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Gus Malzahn Press Conference Review: The Georgia Southern Game

Head Coach Gus Malzahn speaks with the media on Tuesday, August 29

(Photo: Auburn Athletics/Todd Van Emst)

Head Coach Gus Malzahn addressed the media on Tuesday, ahead of the 2017 season opener against Georgia Southern. With this being the season-opening press conference, many questions regarding the depth chart were asked, as well as addressing the mindset of the team, who is entering the year ranked #12 in the nation.

Here’s what he said:

Opening Statement: Malzahn quickly addressed the season-opening opponent, Georgia Southern. Over the last four seasons, the Eagles have knocked off Florida, have taken in-state foe Georgia to overtime, and have played close games with NC State and Georgia Tech. Georgia Southern will not be taken lightly.

“I look at them offensively -- they are very good at the triple option. Any time you play a triple option team, that is very concerning, especially if the team really knows how to do it, so we have got to be prepared for that. Defensively, they have a lot of experience on the back-end. Their boundary safety is a very good player and is kind of the quarterback on the back-end; a very good player I’d say.”

Jarrett Stidham: Sophomore Jarrett Stidham was named starting quarterback on August 14. Since then, he has worked hard to be the best quarterback he can be. The story here is that Stidham has not played since November of 2015. Is he ready to play?

“The reality is he has only played four college football games. We have to keep that in mind. We have a good plan for him to bring him along. He is a very talented young man, and I know he is ready to get out there and see what happens. I think he is in a really good spot right now, but he is still an inexperienced guy.”

Offensive Coordinator Chip Lindsey said earlier this week that Stidham has played a role in this week’s game plan, as a means of making sure that his quarterback is comfortable with play calling. Malzahn says that will grow as he gets more experience.

“You experience things in real games and it makes you even closer and you find out even more about each other. So Jarrett will have a voice with as far as what he’s comfortable with, what he’s not comfortable with and that’s what they’ve done so far.”

Offensive Line: On the line, there were no surprises as far as who will serve on the first team. Malzahn and Lindsey had high praise for Prince Tega Wanogho and Mike Horton all camp long, and have also said that graduate transfers Casey Dunn and Wilson Bell were also talented, but needed to prove that they had starter qualities. Overall, eight guys have the ability to take over a starting role.

“It took a little longer than in the past to really put the pieces of the puzzle together. That is a good thing depth-wise.”

Over the summer, word was that Braden Smith would move from guard to tackle. That has since been debunked, but Malzahn likes his versatility.

Running Backs: In the initial depth chart, Kamryn Pettway and Kerryon Johnson will see a majority of the reps at the position. The third team role will go to Kam Martin.

“Kam Martin will probably be the next guy that is in,” says Malzahn. “Devan Barrett has done a good job. Malik Miller has done a good job. We’ve got confidence in all those guys.”

Malzahn says that he is pleased that there is depth at that position.

Does Malzahn feel that this unit is among the program’s best?

“You think back to Tre Mason, Corey Grant, and Cameron Artis-Payne and now you look and see what they are doing at the next level. That was our special group. You know, hopefully, this group will be in that same category once it’s all said and done and we do have some that we are excited about. We do have two older guys that we know what exactly we are getting and think those two have a chance to be as good as any duo in the country, so the expectations are high, but I can probably answer that question better midway through the season.”

Wide Receivers: The Auburn Wide Receiver Corp will be one of the youngest units the Tigers will feature this season, with four of the six listed starters being sophomores. One of the most improved receivers is junior Will Hastings.

“He has gotten better with the experience factor. He is very quick. He is one of the quickest guys to come through our program at least since I have been here. He has done a good job.”

One surprise was Sal Cannella being listed as a wide receiver, instead of tight end. Cannella was expected to be the first tight end used in a receiving capacity since CJ Uzomah.

“He is one of those guys that can be moved around. He has wide receiver skills. He does a lot of the dirty work. You will see him play tight end and H-back as well. He is a hybrid guy that we will utilize in different areas.”

Jamel Dean: A player that has seen his college career plagued with a significant injury, Jamel Dean is listed as a possible starter at corner for the opening game.

“He has had a solid fall camp, and he has gotten better. I know he’s hungry to get out there and play since he missed last year and redshirted the year before. He is a very talented young man and I am excited to watch him.”

Freshmen on defense: Many freshmen have found their way onto the depth chart, including Big Kat Bryant and T.D. Moultry on the defensive line.

“The depth factor that we have been talking about -- the true freshmen have a lot to do with that, and we are excited about their progress. They have impressed us so far.”

The mindset of the team: Auburn has high expectations for the season, Malzahn explains why he feels that is the case. “We’ve got a lot of information as far as experience -- we have a lot of experienced guys that have been through the ups and down. We’ve got a lot of information; we know how they are going to react. Anytime you’ve got inexperienced guys with true freshmen, you are going to learn a lot about them in the first game. I’m going to be looking forward to the 2017 Auburn Tigers’ first game and there will be some things we learn.”

How will Malzahn factor into play calling?: With a new offensive coordinator in Chip Lindsey, Malzahn says that everything is becoming more and more routine.

“It is different as far as right now is concerned. I said last year I got used to someone else calling the plays, then of course, now I’ve had a spring and a fall camp and it was kind of getting more routine now.”

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