Auburn Press Conference - October 26, 2010
Head Coach Gene Chizik
"Today we'll start practice obviously for another extremely tough road game in the SEC against a very good, very physical football team being Ole Miss. We have our work cut out for us. It's another great challenge again for us on the road. We'll start today and start working on trying to get better at some things. I was going back and looking at the game film from last week and really trying to go back through that very thoroughly. We certainly have a lot of room to improve in a lot of different places. We need to continue on that track if we're going to be able to come out of Oxford with a win which is going to be very difficult, and we're going to have to play very well to be able to do that."
On defending Ole Miss quarterback Jeremiah Masoli… "He's extremely talented, extremely dangerous with both his arm and his ability to make things happen with his feet. A lot of his plays that you'll see he's extremely effective, it's the break in the pocket, getting out in space, and either at that point choosing to run the ball or hitting some of those big targets he has at receivers. He does a lot of those things extremely well. He's very talented. He just brings a whole other kind of dimension to their offense that makes it very challenging to stop."
On similarities between Cam Newton and Masoli… "Well I think they both can give you a lot of problems just by their abilities to make things happen maybe when something isn't necessarily there. They both do that. There's no question that he's improvised on several occasions and made huge plays for their offense, but there are a lot of things that he does that are designed. Their zone read and their options off their zone read, he's extremely effective at. Again, when he gets outside the pocket and he throws the ball down the field, they're making a lot of big things happen in that regard too. He brings definitely a dimension to the team that's two-fold, and his athletic ability is the reason he's able to do those things."
On how quickly the team has risen to No. 1 in BCS rankings over the past year and a half… "I haven't really stepped back to really think about it a lot to be honest with you. I'm just proud of our football team and the fact that we've found ways to win every week. As I say every week, we can be happy with the result, but we shouldn't at all be satisfied with where we're at. We're still in search of trying to play a game of four quarters which we haven't done yet, in my opinion. I'm really proud of the effort of our team and I'm really proud of the fact that they've fought and clawed their way back into games that we weren't in and found ways to stay ahead and close the door on the games that we have been ahead in. I think they've grown as a football team together, but in terms of just looking at where we are and all of that right now, it just doesn't matter. The only thing that matters is this Saturday."
On if team maturity helps deal with being No. 1… "I think it helps, I don't think there's any question. Young guys these days, they hear it, see it, there's no really getting away from it. The maturity of the young man I think definitely plays a part. I think it's challenging, but I think being mature and being able to handle it and staying very grounded is the key."
On if opponents raise their level of play when playing a No. 1 team… "I don't think there's any question. Everybody reads it, everybody sees it and everybody hears it. We fully expect to get everybody's best shot, not that we didn't four weeks ago. I think that just simply from the media that surrounds the reality of it, you continue to get everybody's best shot and we fully expect that.
That's what makes it fun."
On staying with Mario Fannin through his troubles with fumbles… "Absolutely, we're right there with him. We need Mario to win.
There's no question about that. We're right there with him. I could turn on the film and show you a lot of guys that have made mistakes throughout the games that no one did notice, but they were huge.
That's our whole team. We've all made those mistakes and we're sticking with our guys."
On working on the turnovers in practice or practicing as usual… "We continue to work it. Coach (Curtis) Luper continues to work it with all the running backs all the time from the time they get out there and stretch to the time they leave the field. Again, it's just something we'll continue to stress and hopefully we'll have a better result. We're going to continue to do what we've been doing and emphasize it to the best of our ability every day, every practice."
On making changes in the punt return game… "Right now we have the order set in the people we believe can punt return for us if something happens with Q (Quindarius Carr). We're prepared to do what we have to do and play the best guy that gives us a chance to win. Right now, I don't really anticipate there being any significant changes, but we're always prepared if we have to put another guy back there to do that."
On Zac Etheridge and where he is a year after his injury… "He's blessed. A year ago now was a very hard time for everybody, for him, for his family, for our team. Just the fact that he's sitting here playing in this game is amazing. I'm in amazement when I really step back and think about that day. He's very blessed, he knows he is and it's just going to be somewhat of a little bit of an emotional deal for him possibly. I don't know, we haven't really talked about it. I know he knows how lucky he is, and I'm sure he's not going to forget that."
On the improvements in blocking throughout the season… "I think that there has been some significant improvement from game three. One of the things again when you challenge our guys, as a coach you look for guys to respond. That's what you look for. If they're not responding then we're going to have issues. Starting with our offensive line, I went in there and told them last week, just the offensive line, I went in there and told them, ‘For us to win, you have to continue to improve, and you're much better than you were a month ago, but you're what makes it go. So that's where it starts.' I made that very clear to them in their meeting room that that's what we have to have. From there, starting there and everybody else, as you work inside out on the offense, everybody has to raise their level of play individually. I think they're trying to do that.
They're not perfect every play, but as long as the effort's there and it looks like they're really trying to improve at their trade, that's all we can ask for right now. It seems like there have been some significant improvements over the last four or five weeks."
On if Ole Miss wide receiver Jesse Grandy is a threat as a kickoff and punt returner… "It really is. It's like Kentucky, it's like LSU, those great returners. He took one back on us last year in our game last year.
He's had significant punt returns this year, and it'll be extremely challenging because both of their return games are really good. This is going to be a special teams, field position deal Saturday.
I really believe that. When you have somebody that good at what they do, that's where it really becomes a huge point of emphasis for us for all of our coverage units. Not just our coverage units, it's us being able to get positive yards on our punt returns and us being able to get positive yards on our kick-off returns. I think it's going to be a huge special teams game."
On Eric Smith…
"We challenged him a couple of weeks ago, as well. A couple of weeks ago I didn't think he was playing near up to the potential that he should be, and we challenged him a couple of weeks ago and I think we've seen a significant change in the way he's played. He shows up. If his job is to cover kicks on special teams, and that's one of his jobs, then he needs to show up and he has. I don't know that I could say that necessarily a month ago near as much as you're seeing now, and offensively the same thing. I like him because he does dirty work. He knows that's his job. It's not always glamorous or glorious, but it's what we have to do to be successful offensively with what his role is in our run game and in our protections. I'm proud of where he's come in the last month. He needs to continue on that path, but he's one of those guys that his role is kind of unsung and kind of the unheralded guy, but what he brings to the table when he's playing well is huge."
On how Smith was playing previously…
"I just don't feel like he was as physical as he needed to be. I just didn't feel like he was playing up to some of the potential that he had the year before comparatively speaking. Since then I feel like that has improved."
On the challenges the defensive line will face getting a pass rush this weekend… "The first challenge is No. 8 (Masoli). That's the first challenge.
One of the reasons they don't have many sacks is because, number one, his offensive line does a very nice job of protecting him. Any sight of trouble, they take the ball to the perimeter because he can. That's problematic for your pass rush obviously if he's scrambling back there and buying an extra two or three seconds, which becomes then problematic for your secondary and your linebackers to stay in coverage. That's a huge challenge and we're going to have to work really hard this week at making sure we're in our lanes; if somebody's out of our lane, then we're replacing him with somebody else. We're doing our best to pull him up and trying to take away some of what we call these windows that he's able to create for himself where he can see. That's going to require some push up the middle and trying to contain him on the perimeter with our ends. That's a tall order because he's really good at it. Again, they're averaging 410 yards of offense per game and a lot of it is marginally due to what he brings, like I said earlier, with his perimeter scrambling ability and what he does with the run game."
Are you able to enjoy this moment because it doesn't happen often?
"I enjoy every day I come here. Today is no different to me than a month ago. Not one bit. I did the same things this morning I did one month ago. I'll do the same things this afternoon I did eight weeks ago. I'll do the same thing tonight I did seven weeks ago. I'm just blessed to be able to get up every day and come to work here. Other than that, nothing's changed."
On it being comforting to be in the No. 1 spot after being undefeated in 2004 and never getting there… "I haven't given it a lot of thought, to be honest with you."
On being involved in the community and not getting much attention for it… "Well number one, I don't think you do things for other people, for the community or anybody else to get attention for it. That's not why we do it. It's very important because I'm so blessed in my life that whenever I have the chance to give something back to whoever, whenever, that's part of what I do. That's part of what we do. That's part of what we should do. That's part of our job. When we can do that, we do it. We don't do it for any other reason other than the fact that we can and we should."
On Ole Miss running back Brandon Bolden… "He's broken some really good runs this year. He's very physical, he's a big guy, he's a very physical running back. I think he's made some really nice runs, both some shorter runs that are very physical and he's broken some to get to the second level of the defense and scored on some big plays too. He does a really nice job on reading the inside zone and making different cuts off the inside zone.
That's a big play for him that, to me, he's exceptionally good at running. He's a really good tailback."
On the challenge of preparing for the SEC running games every week… "It's what you get in the league. It's tough every week. It's not just the running game, these are great offenses in this league.
We've talked about it before, but the production of all these offenses in the league is up. You have great coaches out there you're playing against every week that have great ideas on exactly what they're doing. I take advantage of defenses and you have some great players to go along with that. Those two things combined, you have a great challenge every week of trying to stop these different offenses every week in this league it seems like."
On Newton's progression throughout the season… "I think it's been very steady, I really do. I think everybody has to be mindful that he has been in this offense for eight games. You hope that there's a steady progression every week. It doesn't mean that there aren't things in there that we wish we could take back here and there, but I don't think we could be more pleased in terms of every week us figuring out where we can go next and where he is allowing us to go next. I don't think there's any question there has been a steady improvement there."
On Newton being a coach on the field to the rest of the team and raising their level of play… "I think he has really made significant strides in being the true leader of the offense because that's really what you're asking.
You're asking, ‘What kind of leader is he out there?' Kind of like how his game has evolved week after week, it has gotten better and better. Leadership is an action, it's not a position. I think by his actions, his leadership with our football team is pretty much out there for everybody to see. In terms of players on our team, they see it. He does it by action because of his effort and his competitiveness and his stick-to-it-ness and all of those things it takes to be a good quarterback. I think everybody sees that."
Cam Newton, QB
On www.cam2newton.com …
"I checked it out. I got a chance to glance on it but somehow or another I can't look at it for real on my phone. Somebody put some thought into it. I felt kind of good because they did a better job than I could've done. It's bigger than I ever thought it could be. I'm just trying to win games, that's it, simple and plain."
On how far he has come in the last two years… "Every morning I try and pinch myself because I'm in a dream right now. I can't even imagine. I wouldn't have been able to say this is what I want last year. Everything happens for a reason. I'm a firm believer in that and God is just using me right now and I can't complain. I just have to keep lifting Him up in every single chance that I get because that's the main person that's working in my life right now."
On painting the stands at Blinn Junior College… "It was about a month or two month thing. Our coach, Coach (Brad) Fran(chione), was like ‘The stadium is going to be what you make it out to be.' We brought plenty of paint and paint brushes and it wasn't like the paint brushes you get at Home Depot, these were like the sample ones. You had to keep dipping it like three times. It was bad. I was questioning him, I was questioning why I went there.
There were a lot of things I had on my mind that I wanted to tell somebody. If I would have said it, it probably would've come out wrong. Times like that consistently keep me humble and grounded right now. I can revert back to that and remember where I came from. It was in the spring just before the spring game. It was during the time that I had just gotten there maybe a month, month and a half and I was like, ‘Man, a couple of months ago I was drinking Gatorade looking at NFL prospects. Now I'm looking at guys that aren't even in the same league as my little brother.' I still keep up with those guys to this day and they are genuine guys. I still care about those people."
On never forgetting the past and where he has come from… "Referring back to things like that is just something that when the times might be bigger than people may think it seems, I just have to consistently remind myself of where I came from. The times at Blinn where if I go to Wal-Mart or if I go get some groceries, I would just look at that as if I was just a regular citizen. Now I can't even go anywhere that someone doesn't recognize me. That can either be a good thing or a bad thing in some instances, but I never let that get to me or interfere with me as a person because that doesn't make me or break me."
On the atmosphere on campus…
"It's a great feeling. Honestly I can remember a time when I used to go to campus and people weren't looking at me like they're looking at me now. That's just another blessing in itself. When you walk on campus, you can just feel the love of every single one. Whether it's taking a picture or saying ‘War Eagle' going to class, there is something just special about this campus that I really like and really admire about everybody on this campus. They make you feel special and there is more to it than just football. It's something bigger."
On his 40-yard dash time…
"I have no clue. We haven't run the forty here."
On whether he considers himself fast…
"I wouldn't consider myself fast, I just consider myself not being able to get caught. I just don't want to get caught because that's going to be the biggest topic on the sideline, ‘Man you got caught.'
I just hate getting caught in the open field. That would be shameful of me."
On embracing the process…
"(Coach Malzahn) used to always say, ‘Embrace the grind.' This was leading upon two-a-days and he used to always say ‘The moment can never be too big for an athlete to be able to perform.' There are countless quotes that ol' Gus Malzahn has in his vernacular. He just keeps spitting them out back to back. He is a wise guy, and just being around him can make you a wise person. He's just saying that just because he was always saying ‘Great teams embrace the grind.' You just can't come out here and expect on Saturday just to practice or play well because it starts on the first day or whenever the installation is for the next team, and you have to love that."
On the play late in the third quarter against LSU where he pushed the pile for Michael Dyer… "I didn't hear a whistle, and that's another quote that Coach
(Gus) Malzahn says, ‘Play ‘til the whistle.' I didn't hear a whistle so I guess the play kept going and we just wanted to get the crowd involved and just move the chains. If I don't hear a whistle, my mind is machine-like to go ‘til the whistle."
On seeing Auburn as the No. 1 team on television… "Honestly, I haven't even seen it. I've heard a lot of it, but it doesn't matter after week eight if we're No. 1. There's only one week that it really matters and that's at the end of the year. It's kind of pointless for us to talk about it just because this can be a one-topic or one-time deal and then the next week we could be whatever.
We have to take this week on like every other week and have an excellent week of practice and embrace the process."
On if he were Ole Miss, if he thinks they would raise their level of play against the No. 1 team… "That's everybody, but I don't play for Ole Miss, I play for Auburn. We'll leave their thinking up to them."
On what he needs to work on as a quarterback… "There are a lot of things I could work on. Just watching the film and seeing the reads that I made, I feel like I could have been more precise in those reads. There are a lot of things that I get away with that a lot of people really don't see, and I just can't get lax in my ability to get myself out of trouble. I still have to make the reads and whatnot. While I'm running, the list goes on. I'm not satisfied with my performance, and I don't think I would have that game that I'm satisfied with because I always feel, Coach Malzahn always feels, that I can get better. I see what he sees, and with that attitude I think we're going to go a long way with that."
On Eric Smith…
"Eric is one unselfish guy on this team, and we need Eric more than ever right now. This is the point in the season where everybody's nicked and bruised, but Eric brings this mentality of a hard-nosed guy that comes in and is able to do his job every single play. He takes criticism and he turns that into his motivation to do the right thing.
Eric is one of those guys you don't hear from. Last year he had a big role in making plays and catching the ball, but this year his job has been even bigger not just because he hasn't been catching the ball, but he's been in on some key moments in the game and he's making lead blocks that people really don't see or hear from him. He doesn't complain about that. That just goes to show you what type of people we have on this team. "
On his impressions of Jeremiah Masoli…
"I had the chance to see Jeremiah a lot of times this year just watching TV and recaps of a lot of games. He's an elusive guy and he's a guy that's fun to watch also. Just with what he can do, it's scary for defenders and for me just looking at it on the field.
Our defense will have an excellent week of practice like they've been having and we should be successful."
On playing 11 games without an off week… "Bye week or no bye week, we signed up to be in the SEC, and that's what you get. Week-in and week-out you have to put your best foot forward. Win or go home. Our mentality has been we come in the next day, we celebrate, but the next day after that we get treatment and clear our minds and be ready to be able to come in and learn about the next opponent. We learn them to a tee because there could be one play that could just change the whole direction of the game."
On if he enjoys playing on the road in a hostile environment… "I just love football. I would rather us be playing in Jordan-Hare, but if that's what's called for us to do, I'm accepting the challenge. I think my team will be ready to play this game like any other one."
On the No. 1 team losing three weeks in a row… "If we do our job, you can cut that statistic out. We feel that our coaches do an excellent job in preparing us for our game so we won't have the coaches to blame because they're going to do their job.
It's going to be up to us as players to be able to come in and know their weaknesses and know what they're good at and be able to attack them from every single direction."