Gus Malzahn news conference ahead of Ole Miss game


(Auburn, AL)--Auburn University head coach Gus Malzahn held his weekly news conference Tuesday. The following is a the transcript.

Opening statement… “We have the Ole Miss Rebels at home, 11 a.m. kick. That’ll be the earliest we’ve played so far, so we will have to be ready for that. When you look at Ole Miss offensively, really the thing that stands out to me is their offensive skill. I think at receiver they are as good as anybody in the league. I think their quarterback is a guy that can really make things happen when things break down. He has a little Johnny Manziel in him as far as being able to create things on his own, and he is a very good athlete. Defensively, Wesley McGriff is their defensive coordinator, an excellent coach. He was with us last year and does a super job as far as that goes. Really, I think it will be a good test for us. I know they had a tough game last week. We are expecting their best. Our guys understand that they are talented and we’ve got to be ready to play.

“Our message has been ‘get better each week,’ and I think we had a very solid game overall last week. Our challenge has been to continue to get better. On a side note, one of the all-time Auburn greats, Buddy Davidson, is going to have his 700th-consecutive game, and I think that is a really big deal. He has meant a lot to Auburn for a really long period of time, really devoted his life to Auburn, so I just wanted to give him a shout out. I think that is very impressive.”

Will Kamryn Pettway rest during the week…“I think with him and Kerryon Johnson -- we’ve got to be very smart with those guys in practice. We will see where we’re at as it gets closer to the game. At the same time, Kam Martin was also banged up going into the last game. We were able to rest him -- I think that’s good. I really expect all the guys to be ready to play. It’s just a matter of how healthy we can get them before the game starts.”

Finding offensive balance…“We talked about that at the very first of the season. That was one of our goals -- to be more balanced -- and the last two weeks we’ve done that. We were able to hit some explosive plays in the pass game and really play with tempo, too. I think that is a combination that was really good and we need to continue to build upon those things.”

On running the ball consistently inside the tackles…“I think there are a couple factors. One, we’ve had a lot of different lineups up front and the communication and working together in front of each other is really important. I think you will see that continue to improve, now that we’ve kind of got our lineup set up front. We plan on having that same lineup this week as we did last week. I think we will be able to build upon things up front.”

How Pettway has been handling adversity…“He is a competitor. He hasn’t been 100 percent in any of the games yet, and I know that has been frustrating for him. We’ve got to get him healthy, and when we get him healthy, I think he will be in a good spot.”

Have any SEC scores been surprising?…“I think in our league each week is unique to itself. I don’t care who you are playing. Anybody is capable of beating anybody. Some weeks, you see the lopsided scores and all that, but I don’t think it’s a lack of parity, I think it is just week to week.”

All Top 10 teams seem to have strong defenses…“I think it looks that way. The offensives are so explosive and everybody is playing with tempo, everybody is doing spread out stuff. I think the top defenses are the ones that can handle that. It looks like it as of right now. I’m very pleased with our defense right now. I think that is great to have and I think we can keep building and keep improving.”

On Stephen Roberts…“He is playing with more confidence. I thought last year and really the second half of last season, he started playing very well. He is a senior this year. He’s been there and done that. He has a lot of experience and has played a lot of games. He is very instinctive. He is playing with a lot of confidence and I think you see that all across the defense. They are playing with a lot of confidence. They are playing physical.”

On Roberts’ play on punt when ball hit Kyle Davis…“That was very unfortunate that the ball hit one of our players. He made a very instinctive play. That was a really big play in the game that went our way.”

On Mike Horton…“I thought he played his best game last week. He was surrounded with experience around him with two seniors on either side. I just think that really helped. Like I have said before, there is nothing better than experience and especially up front. The fact that he has two experienced guys beside him is huge.”

On defensive consistency despite personnel changes…“It is a team defense. We talked about how are we going to replace Carl or Mon? Well, the message has been as a collective group. It’s been someone new every game. Obviously, when it’s been pass situations, Jeff Holland has really come on and is playing at a high level. It is really just the unit. It is the second year with Coach Steele and our guys really understand his expectations and schemes. He is allowing our guys to play fast and that is important.”

On four receivers averaging more than 20 yards a catch…“More than anything it is emphasis. That is something Chip (Lindsey) has really emphasized. He wants more explosive plays. We have been able to do that the last two weeks and it has changed everything. He will continue to build upon those things. I think you see our wide receivers starting to grow up and have more confidence. They are getting more opportunities and the last two weeks they have seized the moment. We just need to continue to build upon it.”

What are the keys to maintaining consistency…“Each year is different. Each team is different. A lot of it has to do with a team being able to improve. Few teams are around the country are able to improve each week with execution and getting better at who they are and what they do. That is really the formula. With that being said, injuries to impact players are big. You can handle injuries a lot of times, but if it’s your impact players then that sometimes causes a little bit of a lull. It is about getting better each week, though, and the teams that we had that have done that are playing well at the end.”

On Devan Barrett and Malik Miller…“Devan has really come on. They’ve given him short roles and I’m sure that’ll be added to because he has done a really good job. Malik has done a good job of really running hard. He ran through some tackles and I think you will see him more and more as the season goes on.”

On Prince Tega Wanogho playing some at tight end…“He is a very talented player and he just needs experience. That was the plan -- to play him at the heavy set tight end last week. He did a very solid job. He’s still getting reps at left tackle and that is his primary position. He is going to be a really good one before his time’s done.”

On Jarrett Stidham’s progress…“I think you’ve all seen it. The very first game, he looked like a guy that hadn’t played in a long time, which is to be expected. With all the expectations, I tried to lay the groundwork before the season started that we needed to let the guy grow a little bit. We needed to let him get some experience before we started really judging him, and he got better. Obviously, the second game (the Clemson game) was a very tough experience for him and everybody, and then the last three weeks you’re really starting to see him kind of get more comfortable and get more of a command of the offense. He’s been very efficient, and we’ve got to continue that. When we protect him, I think he’s got good decision-making; he just needs more experience. He’s still like a freshman as far as game experience is concerned, and so we’ve got to keep that in mind, but I’ve been very impressed with him in the last three weeks.”

Will there be a regular package for Malik Willis…“We’ll see where that goes and what Chip wants to do with that. It’s been good to get Malik in the game the last two weeks. Obviously, that one explosive run that he made was really something, so we’ll see where that goes and what Chip wants to do with that.”

On Jarrett Stidham’s efficiency in the last three games…“That’s really, really high, but we knew he was a very talented quarterback when we recruited him. We knew he could throw it. And then, obviously, being with him in the spring and fall camp, he’s a guy that can make all the throws, but you’ve got to do it in game situations. It’s tough to complete 82 or 83 percent on air, but he’s been able to do that and that was impressive.”

On facing former assistant Wesley McGriff, who is now Ole Miss’s defensive coordinator…“Obviously, he was with our players and he does know personnel, but some of our guys, obviously, have improved since last year. The fact that Chip is calling the plays and we are different in a lot of ways, it’s not like you would think, but he is definitely familiar. I’ve got a lot of respect for Wesley McGriff. He’s an excellent coach, he’s an excellent person and I know he’ll have his guys prepared.”

On not having a let-down game against teams coming off poor performances…“I think it’s like what we talked about earlier -- each week is unique in its own right, especially in our league. You can’t take anything for granted. And we’ve talked about that with our players. Our leaders understand that. You can turn on the film and you can see they’re a talented team. They’re very scary on offense with their receivers and their quarterback throwing the ball down the field. Defensively, they run to the football. So, we’ve addressed it. Like we’ve talked about, the teams that are there at the end, they find a way to get up each week. You can’t buy into what last week was, not in this league, and we’re expecting their best, and that’s our approach.”

About Herb Hand’s eye surgery after the Missouri game…“I gave him the opportunity if he needed to stay home (from Missouri). I was very concerned. He wanted to go and be a part. He had surgery that next morning. Last week, he took it a little easier than he had in the past. He still did a good job preparing. This week, you can tell he’s got his energy back. It says a lot about Herb that he wanted to be there at the game, and he did a good job that night, too. Herb’s a tough guy.”

On Aidan Marshall’s recruitment…“Coach (Scott) Fountain recruited him for six months or so and knew he was a solid punter, a guy who could come in here and compete. He’s been in the competition, but as of late, he’s been very consistent, and I thought he did a very good job the other night. I didn’t think the moment was too big, and I thought he did a solid job.”

On Carlton Davis’ performance vs. Mississippi State…“I think so (one of his better games). He’s a guy that you see him practice and he does that kind of stuff every day. Now that he’s healthy this year, I think you’re really seeing what he can do. He’s playing with a lot of confidence right now.”

On Eli Stove’s status…“I think he got rolled up on on that one tackle on that speed sweep that he almost broke, but he’ll practice today.”