Auburn will open the 2010 season on Saturday at 6 p.m. vs. Arkansas State.
"We're excited. It's obviously game week, it's finally here and I know our players are excited, our coaches are very excited. It's been a good camp. The last week we've had some really good upbeat, high-energy practices. I think that they could kind of feel that game week was rolling around.
"Now that it's here, we'll start again today and truly go into our game week prep that we do every Tuesday and get ready to play Arkansas State, a good football team. It'll be fun and we're all looking forward to it."
On Daren Bates winning the starting job at linebacker on the weak side.
"I think everybody knows Daren was a good football player for us last year at a different position. Whenever we can try to increase the speed of our defense, we'll do that. Moving him to linebacker was a little bit of a challenge simply because he'd never done that before, but we knew he is a very good football player. He really learned everything at a pretty rapid pace, in my opinion.
Daren Bates was an All-SEC Freshman last season at safety.
"We know he's a very physical football player so that's kind of suited for him. He did a really nice job of studying that position and studying the game from that position. I think overall, it was really a pretty smooth transition for him. He outright won the job and we're proud of him for that."
"They're all kind of different in their own right, but at that position when they're in the game they could all be at very different places and I think that's where it gets interesting. They have different body types and we'll be asking them to do different things at times, but again, that's a position where you can get really creative with what you're trying to do offensively. That's why it looks like different types of guys."
"We're extremely excited about having both of those guys back on the field for all that they bring to the table as people first. They're great kids, they're great leaders. That's not even to mention the experience that they bring to the table, which is huge. In this regard, it's really good in especially this football game.
"This is going to be a high-tempo game for Arkansas State's offense; they're very similar to ours. We're going to see how many plays we can get, how fast we can go, which is where you really need two captains back there to direct traffic. I think having those two guys back there is going to be big in that regard. They just bring a lot to the table. Stability obviously is one thing, but the experience they give and they bring to our defense is huge."
On the differences between the first year and the second year.
"It is probably just the comfort level from everybody. If you look at it from 10,000 feet, players and coaches, just more of a comfort level for everybody in what we're trying to do. There are some position guys that are new, but for the most part a lot of our football team has heard it two years in a row now. I just think from a comfort level, it's a little bit different if you date back to a year ago now."
On quantifying being "better" this year.
"I don't know that I can put a tag on what is going to make us better. The point that I've been trying to bring home to our football team every week is consistency on what we're trying to do. That's everywhere. Again, going back to last year, too many highs and too many lows. If you were going to ask me what would make us a better football team or what the expectation is of better, that's what I would tell you.
"For us to be better, it's more along the level of when we were playing at a high level. Are we maintaining that more often than we did last year? That's really what it is. There were times last year when I felt like at all phases we played at a high level. Looking back on it, I just don't feel like we were consistent enough at that. That would make us a better football team. Those are the things that we've been stressing since day one and those are the things we're trying to get started this Saturday."
Quarterback Cameron Newton
On having a better offensive line to help ease Cameron Newton's job at quarterback.
"I don't know how Cameron's going to feel that first time. Our offensive line has been very solid. If you just take the four guys that are returning, you have a lot of experience in there. That has to make anyone feel a certain level of confidence. But again, we're starting all over and they have to produce. They have to take off where the ended last year and be more productive and more consistent. It's good to have four returning starters back anywhere on any one of your lines. They're lumped into the same category as anybody else, they have to go out there and be better than they were last year."
On Newton's decision-making.
"I think he has responded really well. We keep talking to our quarterbacks, certainly Cameron, about being able to make adjustments on the run, being able to weather the storm that may happen to come. That's the most important thing. The most important thing for Cam is, to be in this venue, there's going to be some good things that happen during the game, some bad things that happen during the game.
"Anybody can be good when it's good. We want to know how everybody's going to respond, particularly the quarterback, when things aren't good. And that's been a huge point of emphasis for us as we've prepared over the past month. That's what we want to see our quarterback do, we want to see him when things aren't good, see him handle that, and be the leader of our team."
On Quindarius Carr at the second wide receiver spot.
"Q has done some good things. Again, I think he's got a ways to go in terms of developing his game, but he did some good things in the bowl game and in spring practice and we saw signs of him coming on. He's got to continue to do that for us during the season. He has definitely made some strides. He's not there yet, but he's a guy we can count on and we will throw the football to.
"There's no question we have confidence that we can do that, but he's got to keep growing and maturing as a football player. I think he's done that up to this point. I think he's done that in the last year a good bit, in terms of progression."
On ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit picking Auburn to win the SEC West.
"It's flattering that people think we have a chance to be a good football team, and I don't think anybody's expectations should be higher than what ours are. Individually for each guy on our team, we don't control any of these things. We've got to take every practice one day at a time and I know that's coaching cliché, but the bottom line is our expectations of ourselves should be really high.
"I didn't know he was going to pick us to win the West, but again, our football team hears those things...we know at the end of the day that doesn't mean anything. You have to earn it on the field every week. At the same time, they need to know that the expectation level out there for other people as they look on is high as well. I think that that's a healthy thing."
On having four walk-ons on the depth chart.
"Every one of those guys are guys that we have identified before they got here as guys that could upgrade our football program, in terms of walk-ons. I don't think there's any question that all four of those guys could do the things we asked them to do and really earned that spot. But in the same sense right now, it's a balance of both guys that have worked really hard and done everything that we asked them to do, that are really talented guys, combined with the fact that we've got some places on our roster right now that either have young guys stepping in there or some walk-ons have to fill that role.
"We're really proud of those four guys. Like we've said since day one, the best guy's going to play. If that's a walk-on or scholarship guy, it doesn't mean anything to us. If it's the best guy or next best guy, they will be in there because they've earned it."
On A.J. Greene winning the starting job at right tackle.
"That could get exciting. We're proud of A.J. because he's won the job outright. He has put in a lot of hard work to get to that point. In my opinion, he's kind of like everybody else that's going to be new on the field for the first time, and really that have never really played in any games. They're going to have to go out and do it and prove it on game day.
"We feel really confident that he's the best guy for the job, and he's going to have to go out there and produce. Again it'll be new for him. The good thing about A.J. is at least he's been here and he understands game day and what this is all about. He's got to go out there, and he's got to get better every week."
"We're going to go with Ryan Shoemaker. We talked about that again today because today is the first day that is legitimately game week for us, and we wanted to have all our guys in place. Ryan's the guy we're going to start with, he's got experience. Steven certainly is a good hand and we're confident with him as well, but we're going to go with Ryan and start that today."
On having freshmen at linebacker and LaDarius Owens not on the depth chart.
"We're excited about LaDarius and he's going to be a great football player here. We feel great about his development for down the road. The transition is tough for a young guy that's used to putting his hand on the ground and being a pass rusher, and all of a sudden has moved back now and trying to take in and comprehend all this stuff now that he can see what he couldn't see when he was down there. That's a transition period for a guy.
"He's been great, he's working hard, he loves the game, and we're really excited about him down the road for the future. Right now, it's just kind of a learning curve that he's still in and he's got to continue to learn that position. It's been a little bit of a transition, but we feel great about him."
On having nine players on the depth chart at the linebacker position.
"It's the first time in a while. The thing you get out of that is those guys that can help you on special teams as well. It's good to be able to have some numbers there to choose from. That's not the only position; there are other ones that we feel the same way about. There's going to be a lot of depth in places that maybe we didn't have last year, but a lot of them are going to be young."
On when Derrick Lykes will return. "Not anytime soon probably, but he's coming along. He's working and it's day-by-day. He's still banged up."
Did he have to have surgery? "Right now that's kind of what we are teetering on in terms of is he or is he not. We'll know more today."
On senior defensive lineman Zach Clayton.
"It's been great. Zach has had a great camp. He's probably one of the guys that has had the best first month of practice. It might be the first time since I've been here that for one whole month he hasn't been dinged up or banged up. I think that plays a huge part in how productive he has been, but right now he is healthy and he's playing really well so it's good to see him at that point."
Shaun Kitchens catches a pass in a scrimmage.
On expectations for Shaun Kitchens.
"I've been really proud of him in a lot of ways. He's been a guy that has made a lot of really, really nice catches for us in practice. He's working really hard. He's big and athletic where he can help you a lot on special teams units and he's getting better at blocking.
"We need him to be able to block the perimeter and we need to be able to use him some in the box as a blocker. He's a guy who can do a number of different things. He can be a blocker on the perimeter, a blocker inside, you can put him out there at wideout and he can catch the football. So he brings a lot of dimensions to the table, and it will be fun watching him in his first game."
Will Ladarious Phillips be ready for the Arkansas State game?
"No, he will not."
Do you have a plan for how you want the Arkansas State game to go?
"I think you always have a plan. Obviously, I don't want to be presumptuous enough to feel like we are going to be able to play second-team guys. Arkansas State has done some really good things in the past when it comes to playing the Iowas of the world like they did last year. They took Texas down to the wire a couple of years ago. This head coach, Coach (Steve) Roberts, has been there nine years.
"Defensively, they're always one or two in the league, probably the last three or four years in their conference. They've got a new offense that is fast-tempo. It's very similar to ours in that regard with a new offensive coordinator, so we're going out and trying to win. If we ever get to the point where something happens where we're able to play young guys, then obviously we'll have a plan. But let me backtrack on that because we've got a plan right now during the game to play young guys in the middle of the game no matter what the situation is because we have to. We've got a good plan on what we want to do. I don't really have any kind of pregame thought on how it's going to unfold. I know how I would like for it to unfold, but this is going to be a tough football game for us. It's going to be new, we are playing a lot of young guys, and it's going to be fast-paced.
"Arkansas State is not going to come in here and be wowed by this. It's not like they haven't played all over the country, so this is going to be a tough game for us and it's going to be a good opening game for a lot of our young guys who have never played before, but it's going to be a tough game."
On how the freshman class has performed as a whole during preseason camp.
"I think it was kind of what everybody expected. It was a camp where those young guys got opportunities. Sometimes you get young guys in and they don't get a lot of opportunities, but this was a camp of opportunity for all of our young guys. I think that was one of the reasons that attracted them to Auburn. It was good to see them come in and be able to have a chance to compete and when they had that opportunity, they ran with it. That's why you are seeing that many people on the depth chart and there are more guys that are going to be in roles that are maybe just special teams. There are going to be a lot of young names out there that you're just going to have to get used to."
On the quick turnaround between the Arkansas State and Mississippi State games.
"Two games that fast is a concern and certainly going to Mississippi State is a concern. Right now we're focused on this game and it will be a fast turnaround. We know that, we've prepared for that. But we're not looking ahead to game two, game four or game six. We've got to go out and win this football game."
"I think he's handling it well. I don't think he probably really gives it a whole lot of consideration. Every day he is out there just trying to get himself better and trying to make our football team better, so I don't know if he pays a whole lot of attention to that. I know that he's a very competitive player, so he puts pressure on himself to be very good. I don't know how much the other plays into that."