Coach O's Opening Statement: These are some of the great times to be a football coach - going down to Auburn to play an excellent football team. I know my team is looking forward to playing them and I know we will have a great week of prctice.
Some of the positives from the Kentucky game: Our offense committed no turnovers; the time of possession was good, especially in the fourth quarter when we had the ball 11 minutes; we only had one offensive penalty, which is an improvement; we were better on third-down conversionas; and Robert Lane did a real good job at fullback when we got him the ball, he gave us an early lift. On defense: we created three turnovers; I thought we better, 3-13, in third-down conversion stops; and again MLB Patrick Willis and our DBs played an excellent game. On special teams: our punt team penned them inside the 20 twice; the turnover on the kickoff was a big play; and we stopped their fake punt.
We are looking forward to playing Auburn. They have a great running back in Kenny Irons. He runs with a lot of tenacity. They have a good OL and a good staff that knows how to win. Their wide receivers are very good and their defense is only allowing 12 points per game. We are looking forward to going there and giving it our best shot.
Q: How did your OL grade out against Kentucky?
Coach O: We didn't play that well. I thought it was one of our poorer games, a drop off from the Alabama game.
Q: What were the problems?
Coach O: I don't think they were as fired up to play Kentucky as they were Alabama and I'm disappointed in that. We were getting knocked off the football. It wasn't that we were missing our assignments, it was that they were getting underneath our pads and knocking us backs at time. We did not open holes like we should have. At the end of the game, I thought Mico (McSwain) found some holes on his own, but we weren't as aggressive as we needed to be.
Q: Given that, do you stress the run less and try more passing?
Coach O: No. We have to run the football.
Q: Does Irons remind you of anyone?
Coach O: Not really, but he ran the way a good running back should run. He wants to make yards and is a determined runner.
Q: What is the difference in your team now and your team in week one of the season?
Coach O: First of all, we are having less penalties and our turnover margin is getting better. Those are important aspects of playing winning football. We are making less mental errors. We have also gotten - I feel - the right players in the right positions to help the team. Our defense is playing a lot better, especially than we did in game two and three with Patrick out. We are finding our identity on defense, but we have not found our identity on offense.
Q: Talk a little more about Auburn's offense and defense.
Coach O: Al Borges has done a fantastic job as their OC. They are a zone football team that is on the cutting edge of the way they block it. Their OL comes off the football. They are very well-coached and have an excellent receiving corps. If you stack the box against them to stop the run, their wide receivers can hurt you when you go man coverage. They are well-rounded and very balanced.
Q: Talk about the placekicking.
Coach O: We went back and looked at the block kicks and the protection was poor. That's the first time we have experienced protection problems and we will remedy that by changing some personnel. We should see some improvement there. As far as who will kick, we will kick more this week and evaluate who has the best week. Whoever that is will be the kicker.
Q: Do you think Robert Lane's move is long-term?
Coach O: We'll have to see where that takes us. If he were a fulltime FB or TE and something would happen to Michael, Ethan (Flatt) could come in and run our offense, but right now, with Robert splitting time, he is still our backup QB.
Q: It seemed Robert gave the offense an emotional lift to start the game. True?
Coach O: Yes, that's why we put him there. He's tough, has a great self-confidence and he wants the ball in his hands. Teams can feed off players like that.
Q: What kind of expansion of his fullback package do you expect?
Coach O: We are going to let him do everything he can absorb - run the ball, catch it. I expect him to be in there every down as much as he can. We will play him a lot more and maybe every down. . . But he will not call his own plays. (laughs)
Q: How good is Auburn?
Coach O: They are very athletic. Their speed on defense causes promlems and is their strength. Kenny Irons is an excellent back. Are they are good football team or a great one? We are about to find out.
Q: Talk about your struggles in the Red Zone on offense?
Coach O: When you have an experienced quarterback in a system, it makes a world of difference. Also, your receivers have to be able to make plays in close quarters. When you have those two ingredients, you can have more success in the Red Zone.
Q: Talk about Auburn QB Brandon Cox and his ability to handle defensive pressure.
Coach O: We will to have bring pressure at the right time. When you pressure him, his receivers are good enough to go make plays. We have to pick the right times to pressure him.
Q: Will the experience you had at UT help the team going on the road again in another tough environment to play?
Coach O: It was a very valuable experience, as was the Alabama game. We have to go in there and take the game. We have to make them earn every yard they get and cannot have bad plays. We have to play great the whole game and I think we are capable of that.
Q: How is the injury situation?
Coach O: We are fine. Our players seem to get better toward the end of the week. (laughs)
Q: Discuss how your team has kind of played to the level of its competition each week.
Coach O: We have to get out of that. We have to play to our capabilities each week. I was disappointed because I thought we did that (playing to the competition's level) against Kentucky on the offensive side of the ball. We have to get that out of the mindset of our young men.
Q: Comment on Patrick Willis.
Coach O: He's a great player having a great year who we can build our team around now and in the future.
Q: Why is your pass defense so improved and ranked 13th in the nation?
Coach O: We brought in some great techniques, for one thing. Coach (Pete) Carroll allowed Chris Rippon to learn from him all the things he (Pete) earned in his NFL years. You have to give the credit to Chris Rippon and our players, who are doing an excellent job taking his coaching.
Q: How do you plan to get Robet Lane more touches?
Coach O: Some at fullback, some at tight end. Run a little bit. We'll try to vary it, depending on what he can learn. We also have to shore up his blocking techniques. He knows what a fullback is supposed to do, but doing it and getting some reps doing it is something we have to do in a hurry with reps in practice.
Q: Talk a little more about Auburn's defense.
Coach O: Their DL is excellent and their linebackers are very fast. The way they play defense is outstanding.
Q: Do you see any similarities with you and Coach (Tommy) Tuberville the way you teach defense since you were both at Miami at the same time?
Coach O: We learned from a lot of good guys at Miami. There's no doubt we have similarities. I like the way his defense plays, very similar to the way we played at Miami.
Q: What is happening in the Red Zone, in your opinion?
Coach O: We are evaluating everything from top to bottom. We are looking at the decision-making of our QB, where we are missing on plays and the play-calling. It's not just one thing that is stopping us, but we do feel it's us more than the opponent.
Q: Did you believe a few weeks ago when you changed Mico to TB that it would work out as well as it has?
Coach O: We felt he could be a good tailback, but really, when we look at the film, he can be a lot better than he is. He's not running the zone plays like we want him to run them. He's still going on athletic ability more than experience. He's also making some plays on his own and he has an innate ability to break tackles. Wait until he really knows what he's doing. He took a step back against Kentucky. He just needs to understand the zone scheme better and that will help him tremendously.
Monday Press Conference
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