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Auburn Coach Gus Malzahn
Tuesday, October 8, 2013 previewing the Western Carolina game
Opening statement…"We are excited to be back home for another home game and have Homecoming. That is a big deal for our fans and our players. In a health update, Jeffrey Whitaker will be officially out for this season and will redshirt. Obviously that is a blow for our defense, but at the same time it will be good for our future. Justin Garrett will not play this week, but it will be week-to-week after that. We are really looking forward to practicing. I told our guys that we are focused on getting better each week. This week is no different."
How are Whitaker and Garrett handling their injuries…"First of all, Jeff has been playing banged up the last year or so anyway. I think it will be good for him to be healthy. That is our goal -- to get him healthy for next year and have a chance to have his best season. We are going to see how Justin reacts. He wants to play. We will see how everything happens with that."
What impressed Malzahn most from the Ole Miss game…"The first thing that stood out was that we improved. Our players played extremely hard. That is what stood out to me. We still made some mistakes that we have to get corrected that really took the game away. On the offensive side, in the middle of the fourth quarter, we had the turnover and it made it a tough deal at the end. There are areas that we can improve on and that is the good thing. Our message is going to stay the same."
On late-game turnovers…"You have to coach it better. The players have to be more accountable. You have to be more disciplined. That is what it comes down to. We have to do a better job."
On the fumbled exchange between Mason and Marshall…"There was a run through. They didn't even have a chance. We had a bust up front from a freshman; we just have to get better. Those are the things that we have to get better on. We have to stop making mistakes. I feel confident that mistake won't happen again. That was more up front than it was in the backfield."
Does Mason want to get back on the field after committing a turnover…"There is no doubt. That wasn't Tre's fault. That was a bust up front. The quarterback and tailback didn't have a chance."
On having an aggressive defense…"They were playing fast. They played in the backfield a lot of the night. I thought that it was a big key to the game. We got our crowd involved, and our crowd was unbelievable. They helped us win that game. A lot of it had to do with our defense giving them something to cheer about."
What has improved the most over the last six weeks…"The biggest thing is that our team has bought in to what our coaches have tried to tell them. They are playing for the guy beside them. They are practicing hard. They are trying to improve. That is the biggest thing that has stuck out to me."
On Nick Marshall's status…"We expect him to be ready to go. I don't think it's anything that is too big of a deal." Will Marshall practice this week…"Yes."
What is he looking for this week…"I know I keep sounding like a broken record, but I'm looking for us to improve. It doesn't make any difference if we are playing Ole Miss or Western Carolina. We are going to go about it the same way. We are going to have the same approach to practice with the same intensity, and we are going worry about us. That's what we need to do. We haven't arrived yet. We've got a lot of work to do. We've got a lot of areas we can improve on, and that is going to be our message. I expect our guys to come out today and practice just like they have or even better intensity-wise and focus to detail-wise."
On Auburn's defense giving up a lot of yards last Saturday…"I think the bottom line is finding a way to win, and the guys have done that. The plays you are talking about -- we need to get better in those areas -- and that's what we are focused on. As coaches, you focus on the things that you need to improve on. But a lot of times this season when the game has been on the line, our guys have found a way to make plays on both sides of the football. I think that says a lot about our guys. As coaches, we are definitely focused on those things that can help us stay away from those situations."
Will Auburn increase its passing game this week…"Obviously, you would like to be balanced. The best offenses are usually balanced, especially in our league, and we've got to be more balanced, but at the same time, each game unfolds differently. The other night we were having success running the football, and our quarterback was executing the read-zone extremely well. Each game is different, but ideally you would like to be balanced."
On Nick Marshall's improvement on running the read-zone..."He getting where he is more reactive and doesn't have to think so much, and when you get to that point, that's good. Like I said, last week was really good for him having the week off before that and to get better, and he really did a very good job in the read game."
Why has Auburn had four players rush for 100 yards in a game for the first time in Auburn history…"First of all, we have three running backs; we feel good about all three of those guys, and they are all three different. And our quarterback -- we knew when he got here that he could really create things on the ground. The other night he showed a lot of toughness, too. That's kind of what stood out to me. We can run the football, and in this league you need to be able to run the football. We just need to get where we are balanced and be able to throw the football effectively to get some more first downs. If we do that, we've got a shot to be a pretty solid offense before it's all said and done this year."
On Carl Lawson's production against Ole Miss…"When we recruited him, we felt like his motor was really something else. He plays extremely hard. College football is a different game than high school, and it took him a couple of weeks to get everything down. The last few weeks he's been improving. Coach Garner has had a good plan for him. He just turned loose and played his best game. It was a very complete game; not just rushing the passer, but the run. If he keeps improving, he has a chance to be a really good player."
On Ricardo Louis…"Ricardo is a very good athlete. He didn't play receiver in high school, and I think he'll get more and more comfortable as he goes. He'll have one of those games that people call a break-out game; he'll figure it out, and probably not look back."
On Nick Marshall's relationship with the team…"His teammates have a lot of respect for him. He's kind of a quiet guy. He doesn't say much. He comes to practice; he practices hard. Every day he has a great attitude. He's very coachable, and his teammates respect that. He has earned their respect and really their trust in a short period of time."
Will Jonathan Wallace see playing time Saturday…"Yeah, that would be good, and some other guys too would be good. That's the best case scenario."
Is the 100th Homecoming special … "First of all, Homecoming is supposed to be special anyway, especially here at Auburn; if it is the 100th, that's even better. I know our players are excited to be back home and the fact that it's the Homecoming game."
On Brandon Fulse and other receivers replacing Jaylon Denson… "They did a solid job. Brandon played a lot more snaps than he has. Kiehl also was helping with that role; he played a few snaps at wide receiver. I thought they did an overall solid job." Will Frazier remain at WR this week… "He'll do the same thing. He'll play some wide receiver, especially now that we've lost Jaylon. He's a guy that understands the offense, a smart guy, simliiar to Kodi (Burns), who played quarterback in this offense, and picked it up very quick in this same type of role."
On wide receiver blocking… "If you look at us, we've always needed receivers to be able to block effectively on the perimeter. That's a big thing of what we do, so that's a big part of it."
Is C.J. Uzomah getting back to full speed… "Yeah, he's just trying to get back to full speed. He was banged up last week, and I think he played one play, but he was about half speed. So let's give him some rest, and we'll need him a hundred percent. He'll be there pretty quick."
About Gabe Wright… "I really feel like Gabe had his best game of the season. He's doing what Coach Garner asks. He's doing a good job with run picks up front, and he did a good job with the pressure when they were passing up front, too. So he had his best overall game. "
Are the young players making a stronger push… "I don't think so. We went through the spring with these guys, and now they all should really be in the same boat as far as that goes."
Status of Cassanova McKinzy… "We got some good news on him and he will be out there practicing today. That was a scary deal and it looks like it is going to turn out good." Was it a stinger…"Yeah, I believe so."
Did his return to the sidelines lift the team…"I know it encouraged me. Whenever you have one of your players carted off, that is one of the worst feelings you can have as a coach. I looked up and saw him back on the sidelines standing up and moving with a smile on his face. That gave me a lift and I am sure it gave the rest of our coaches and players a lift too. We had some players who were very concerned. It is tough on players when they see one of their teammates get carted off; you know a lot of times that effects teams in a lot of different ways."
Do sacks help team energy…"Yeah, that was a big lift. They were a good offense, good quarterback with scary receivers -- even when they did not sack them, they put some pressure on him and made him throw the ball away a lot of times. We have been talking about really focusing on being able to put pressure on a quarterback, and we also focused on stopping the run. Those are the two areas that we improved the most in last game, so I thought that was very encouraging."
Will Johnathan Ford move back to offense…"Not right now. We said we were going to move him over there this season and we will talk after the season about where he is at, but he is making progress. He has a great attitude, he is a very good athlete and we think he is going to be an outstanding player."
Status of Jeremy Johnson…"We have not played him yet, and I know obviously it is getting to a point now where you have to do what is best for him and what is best for your team. But he is still getting a lot of reps in practice and he is improving, there is no doubt. Then we have Jonathan (Wallace), who is getting a lot of reps in practice too."