BY RYAN BLACK | firstname.lastname@example.org
HOOVER, Ala. — Auburn coach Gus Malzahn met with assembled media members on Day 2 of SEC Media Days at the Wynfrey Hotel.
The following are some of the highlights:
I’m blessed to be back at Auburn as the head coach, looking forward to the season. Real excited about our players. We’ve asked a lot of them since they’ve been back. They really bought into the ‘New Day’ theme, putting the past behind them.
They had a very good spring, feel like we improved in the weight room this summer. We’ve gotten stronger, which we needed to in a big way.
Academically, really proud of our guys. Last semester, we had one of the best academic semesters in the history of Auburn football. That usually carries over to discipline and character on the field.
Off the field, I’m very proud of our guys, too. Back for eight months, no off-the-field issues. That’s a tribute to our players, real proud of those guys.
The No. 1 thing that our players have to do for us to be successful this year is get our edge back. That is the mental and physical toughness, the blue-collar, hard-nosed, hit-you-in-the-mouth Auburn football that’s made Auburn great. Worry about your teammate, not worry about yourself. Lose the entitlement issue.
History shows if Auburn has their edge, they can compete for championships and win games.
Very proud of our staffs. Feel we have one of the top staffs in college football. All men of character, great examples for our players. That’s the number one thing for me. All very good coaches. On most college staffs, you have good coaches, good recruiters. I can honestly say we got nine guys that can flat-out coach. That will be very good for us in the future.
Offensive coordinator is Rhett Lashlee, a guy I coached in seventh grade. He knows this offense like the back of his hand. I’m going to be a part of the offense, but I have a lot of confidence that he’s going to allow me to do what the head coach needs to do in this league.
Offensively, we’re a two-back run play-action team that will run our offense at a two-minute pace the entire game. Our goal is to play faster than anybody in college football. We feel like, if you can execute our offense at a fast pace, it’s a big advantage. So we’ll be striving for that.
Offensively our biggest challenge this year is going to be our quarterback. We don’t know who our quarterback is. We have four guys. Going to give them an equal shot. Figure out who gives us the best chance of winning. Ideally we figure that out sooner rather than later in fall camp, but we won’t make a decision until we’re a 110% for sure.
The positive offensively is the fact that we actually recruited guys specifically for this offense. We’ll just need those guys to step up in an accelerated pace.
Our defensive coordinator is Ellis Johnson, one of the best defensive coordinators in all of college football. Fundamentally sound. We’ll be running a 4-2-5 defense, which puts three safeties on the field. Allows us to put a little more speed on the field, a little more athleticism and all that.
We do have quite a few seniors on defense that’s played a lot of football. I told those guys they need to have their best season. They’ve got to raise their level for us to be successful.
We also have a lot of young, talented guys. They need to be on the field. I’m telling you, they need to grow up and grow up in a hurry. That’s tough to do in this league. That’s where we’re at defensively.
Really overall we have a lot of question marks going into the season. The big thing from my standpoint is we need to improve each practice and we need to improve each game. If we can do that, we have a chance to have a successful season.
On dealing with the pressure of the “win-now” mentality in college football
I think when you take on a head job, you know exactly what you’re getting into. You’ve got to be prepared. You have to have a plan. The bottom line is you have to be successful. I think all coaches, especially in this league, understand that.
On whether he would consider slowing down his preferred high-tempo offense
We completely believe in pace. Like I said earlier, if we can execute our offense at a fast pace, it’s a big advantage. As a head coach, you have to understand how the game is going, what gives your team the best chance of being successful. As a head coach, we’ll definitely manage each situation to try to give us the best chance of being successful.
On whether he specifically recruits player who ran his type of offense in high school
I think it’s a little bit of both. The main thing, of course, you can turn on a film and you can see talent-wise if they fit what you’re doing, if they’re talented enough to play at this level on your team. What I meant by that is do your homework if they’re the right type person, the right type character that you’re looking for. We’re very specific on what we’re looking for offensively and defensively, not just from a talent standpoint, but also from a personal standpoint.
On the criticism that the up-tempo offense he and others in college football utilize leads to more injuries for defensive players
When I first heard that, to be honest with you, I thought it was a joke. As far as health or safety issues, that’s like saying the defense shouldn’t blitz after a first down because they’re a little fatigue and there’s liable to be a big collision in the backfield.
If you’re going to look at rule changes, officials, we need to look at the guys on defense that are faking injuries to slow down these pace teams. That’s where college football’s going. You see more and more teams using pace. I think you’ll see it more and more at the next level also.