Gus Malzahn Press Conference Review: Pre-Fan Day Discussion
Head Coach Gus Malzahn (Photo: Tiger Communications/Matt Gaught)
Head Coach Gus Malzahn met briefly with the media after Saturday's scrimmage, and before the annual Fan Day, to update the status of a few position groups, as well as give news regarding the team two weeks prior to kickoff against Georgia Southern.
Walk On Scholarships:
As we mentioned in a previous article, Gus Malzahn handed out scholarships to six walk-on players, including wide receiver Will Hastings.
"That's always a special time for our staff and myself. There were probably eight or nine that I thought deserved it, but we gave six out. Will Hastings, Griffin King, Gary Walker, Chase Ritter, Keenan Sweeney, and Tucker Brown all six got scholarships. It was a real special moment, I was a former walk-on myself so I can totally relate to that group. Their teammates were very excited for those guys."
Saturday was the first scrimmage since naming Jarrett Stidham first team quarterback. What did Malzahn and the rest of the coaches work on Saturday with their players? Malzahn says that it all started with special teams.
"It was a focus, as far as our special teams are concerned, it was a lot of 1's on 1's. We did kickoff, kick off return, punt return, we did some more live field goal situations, which I think is always good."
After special teams, it was all about putting the finishing touches on the first string players.
"We did a couple of two minute situations, good on good, which is good not just for players but for coaches and the different situations that come in the end of the game. Also, before the scrimmage started, we did a third-down emphasis. Kind of a final scrimmage to show some of those guys who are on the border to see if they are ready to take the next step to help our team. It was a very good day for that. At the end, we divided up offense and defense and did some special situations as far as games, procedures, off and on the field communication on the sideline and everything that goes along with it. Overall, I thought it was a good day."
Malzahn was asked about Stidham and how he has performed at practice since being named starter on Monday. Malzahn says that he is still the leader that he has been, but things have changed in some ways.
"That's his offense now. I thought that he has really raised his level as far as that is concerned, but that is to be expected when you name a starting quarterback. He has handled himself very well so far."
Third Team Running Back:
Much like offensive line, and quarterback, emphasis has been on finding the best guy to play the third string running back role for the Tigers this season behind Kamryn Pettway and Kerryon Johnson. Malik Miller, Kam Martin, and Devan Barrett have been the most talked about when it comes to this topic.
"We have had numerous discussions this week, and the week before that we have depth at that position and today they (Coach Chip Lindsey and Coach Tim Horton) had some different things that they wanted to look at, a couple of different people in a couple of different situations. We are not ready to say who the number three guy is, but I am not going to take that as a bad thing at all."
Malzahn did say that he is open to all three being used in certain situations, but would like to have a third-string back who could do it all. He also said that history is on Auburn's side when each running back has a different style, stating examples as Tre Mason, Cameron Artis-Payne, and Corey Grant during the 2013 season. Pettway and Johnson are different, with Barrett and Miller showing different styles than the two higher players on the depth chart.
Malzahn did not want to speculate on who has worked as a kickoff returner in fall camp, but says that six guys have been rotating through out camp.
Malzahn said that the offensive line unit has stepped their game up throughout fall camp, with seven guys all eyeing the top spot on the depth chart. Is there an update? No. But, just like with third string running back, the competition is heating up.