of it. When you see Kodi Burns in the backfield, you are getting to defend all the runs that can possible happen, which is the disadvantage. If you can have a guy back there that can also pass, that is a great advantage as well, which Kodi Burns can. It poses problems for defenses if you have a two dimensional guy."

On how having running backs with different styles poses problem for a defense

"I think it causes problems for a defense. When you have two backs that are very different it affects the momentum of the game, with the physicality of one back and the speed of the other one. There are guys with great vision that make great cuts. One guy may be a tackle-to-tackle guy and the other a perimeter guy, so you have the defense running all over the place and they get a little tired which lets you get more physical up front with the downhill backs. So it definitely puts pressure on a defense.

On the return of running back Eric Smith

"As I said before that when the incident occurred about two and a half to three weeks ago, if you see Eric Smith back in an Auburn uniform he will have done the things that we need him to do to become a better Auburn man. And you will see him in a uniform this week. He has done what we have asked him to do."

On how Eric Smith's return affects the team

"He is a well-liked member of our team. Our players care about each other and no one wants to see any misfortune come to any of the players. He was back last night at practice for the first time and the team was excited about it. He is very excited about being back in uniform himself. It is great for our football team to welcome him back."

On Chris Todd's comfort level in the offense

"He is getting more comfortable every day. There are passes in the game he wishes he could have back, but to the naked eye you see a bad throw and think he is off target, but there is a 17-year-old freshman running the route and he is in the wrong spot. Overall, we are pleased with Chris Todd. We are going to work at making better decisions with him every week no matter how good he played the week before. I am not saying he has arrived in the offense yet and neither is he, but we are pleased with where he is at knowing that he has a long way to go. I think that he gets more comfortable daily and where he fits into it."

On how the young players handled the pressure of the first game

"I think the second game is so much easier for them. In the first game, I looked into a lot of their eyes and a lot of them were not all there, but it comes with the territory and we know that. With the second game, it becomes a lot easier for them. I am overall very proud of them.

"A lot of the young guys were in the mix covering kicks, which everyone might not see, but I did. I watched them very closely and I am really proud of some of those guys. When you run down to cover a kick as a true freshman, that gets your attention. I expect them to be even better this week then they were last week.

On if being at Auburn in the spring helped Onterio McCalebb be better prepared for the first game

"I think so. I think that any time you bring a guy in in January, the comfort level when they come back in the fall is night and day. I think it's night and day and Onterio is one of those guys where he is just a football player. As I said many times right now, you know I keep throwing this out because I think special teams are so important in everything we do, but what a lot of people saw him do is rush for 100 and some yards. With a lot of people you don't hear them talk about how he covered punts and kickoffs. He is tailback or a wide out or whatever we want him to be. I am very proud of him.

"He needs to stay humble because he has certainly not arrived either. He had a good football game and he needs to get better every week just like everyone else. But I'm proud of him because he went in there and he played like we expected him to play."

On if McCalebb practices like he plays, at full speed

"Yes he does. That's who he is. He works really, really hard. He loves football. He absolutely loves the game of football. And so he practices like it and as we tell our guys you are a product of what you repeatedly do. So if that's how you practice every day then that's what you produce on game day. And he does that. "

On how much harder is it to defend a no huddle and hurry-up offense

"Well I just think that it's a mental thing before you ever start the game. I know as a defensive coordinator for so many years that if you are facing a no huddle offense and its quick tempo, so much of the week you're preaching to your defense, ‘Hey guys, let's just get lined up. You've got to get lined up. Everybody get lined up.' It's fast paced. So you work on those things and you focus so much on trying to get lined up that sometimes you lose the focus and attention of some of the other details. And that's not everybody. But if you do have problems, and everybody doesn't have problems against a faster paced offense, but if you do it's usually because you get lost in the details of your defense because you are so busy trying to get everybody lined up, and mentally your players are thinking ‘My goodness, by the time I get back they are ready to snap the ball again.' And after a quarter and a half, two quarters of that, I think you certainly see in the second half, I think it starts to wear on people mentally. If they have problems with it, some people don't."

On how beneficial it was for the offense to get into a rhythm

"It was huge. We are not anywhere close to be satisfied with the rhythm and the tempo of our offense right now. We're not close. Again, as we said, we did some nice things, but our tempo and the pace of our offense was not one of the things that we were satisfied with. It has got to be faster."

On how the communication between the coaching staff went for the first game

"I thought that for the first game with nine new assistants and myself, and getting everything choreographed, I thought it was outstanding. In your first game, you worry about substitution issues. You worry about adjustments during the game of something they are doing that there was never communication made where we could get things fixed and I don't think that happened Saturday night. I think that the communication was almost seamless. I think that the adjustments that were made on both sides of the football at halftime were what they needed to be. And so for nine guys that have never been in a game together before, I think that it was about as good as we could have expected on game one."

On how difficult it is to prepare for a two-quarterback system like Mississippi State's

"I think you don't have any wholesale changes, it is just a lot more recognition. Coach (Ted) Roof has a great scheme. He's got things that we do that, things that we hang our hat on defensively. We feel good about our scheme, we feel that we can defend a multiple amount of things, but when one quarterback is in here and you run this defense, you just prepare your guys to recognize the things that you need to expect one versus the other."

On if there's anything he's looking for this week besides overall improvement

"Improvement everywhere. It sounds generic, but that is really what we are looking for everywhere. Special teams, obviously we need to shore up our punt return. That was disappointing. There are other places, but overall, everybody needs to play better Saturday night. We need to be a much improved team Saturday night to win."

On if Onterio McCalebb is durable since he is more of an outside runner, as opposed to Ben Tate who is more of an inside runner

"I don't necessarily agree with that statement. Everybody can have their opinion, but that isn't what I said. I think the bigger guys can run inside and outside and I think the little guys can run outside and inside too. Is one of them more suited for one rather than the other? Possibly, maybe, but they can both do both and they both will. So I don't know if they'll be durable enough or not. We've only played one game but we want to be a physical offense and run the football. As I've said since day one, whoever we give it to has to be able to do both."

On if he knew Dan Mullen when he was a defensive coordinator, and if Mullen's offense at Mississippi State is similar to Florida's

"No. I didn't. I knew about him. There is a lot of the same stuff that was at Florida that they were doing there. Again the difference is that they are using two quarterbacks, but overall what we saw Saturday and what we've studied over the summer is relatively close. Relf is just a big guy. He is a big kid and he carried the ball 12 times for around 80 yards. A couple of them were scrambles but some were designed runs, but he's a big body that can do a lot of things and he can get a lot of yards and do a lot of things with the ball in his hands. He is just a different kind of guy than Lee, physically. They don't necessarily run two different kinds of offenses when one or the other is in there though."


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