Auburn Coach Gus Malzahn press conference
Tuesday, September 1, 2015, previewing the Louisville game
Opening Statement…"We are very excited that it is game week. We are facing a very good Louisville team. We are also excited to be playing in Atlanta at the Dome, which our players, coaches and fans enjoy.
"Looking at Louisville, their defense was one of the top defenses in the country last year. They have a very good defensive coordinator that used to be at Georgia that we went up against a few times. He is very good at what he does, and he really makes the offense earn it. They have some very talented transfers from Georgia and TCU that I think are all very good players. Offensively, they are multiple and they present a lot of different challenges with what they do. They have a very talented running back and a very talented receiver, a quick kid. They are going to present some challenges to our defense. Will (Muschamp) is really stressing communication. That will be very important. Being able to adjust, and not just on defense, but first games are all about adjustment. You have all year to think about your plan, and how you are going to get a stop, or move the ball. At the end of the first quarter everything clears up, but you have to be able to adjust. Will has been communicating that to our defense.
"From a defensive standpoint, it's really being prepared for multiple quarterbacks. They are all a little bit different and unique. Offensively, if you look at our depth chart, I think you see eight freshmen on the two-deep. I don't think Kerryon Johnson is on that, but he will play in the first game. So there will be a lot of youth on the field. My biggest stress is just the new guys being out there for the first time, holding on and protecting the ball. That is always a big factor in the first games, along with special teams. I do like where the offense and the defense mentality is. It is just going to be a matter of getting those young guys out there and letting them play and letting them do their thing. An update on a personnel situation -- Myron Burton is no longer part of our team. That was a mutual decision, and we wish him nothing but the best in the future."
Is Duke Williams starting…"Well it is 'or.' It could be a possibility. We will see how this week goes. He is working his way back up. Anytime we have an 'or' it could be one or the other."
Preparing for an unknown quarterback…"You have to be prepared for all of them. You have to predict what they do well and what their plan will be, and utilize each one of them. That is a challenge, especially for the first game. If you are playing someone week 3 or 4, usually they show their hand and you get an idea. That will be one of the unique challenges in this first game."
Comfort in Auburn declaring a starting QB in the spring…"It has been good that we have known who our starting quarterback will be since spring, and I think it has been good for (Jeremy Johnson) too, and for his teammates. We feel like he is prepared. He is tired of everyone talking about him and predicting us. He is just ready to be out there and play. He wants to prove himself. So I think he is in a very good spot mentally right now going into this first game."
On Jeremy Johnson's experience and confidence …"We have some very good information on Jeremy. He's started games -- as matter of fact he's started SEC games and actually started the opener -- but there is nothing like it being your team and you're going to start for the whole season mentality. So we'll see how it goes, but I like where he's at and he's not reading the headlines. Matter of fact, I'm going to bet you he's pretty embarrassed on some of the predictions and the Heisman. He just wants to prove it. I think because of that he's in a really good spot."
On choosing captains…"We're getting close."
On special team decisions…"Kevin Phillips is going to be our punter and he's won that job. He had a very good fall camp. Ian (Shannon) did some very good things and made it very competitive, but he also kicks. At the first part of fall camp, he really concentrated on his punting and then he kind of transitioned. He has a great leg. He'll provide us depth in both areas. Daniel Carlson had a very good fall camp. It's really helped him focus on just the kicking part and not having to punt. It seems like his leg is probably a little stronger because of that."
On Tre' Williams playing both inside linebacker positions…"He's a smart guy, and Coach Muschamp has him knowing both of those positions. They rotated a lot in fall camp, so I think you will see the same thing in the first game."
Learning a new defense…"The great thing about what Will does is competition every day. Any time you have competition, it brings out the best in everybody. The thing about it is that we have information from the older guys because they have played a lot of football, but at the same time they are learning a new defense. You'll see multiple guys in the first game."
Auburn's preseason mentality…"To be honest, from a team standpoint, every year, whether people predict you to be good or not, it's the same mindset and mentality if you're in this room from a team standpoint. We have the same approach and I like where our guys are. They're not reading the press or predicting stuff. They are worried about this first opponent. They've got a good mindset and we're taking it one game at a time. There's a lot of question marks. Look at the freshmen on the list -- that really sticks out to me. I knew that before we put the depth chart together, but when you see it the reality hits you that there are a lot of young guys. There will be some growing pains, but we think that those guys who are going to play are pretty talented. They just need to grow up in a hurry and we'll see what happens."
Malzahn's personal expectations…"From a coach's standpoint it's a lot easier -- you get tunnel vision, you're locked in on your team, you're trying to prepare your team for the next game. Me personally, big picture wise, I love being at Auburn because Auburn is a place that expects to win championships and it's been traditionally seen that you can do that here. So that's the fun part for me. From a coach's standpoint, we're worried about this first game."
Confidence in the freshmen…"Well, I think it's been a little of both. We lost a lot of guys on offense. What do we have, four returning starters and a new quarterback? We have these young guys, we recruited them and let them know we expected them to play, but they had to earn it and they did that. So it's a matter of we think they're talented and they are all going to be talented players. They just have to grow up and I let them know that we're going to have to grow up in a hurry and we have to grow up faster than most teams. We're probably going to have some growing pains. When you play freshmen, that's part of it. We have to overcome those growing pains early and we have to grow up and play solid football in a short period of time."
What Petrino has been able to do with quarterbacks…"You look at his track record -- he's very good and he's a very good offensive coach. Everywhere he has been, they've put up points and numbers. He's very good at it. I think that's a tribute to him, that he can take a quarterback and make him a very good player. He knows how to utilize people and he knows how to get the ball to his best players. There are a lot of coaches that don't get the ball to their best players with what they do best; he does that. He's one of the best there is at calling offensive games."
How do you handles adjustments during the game…"You lean on your coaches a lot and I think the big thing is, you have to have to plan for all the 'what ifs.' You've got your plan in all three phases, but you have to have an answer for all the 'what ifs' and that's the challenge of the first game for every coach in America. You just have to have your answers on the 'what ifs' because there is always something a little different."
Does he have the first play of the season drawn up…"You want your guys to know, but every situation in the game, you may get the ball on a punt return, you may get the ball at the 20 yard line. As a coach, you do have your ideas of what you are going to do the first play and you do let your players know what you are thinking for the first play."
Will Mike Horton redshirt…"Right now he's on the two-deep. He's really caught our eye. He's extremely fast and he's extremely strong. He's going to be a very good player for us in the future, so we are going to keep giving him reps in practice and we will just see what happens as we get to game three or so."