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December 31, 2010

Video: Maryland talk (kind of), Fairley’s growth and not knowing nothing about no Twitter

Here’s a video from today’s interviews with offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn and defensive line coach Tracy Rocker. Enjoy. We talk to head coach Gene Chizik again Sunday before the team leaves for Glendale and that’s it.

Attention Auburn fans from Columbus, Phenix City or Smiths Station heading to Glendale

The Ledger-Enquirer is looking to hear from Auburn fans from the Columbus/Phenix City/Smiths Station area who are traveling to Glendale, Ariz., for the Bowl Championship Series national title game.

If you’d like to be part of a story, e-mail sports editor Kevin Price.

Practice notes: Stallworth gets short but sweet Christmas visit from Army sergeant major father

Five months from now, Auburn wide receiver Travante Stallworth hopes to have his father, James, a 24-year Army veteran, back stateside for good.

In the interim, Stallworth, a redshirt freshman who went to high school in Leesville, La., had to settle for a brief visit from his father this Christmas, one that unfortunately won’t carry through Auburn’s BCS title game against Oregon.

“I’m kind of used to it now,” Stallworth said. “It’s really no big deal. It’s kind of tough for my mom, because, like I said, she’s there all by herself.

“But he’s doing well over there. He really doesn’t talk about it all that much. Overall, it’s been good over there. It’s really kind of calmed down. So I’m happy about that.”

James, a sergeant major, has made three trips before, most recently doing infantry operations in Iraq. His latest tour, which might be his last, started in August. He and his son still find time to talk, doing video chats every few days.

“He asks about football and sometimes we get a little off football and talk about life and stuff too,” Stallworth said.

James also watches Auburn’s game online, even though his son hasn’t played this year. Stallworth is taking a redshirt year after having ACL surgery last season.

“It’s not really frustrating, because I know my body and the coaches could tell that everything wasn’t right,” he said. “I understand that they want me to be full-speed out there playing. I don’t want to go out there limping around and not being able to help the team with the ability I know I have.”

He’ll still traveling with the team to Glendale, Ariz., for the BCS national title game against Oregon. James, who heads back overseas Jan. 6, plans to tune in, even though it’s 11 hours ahead.

“He’ll be up at 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning sometimes watching, even though he has work,” Stallworth said. “He just loves to see us play.”

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Here are some more notes and quotes from today’s interviews. Enjoy them. They’re the last until Sunday, when we only get head coach Gene Chizik. Then the team flies to Arizona:

  • LB Craig Stevens had a cast on his left wrist. He said he injured it against Alabama and re-aggravated it in the SEC title game against South Carolina. He might have to wear something against Oregon, but he’ll definitely play. “They’re trying to get it to heal,” he said. “You know, wrists move all the time. So they don’t want me to move it.”
  • Rocker said he glanced at a picture of Nick Fairley smiling in a celebration photo from the Outback Bowl last year and laughed to himself. “I’m like, wow,” he said. “No one really knew. No one knew what would Nick be.”
  • Rocker said the transformation started in the spring, when Fairley was so good at getting his assignments down that he began telling other people where to line up. The MSU game, where he had a pick, was the moment he lights came on. “After that I got out of coaching,” Rocker said. “I was just trying to make sure he showed up at the game. But I’m proud he’s evolved from last year. The biggest thing is, like I keep telling him, it’s not what we did in 2010, it’s what we do in 2011.”
  • Did Rocker see it coming? “You think they all have the potential,” he said. “You just try to make sure they all can perform at their best. That’s probably between him and I where I see it, but I’m like, it’s in you. Now we’ve got to find a way to get it out of you. Now you may not like the way we’re going to get it out of you, but I think that’s the most important part is you want someone to be their best, and him and I, we’ve bickered and went back and forth, but that’s part of it. That’s my job is to get the best out of you.”
  • Fairley recently signed up for Twitter (@Nick_Fairley251). After a little over a day of near non-stop tweeting, the Lombardi Award winner already had 4,000 followers, quickly closing in on team leader Zac Etheridge (@Z_Etheridge4), who has close to 6,000 followers. Asked about it, Rocker didn’t have much to contribute. “I don’t know nothing about no Twitter,” he said. “You got me on that one. I’m simple. A caveman.”
  • The NFL draft isn’t in Fairley’s mind, Rocker said. “That’s not an issue,” he said. “He is all about this game. And that would take care of itself when the time is appropriate. But we’re more concerned about this situation, but that hasn’t been an issue. It’s not going to be an issue. But he’s been great about the whole deal and he’s more concerned about Auburn being successful.”
  • Rocker has seen some strong progress from DE Corey Lemonier, a freshman All-SEC selection. “I think he’s gained the confidence that now he can play SEC football,” he said. “When the first month of practice and then the second month of practice, the conversation was, ‘Coach, I’m not making the plays I made in high school.’ And I’m like, you’re not in high school anymore. You’re in college. It’s a big difference. So for him, every week he’s gained confidence and playing. It’s been an enjoyment to watch him grow.”
  • FB/DL Ladarious Phillips continues to get looks on both sides of the ball. “I think he’s going to help our team on either side,” Rocker said. “But I’ll be the first one. I won’t turn him down.”
  • I’ll just let CB coach Philip Lolley give a run down of Oregon’s offense and get out of the way: “They put a tremendous amount of pressure. The main thing that you see with those guys, and we’ve looked at every ball game, people are running free. They do that because of the offense that they’re running. They’re very, very well coached. They do a tremendous job of attacking you diagonally, vertically, the whole bit. The option keeps you honest. They run it every conceivable way that you could possibly run an option. They run it from all different sets, all different types of motion. And if you try to get the extra guy to put on the quarterback and their pitch, course they’ve got their quick-throws in and they’ve got play-action where they’re running right by people because you’ve got to get the secondary involved. The secondary has to be involved to stop the run in the situation. You don’t have enough. So you have to get the quarterback and the pitch covered along with the great tailback that everybody knows about up inside. Out there, you better have your ducks in a row, as they say, or you’re going to get in trouble.”
  • Lolley said WR Philip Pierre-Louis was mimicking Oregon RB LaMichael James on the scout team before getting hurt. Now its walk-on Patrick Lymon.
  • Lolley has been in Alabama forever, making this game all the more special. “Personally it means a whole lot because being raised in this state, to win a championship and it’s been since ’57, this is the first time I know that we’ve had the chance since I’ve been here to play for this,” he said. “We’ve had some great football teams here and there’s been several teams that didn’t have the opportunity to and that we felt that we were the best, but they didn’t get a chance to prove that. So it’s not like we’re just playing for this team, you know? I mean it’s for all the Auburn Family.”
  • Even Lolley is a little surprised how quickly Auburn got to this game. “We had some great football teams when coach (Tommy) Tuberville was here, too,” he said. “I said, `I’m going to come back on coach Chizik’s staff and we’re going to get this done.’ I was anticipating that three would be fine, but we need to get it four. In four, we need to have a shot to make this run. I never questioned that we’d be good every year, but to have a shot at this, you’d think it would take a little longer. You think it’s going to take two to three good years of recruiting to beat the people in this conference, and then to have a chance to do this. We’re way ahead.”
  • Offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn, who didn’t really want to talk about the Maryland job, was much more eager to talk about Oregon’s defense and the odd front it throws at you. “They’re not ever going to be in the same place,” he said. “They’re never going to be still. They’re going to be moving. They do try to confuse you with their schemes. They play a lot of odd-front. They come at you from different angles. They do some very unique things.” He said it’s somewhat similar to what Mississippi State and a couple other SEC defenses did to the Tigers this year.
  • Malzahn was highly complimentary of his senior-dominated offensive line. “I really believe this one of the best offensive lines in the country,” he said. “We live and die by running the football. People know we’re going to run the football. Those guys up front have done an outstanding job and they’re a big reason why we’re where we are today.”
  • Former Auburn head coach Pat Dye was named to the 2010 Chick-fil-A Bowl Hall of Fame induction class Friday, along with former Purdue and NFL cornerback Rod Woodson. They will be honored in a pre-game ceremony tonight. Dye who went 99-39-4 and won four SEC titles at Auburn, led the Tigers to the 1990 Peach Bowl (now Chick-fil-A). Auburn beat Indiana 27-23 at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium that year. Established in 2002, the Chick-fil-A Hall of Fame honors former players, coaches and contributors who had a significant impact on the bowl. It has 29 members.
  • Auburn has walkthroughs Saturday morning and will practice one more time Sunday before departing for Glendale, Ariz., on Monday. The Tigers’ first on-site practice for the BCS title game is Tuesday at 12:30 p.m. ET at Scottsdale Community College.

Gus Malzahn: ‘My only focus is helping us win the national championship’

Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn didn’t want to talk about rumors linking him to the vacant Maryland head coaching job Friday, saying he’s only thinking about preparation for Oregon.

“My only focus is helping us win a national championship,” Malzahn said in his first comments to reporters since being linked to the job. “I will have nothing else in my mind other than that.”

Malzahn, who agreed to a contract extension and raise to $1.3 million annually after turning down an offer from Vanderbilt several weeks, interviewed with Maryland 10 days ago, according to ESPN’s Bruce Feldman.

Auburn hasn’t publicly confirmed or denied that report. Tigers head coach Gene Chizik said vaguely that there are “possibilities of contact” between Malzahn and the school.

Asked specifically about the Terrapins, Malzahn didn’t give much insight, preferring to look forward to the Tigers’ matchup with Oregon in the BCS title game in Glendale, Ariz., on Jan. 10.

“Kind of like I’ve said all along regarding head coaching jobs, it’s got to be the right time, the right situation,” he said, not specifically mentioning the Maryland opening. “And right now my only focus is on helping us win the national championship and I’m not going to let anything distract or get in my way of helping us do that.”

Maryland, which announced it would buy out the final year of Ralph Friedgen’s contract Dec. 20, interviewed former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach for the job Thursday.

The meeting with the school’s president, athletics director and search committee went well, according to multiple reports, although the Baltimore Sun reported no offer has been made.

Maryland athletics director Kevin Anderson has said he’d like to make a hire by Jan. 4.

Video: Trading pants, Members Only jackets and one thrilling opportunity

Here’s a video from tonight’s round of interviews with coaches. It’s got head coach Gene Chizik, running backs coach Curtis Luper, wide receivers coach Trooper Taylor and offensive line coach Jeff Grimes.

Enjoy. We’ll be back at it tomorrow morning.

Late night practice notes: LB Josh Bynes, LT Lee Ziemba chosen for Senior Bowl roster

Auburn linebacker Josh Bynes and left tackle Lee Ziemba added one more game to their schedule: the 2011 Senior Bowl.

Both players accepted invites Thursday to play in the senior showcase, which takes place at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Ala., on Jan. 29.

“I’m really, really proud of those guys,” Auburn head coach Gene Chizik said. “Very deserving of that honor. I think again when you have a good team and you’re doing well, that comes with the territory. Those two guys are certainly very well deserving of that selection.”

Ziemba was a consensus All-American who was won the Jacobs Blocking Trophy as the SEC’s top offensive lineman.

“I think anytime you’re recognized as an All-SEC player, that says something about you,” offensive line coach Jeff Grimes said. “But when you go to that next level and people are willing to say you’re one of those best players at your position, I think that says a lot.”

Bynes was a second-team All-SEC selection by the Associated Press after leading the Tigers with 71 tackles.

“It’s a great opportunity for me to showcase what I can do alongside some of the other top players in the nation,” Bynes said. “Getting a chance to work out in front of NFL scouts will be a great chance for me to show my skills, and it’s also an opportunity to have a fun time.”

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Here are some other notes and quotes from Thursday night’s interviews with assistants:

  • Good practice Thursday, Chizik said. Auburn went full pads, practicing out in the rain. “I thought the tempo practice was really good and I think we got a lot accomplished,” he said.
  • Chizik had no news on the academic front Thursday. “I’m going to stay on the same course,” he said. “If there’s a change of any sort, regarding our personnel, I’ll let you know.”
  • Auburn altered its schedule over the next few days. After this afternoon’s practice, the Tigers will do a walkthrough on New Year’s Day. But they added a practice on Jan. 2, which was previously an off day. Auburn flies out to Glendale, Ariz., on Jan. 3 and resumes practice the following day.
  • Wide receiver Darvin Adams will handle Auburn’s punt return duties in the BCS title game against Oregon, wide receivers coach Trooper Taylor said. Adams handled the duties in the SEC title game after Quindarius Carr, who had the job all year, fumbled a punt against Alabama the previous week. Adams had one return for 10 yards against South Carolina. He has two this season for 21 yards. “The biggest deal is Darvin does a good job picking the ball up off the guy’s foot,” Taylor said. “It’s kind of like a baseball. You never want to catch that ball going backwards. You want to have your momentum going forward. His decision-making with the football — I think because of so much time on offense — he makes good decisions with the ball.”
  • Carr will be the backup, followed by Anthony Morgan and Chris Davis. “If we have to get past Chris Davis, we’re just going to let it roll,” Taylor said.
  • Running backs coach Curtis Luper and Taylor have an odd superstition before every game. Taylor parades around in Luper’s pants, something he’s done since the opener. “I was looking for my pants and he had them on,” Luper said. “I said, ‘Troop, look, give me my pants.’ The next week, Coach (Jay) Boulware said, ‘Troop, you’ve to put Loop’s pants on again.’ I reluctantly gave him my pants. That’s been for 13 consecutive (weeks). It’ll be 14 on Jan. 10. I’ve got to give my pants to Troop. He parades around in them and then I put them on. 14-0 is the goal.”
  • I’m sure most of you saw the terrible celebration call against Kansas State at the end of its loss to Syracuse today. Chizik didn’t, but he talked about celebration penalties in general. “We’ll actually pull out clips from different games,” he said. “We constantly try to address those things. That’s all you can do. Make them very aware of it. They know how we feel about that. We try to address it every opportunity we get.” (Apparently Ben Tate and Walt McFadden didn’t get that memo before last year’s Outback Bowl.)
  • Chizik didn’t talk specifically about the Gus Malzahn-Maryland talk but said he didn’t find it surprising other teams would be interested in Auburn’s coaches. “As I’ve said many times, I’ve got a staff of great coaches and they’re all good I their own right at different things,” he said. “They’re all going to be guys who are going to be desirable. Certainly when you’ve been successful and you’ve had a year like we’ve had now, a lot of our guys are going to get attention and rightly so. It’s flattering when you’re in those shoes, but the thing I’m most proud of about our staff is they’re very focused on one thing right now – that’s to win one more game. That’s kind of where we’re at.”
  • Auburn is much bigger on the offensive line that Oregon is on the defensive line. The Tigers’ coaches made it sound like not much of a big deal. Chizik called that advantage “overrated.”
  • Offensive line coach Jeff Grimes agreed. “If a lot has been made about that, they’re concentrating on the wrong things,” he said. “Often (size is) one of the things that’s overestimated, because there are a lot of times where a defensive lineman that’s 270 pounds is a lot better player than a guy who’s 310 pounds. They play a lot bigger than they are. A guy who’s 270, quick, strong, explosive and plays hard, in a lot of ways, is better than a guy that’s 300 and can’t play as hard as long, or doesn’t have the quickness or lateral movement, that sort of thing. In no way whatsoever do I see that as a sort of deficiency in their defense.”
  • Grimes said he’s seen leaps and bounds in progress from RT Brandon Mosley, who replaced an injured A.J. Greene early in the season. He remembers watching game tape of the first South Carolina game before the SEC championship game. “We were both going, golly, I can’t believe this was the same season, because you look like a totally different player now than you did at that point,” Grimes said. “But I’m really, really pleased with him and really glad I’ve got another year with him.”
  • Grimes didn’t have anything definitive on Greene’s return this spring, although he’s been pleased with the progress. “He can’t do a lot of stuff with his lower body, but I’ve seen guys who have had a particular injury where it’s upper body or lower body really increase their strength levels in other areas,” Grimes said. “You can really see that on him now. He lost some weight initially, with not being able to do a whole lot, and he gained that weight back and is starting to look now like he did at the beginning of the season, after having a really good summer. I’m really pleased with what I’ve seen from him and the time he’s spent in the weight room over the past three months.”
  • The end is drawing near for Grimes’ time with his four seniors. “It’ll definitely hit me when that game is over,” he said. “That’s one of the things about coaching that is tough is you really do build a relationship with these kids and you hate to see them move on, but at the same time that relationship doesn’t necessarily end.”
  • You can count the coaches as being excited to play in this game. “Do the math,” Luper said. “This is my 15th year in coaching. I’d do it for 30 to do it again.”
  • Grimes hears about it from everyone he talks to. “I’ve had people ask me before: ‘Have you ever coached in the national championship game before?’” he said. “Heck, I haven’t even coached in a BCS game before. Now a whole lot of years before, I was coaching at a Division III school just glad to be playing every Saturday. I’m just thrilled to have the opportunity and I think we recognize how big a deal it is once we get out there probably.”
  • Has it sunk in? “It hasn’t really sunk in yet that we’re literally playing for the national championship,” Luper said. “We’re trying to win the 14th game, trying to beat Oregon. All that other stuff will sink in a little bit later.”
  • Trooper agreed. “It really hasn’t sunk in because Coach Chizik has been so detailed with the practices working with the younger kids,” he said. “It almost feels like a spring practice because we’re scrimmaging those guys and trying to help those young guys to get ready – even some of the backups who may have to play role in this game. It’s been more like a spring practice…it’s not like we’re overlooking them but we’re trying to fix some fundamental things with the young guys.”
  • Three young’ns who have stood out to Trooper: Davis, WR Antonio Goodwin and HB Shaun Kitchens. Grimes said OL Chad Slade is a little bit further ahead than his freshman counterparts on the line because he’s worked as an emergency backup with the regular offense instead of on the scout team.
  • WR Travante Stallworth, who has been trying to work back from an ACL tear last year, got a boost recently when his dad just returned from his military service overseas. “You can tell the difference in Travante,” Taylor said. “That was big for him. Watching him out there, he’s such a smart kid. Now, we’ve just got his confidence back, and that will come with more touches.”
  • Trooper’s take on Oregon’s secondary: “Speed. Those guys can run and they’re not afraid to play man coverage, and they’ve done it against some really good receivers.” He was also impressed by the number of passes the Ducks tip into the air. ” I bet if you watch five minutes of tape you’ll six or seven tipped balls,” he said.
  • Doesn’t sound like Auburn coaches will be doing much recruiting while they’re out in Arizona. It’s strictly a title game focus.
  • Trooper ragged on Chizik’s leather jacket choice during his ESPN rounds the other day (he joked that it was a Members Only jacket, even though it wasn’t), but he said the exposure for the program is invaluable. “When you get that type of coverage, it helps in recruiting because it’s reaches all across the United States,” he said. “That’s not just regional; it’s all over the place.”

December 30, 2010

Early practice notes: Time winding down for Auburn’s seniors

Not a whole lot from relatively few player interviews this morning, so we’ll go straight to the bullet points (Follow the blog on Twitter and Facebook):

  • It’s starting to hit some of the seniors that the end is near. “Yeah, I’m coming down to my last couple of practices,” left guard Mike Berry said. “When they come back for the team meeting, you’re not going to be there. It’s time to move on. But at the same time, I’m just savoring the time I’ve got left.
  • That goes for the national title game too. “The more you start preparing, the more you start to realize you’re about to play on the biggest stage in college football,” left tackle Lee Ziemba said.
  • Berry, on the impact of offensive line coach Jeff Grimes: “He’s definitely set the tone for our offensive line to be one of the toughest in the nation. I think that’s what we did this year.”
  • A lot has been made of the four senior offensive linemen, but right tackleBrandon Mosley has made giant strides from a year ago, when he was a defensive lineman/tight end in community college. “That is kind of crazy now that you said something about it,” Berry said. “He talks about all the time how he was an athlete because he played tight end. I was like, ‘Brandon, they didn’t throw you the ball.’ He’s definitely excited about it. I talked to him the other day. He said it’s unbelievable.
  • Mosley was the outsider to the group of seniors on the line but has fit in well. “He’s part of us,” Ziemba said. “Maybe in the spring, we were a little tough on him because he was new and everything. Now, he’s just it’s like he’s been here the four years we have. It’s been great having him.”
  • The linemen are close, despite their relatively different backgrounds. “We’re all different people,” Ziemba said. “Pugh is from Birmingham. I’m from Arkansas. Isom’s from Atlanta. Mike’s from Nashville. It’s four different people, but I think we bring a lot to the table as far as complementing each other and learning from each other.”
  • What’s the music situation like in the locker room, though. “It’s frustrating,” Ziemba said, joking. He said Berry and Byron Isom don’t listen to country music too much. “Rarely,” Ziemba said. “They usually win that battle. We’ll usually put the hunting channel on the TV. We win that one.”
  • Ziemba and Pugh have tried to take Berry and Isom hunting. No dice. “I was going to try and go until they said we had to get in some trees,” Berry said. Ziemba said former DT Sen’Derrick Marks used to go, though.
  • RB Onterio McCalebb, he of the Mohawk haircut, said he has something in mind for the national title game. “It’s going to be a special one,” he said. We asked if he could give us a hint of what it would look like. No luck. “I can’t tell you,” he said.
  • WR Emory Blake said he’s envisioned making the play to win the title game. He said everybody does. “You just have little flashes of what if you make this play or what if you make that play,” he said. “Things pop up in your head. You’ve got to work so hopefully you’ll get those chances in a game.”
  • Blake’s from Texas. He heard a lot of questions when he signed with Auburn. When he went home for Christmas, there was a lot less of that. “I remember people asking me why was I signing with Auburn when I first left,” he said. “Now, they’re like, `I can see why you signed with Auburn.’ It’s good going back home knowing I made the right decision and the right choice.”
  • Bowl trips are usually all about the off-field activities for the players, although that seems to be less so at the BCS title game, where, obviously, a lot is on the line. “If you go out there just looking to have a good time, you’re going to leave with a loss and you’ll look back and be disappointed,” Berry said.

Video: Feeding the hungry, more meat left on the bone and breaking down a gazillion plays

Bonus video from tonight’s interviews. It has got quarterback Cam Newton and defensive coordinator Ted Roof. Enjoy. We’ll be back at it tomorrow.

Late night practice notes: Cam Newton helps feed the homeless on his Christmas break

Auburn quarterback Cam Newton spent his Christmas Day at Turner Field in Atlanta, donating his time to the Hosea Feed the Hungry and Homeless program.

The quarterback, a native of nearby College Park, Ga., spent about two hours on the feeding line, dishing out green beans to the homeless.

“I think more people really don’t even sit down and appreciate what Christmas really is until you have to go through that type of situation and see people that really don’t have nothing,” he said. “And for me to view that, man, it was just another reason for me to count my blessings.”

Newton got recognized a few times. Several people asked for pictures with him, but he didn’t want his newfound celebrity to get in the way of the real reason he was there.

“I had to step outside Cam Newton the athlete and step into Cam Newton the human being, the person that is very caring,” he said.

Newton said it cleared up a lot of misconceptions for him.

“These people aren’t just average homeless people,” he said. “These people have jobs. They have families. They have so many things that we have. But it’s just something that the cards that they were dealt, they were just not lucky. These aren’t just people on the side of the street with their hand out. These people are continually trying to help themselves. But sometimes they get the short end of the stick.”

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And then read some more notes and quotes from interview with Newton and defensive coordinator Ted Roof:

  • Newton, like Nick Fairley, said he hasn’t submitted his name to the NFL draft advisory committee, which assesses where a player might be selected in the draft should he declare early. “I don’t think we got around to that,” Newton said. “Honestly, I’m not even really focused on that right now. I still have one game to accomplish and I think everything else will fall into place.” He doesn’t have too much time to think about it after the BCS title game. The deadline to declare is Jan. 15, although players can withdraw their names by Jan. 18.
  • Newton has gotten a haul of awards this offseason. He just hasn’t received them yet. “I don’t got nuthin’,” he said. “People have been mentioning awards and this and this and that, so if you’re out there and you’re listening to this, I want my award.” (He said this while pointing at the cameras. Jokingly, of course.)
  • Newton’s take on Oregon’s defense? “This is one of the teams that has blitzed more than any team we have seen on film,” he said. “Not only do they blitz but they have so many packages that can be very confusing for the opposing offense. They play so many people.”
  • Informed that offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn has said Newton’s footwork has gotten better, the quarterback said he never hears about it. “Coach Malzahn never tells me any of the good things, man. Never,” he said. “This is always new to me to hear a positive from coach Malzahn, but without coach Malzahn I wouldn’t be where I am right now and I think we all know that.”
  • Newton hasn’t lost much in his career. The last one came a little over a year ago while at Blinn College. “Navarro Junior College. Halloween 2009. I’ll never forget it. We lost by four points.”
  • Roof talked plenty about the pace of practice. How fast is it? “Fast,” he said. (OK, glad we cleared that up.) But the important part comes in communication. “You’ve got to do that because you’ve got to get into a fatigue position and then you have to be able to function and communicate,” he said. “That’s what they do — they limit your time to process formations and the pre-snap information that some teams give you. You have to process the information faster. You have to communicate. It’s tougher communication. It’s tough for communication and to get our guys to talk when they’re uncomfortable.”
  • That puts some pressure on the coaches to be ready too. That means having calls in mind for the next play before it happens, something Roof, as a rule, likes to try to do anyway. “We’re going to get quick calls to them,” he said. “If you’re waiting to get the perfect deal, they’re going to snap the ball and somebody is going to be running free. A big deal is getting yourself alignment and everybody putting their eyes where they’re supposed to be and everybody playing the same call. As elementary as that seems, that’s a big deal.”
  • It helps to have senior Josh Bynes at middle linebacker. “His role and what he’s done for us is really special,” Roof said. “He’s a guy who studies the game. He’s a guy that keeps things, the poise comes from the middle. He keeps us poised on the field — along with some other guys. To get everybody on the right situation. As a coach, I value that tremendously. He’s an extension of us on the field.”
  • So Bynes thinks like Roof, right? “That would be kinda scary, huh?” Roof said. “I feel very fortunate to have coached him.”
  • Roof’s heard the haters of his defense. He doesn’t really care. “I could spin statistics to make things look one way,” he said. “Somebody else could spin them to look another way. This is a bottom-line business. The bottom line is that we have to do what we have to do to win football games. Up to this point, we’ve done that. There were some games where people said: ‘Wow, they played great.’ The tape says: Eh. The truth usually lies somewhere in the middle.”
  • The coaching staff has watched a ton of game tape. They started by watching from the start of the season to the finish. Then they do cut-ups, which organizes plays into situations. “You get an overall flavor of how they want to attack things,” he said.
  • That’s a lot of plays to devour. Over 900 in fact. “They can do anything in games – they can’t do it all – but they can do anything,” Roof said. “When you have this much time, you have to prepare for it all. That’s the good and the bad news with bowl games. Usually you do a four-game breakdown. You’ve got your 350-or-whatever plays, and you base your game plan on that. Now, we’re up to the gazillions. There’s good and bad with it. There’s a different theme for each game, and we’re just going to have to wait and see what it is and adjust to it and keep going.”
  • Roof thinks the exposure from being in the national title game has helped recruiting considerably. “It unlocks a couple of doors that were shut,” he said.
  • Granted, there are some tradeoffs. The Tigers essentially lost two weeks of recruiting (one during the SEC championship week and one next week, when they are in Arizona practicing). “I would trade a week of it if you’re playing for a championship any time,” Roof said. “When you win championships, it helps your recruiting for the 20 high schools you could have been in because of the exposure you get and being a champion.”

December 29, 2010

Video: Between the white lines, alignment importance and going the extra mile

Here’s a video from this afternoon’s interviews with linebacker Josh Bynes, defensive end Nosa Eguae and cornerback T’Sharvan Bell. Minor editing problems again. (I swear I’ll get the software figure out soon enough.) Enjoy it anyway.

I’ll be back with more a little later. Ted Roof and Cam Newton are on the interview docket.