BY AARON BRENNER | firstname.lastname@example.org
AUBURN, Ala. – Hitting the midway point of spring practices leading up to A-Day, it was clear which topic Auburn football coach Gus Malzahn preferred to discuss Saturday.
Malzahn was more interested in talking about an intrasquad scrimmage Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium than the recent reports and allegations swirling around the Auburn football program, much of which centers around activity during his stint as the Tigers’ offensive coordinator from 2009-11.
“Administration has already talked about that, and we’re moving forward,” Malzahn said. “We’re concentrating on finishing the second part of our spring.”
Reporters fired five different questions at Malzahn about the Roopstigo.com report Wednesday and ESPN The Magazine narrative Thursday, ranging from accusations of NCAA violations to in-depth depictions of a designer drug epidemic during the national championship season of 2010.
Malzahn insisted “nobody” on the current roster or coaching staff has been distracted by the off-field drama, while refusing to address the university’s current drug policy or whether there was a cover-up by the athletic department while he was on the previous staff.
“Like I said, the administration took care of it and as a head coach I feel good about the way they handled it,” Malzahn said. “I support our administration and the way they handled it … if you want to talk about the scrimmage, I’d be happy to do that.”
Malzahn began his post-practice press conference saying the team ran “about a 112-play scrimmage”, focusing primarily on the run game. Malzahn saw each scholarship quarterback – junior Kiehl Frazier and sophomore Jonathan Wallace – attempt at least 20 passes.
“We mixed and matched personnel, wanted to do that on purpose. We’d like to reevaluate things after this scrimmage for the second part of spring, as far as depth charts and moving people around,” Malzahn said. “There was some good and there was some things that we need to improve on greatly.”
Different players had different viewpoints on how to handle the off-field distractions.
“That’s not even being talked about, it hasn’t even been talked about in the locker room,” senior defensive end Nosa Eguae said. “That has nothing to do with what we’re trying to do. We’re really focusing on everything we’re doing this spring, and I don’t really have anything to say about that.”
It’s a theme the Tigers are somewhat used to from last fall’s 3-9 season which also drew negative press to the team.
“It’s really hard, because there’s so much of it there,” sophomore cornerback Joshua Holsey said. “But you just try your best to not worry about it and focus on what you’ve got in front of you and that’s getting ready for this spring and getting ready for the fall.”
The new reports drum up similar attention to previous years when Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Cam Newton was scrutinized by media and the NCAA – a scandal of which Auburn was eventually cleared of prospective violations.
“Yeah, it’s very frustrating because you get done with one thing, and the next, there’s something else coming up,” junior tight end Brandon Fulse said. “We’ve been like, ‘why us?’ or ‘what’s going on?’ So our heads are spinning. One thing gets done, then something else is popping up.”
Malzahn has stressed high character for his players and coaches since the day he was hired as head coach Dec. 4, which junior cornerback Jonathon Mincy said “this team has really taken heed to.”
“Those are distractions, and that’s something I don’t really try to feed into,” Mincy said. “That’s something our head coach really stressed to this team … we just want to come in day and day out and get better. We have one goal in mind, and that’s a championship.”