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Gus Malzahn Press Conference Review: September 13

Head Coach Gus Malzahn (Photo: Auburn Athletics/Dakota Sumpter)

Auburn Head Football Coach Gus Malzahn has put the Arkansas State win behind him, and is now focusing on the conference opener against 17th-ranked Texas A&M.

Malzahn previewed the game during his weekly press conference on Tuesday, mentioning the strength of both sides of the ball during his opening statement. The Aggies lead the conference in scoring, total offense, punt return average, and interceptions heading into the game. Two receivers have over 100 yards through two games (Christian Kirk and Josh Reynolds), and running back Keith Ford leads rushing with 3 touchdowns and 127 total yards. Graduate transfer Trevor Knight has attempted 79 passes, throwing for 583 yards and 4 touchdowns.

Malzahn also mentioned the Aggie defense, and how much that they have improved in just one year with “Chief” John Chavis as the defensive coordinator.

As far as his team is concerned, Malzahn was pleased with the performance of his team in the Arkansas State win, but feels like the same improvements from week two to week three, need to be better than week one to week two in order to win the game. Since Texas A&M joined the conference in 2012, the road team has won every matchup in this series. Auburn surprised the Aggies last season in College Station, 26-10.

On Texas A&M’s defensive line:

One of the Aggies weak points in the early stages of their SEC career, has been defense. That aspect has improved tremendously since John Chavis has taken over as defensive coordinator. First team all-america selection Myles Garrett returns to the defensive line, he has 5 total tackles so far this season. “Being able to protect our quarterback is going to be a big factor in the game. We are going to have to do some things to help. We will see how the game goes.” Malzahn says that the key will be to keep Garrett and fellow defensive end Daeshon Hall off balance.

On the offensive line’s improvement from week one to week two:

Malzahn feels like the offensive line has improved. He says that he feels that their communication has gotten better, and will get better as the season rolls on.

Ryan Davis:

Ryan Davis has seen plenty of snaps through two games at wide receiver. Malzahn is a believer in “earning what you have”, and he feels that Ryan Davis has earned his spot, and everything that comes with it. “He goes full speed in everything that he does.” Malzahn says the same for the lack of playing time for fellow receiver Jason Smith. On Smith, “Jason is continuing to work hard. I think you could see Jason’s role grow more and more as the season goes on.”

Importance on gaining momentum, and the impact on the rest of the season:

Malzahn said that last week’s focus was only on Arkansas State, which was another reason as to why they were so successful in the 51-14 win. This week, the scene is much larger. Not only is it the conference opener, but it is against one of the better teams in the conference. Players and coaches understand that the bar needs to be raised in order to compete this Saturday. A win here could give the Tigers more confidence heading into next week against LSU, and beyond.

On Texas A&M quarterback, Trevor Knight:

Trevor Knight has played in big games before, being the starting quarterback for Bob Stoops and the Oklahoma Sooners prior to transferring to Texas A&M to earn his master’s degree. Malzahn respects Knight’s ability to run out of the pocket when the opportunity comes. “He’s done a good job throwing to the receivers who are extremely talented. He’s also carried the football, specifically off the zone read. He’s made some plays with his feet. He can straight drop back pass if it’s not open and he’s been very good at that. That is definitely something that will concern you.”

Sean White’s tenacity:

Since winning the starting quarterback spot, Sean White has been nothing short of a team player. He runs, he can throw, he has even led the way to the end zone for running backs to score. When you have a quarterback who has those qualities, the confidence of the team grows. Malzahn praised his leadership, and would like to see White’s running ability continue in later games. White rushed for 60 yards in last week’s win.

After Pettway’s performance on Saturday, does Gus regret not playing him more against Clemson?:

The simple answer? Yes. Kamryn Pettway led the team in rushing last weekend with 152 yards, after not receiving a single carry in the season opening loss to Clemson. “There are a few things we wish we would’ve done different the first game, but it is what it is.” Malzahn said Tuesday when asked if he regretted not playing Pettway in the Clemson game. But Malzahn says that having two guys moving forward (Pettway and Kerryon Johnson) makes the offensive coaches happy. He likes that each bring a different style to the table.

What is next for Jeremy Johnson?:

Quarterback Jeremy Johnson was demoted to third string quarterback following the Clemson game, and did not see any playing time during the Arkansas State game, which followed Malzahn’s game plan. What is next for Johnson? Is he moving to another position? “No, not at this point. He’s going to keep practicing and keep trying to improve and do what he can to help our team.” said Malzahn when asked on Tuesday.

Auburn continues preparations for their conference opener on Saturday against Texas A&M at 6PM inside Jordan-Hare Stadium.

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