Gus Malzahn Press Conference Review: Clemson Week
Head Coach Gus Malzahn answers media questions during his weekly press conference on Tuesday, September 5 (Photo: Auburn Athletics/Todd Van Emst)
The upcoming game for the Auburn Tigers needs very little introduction. Week two will see the #13 Tigers travel to the home of the defending national champions, and #3 ranked Clemson. Malzahn has high praise for Coach Dabo Swinney and what he has done with the Clemson program since taking over mid-season in 2008. Malzahn fielded questions from reporters, where he discussed last week's win over Georgia Southern and previewed the upcoming clash with Clemson.
Playing in "Death Valley" is a tough task, regardless of opponent. Malzahn feels that the game will be a great indicator of where they are as a program.
"It will really be a good measuring stick of where we are at from a team standpoint, and that’s my message to the team. Their defense has a lot of experience back. I’m very impressed with them -- not just their defensive front, which I think is one of the best in college football -- but I think they are good all around. Coach Brent Venables, their defensive coordinator, does a good job of mixing things up. He is very aggressive. He likes to put pressure on offenses. Their offense is very balanced. Their co-offensive coordinators Jeff Scott and Tony Elliott do a super job of working together and taking what the defense gives you. I’m very impressed with those guys. Their new quarterback played very well last week, too, so we’re expecting to have to play well to beat these guys. We’re looking forward to it and it ought to be a good one.”
Last week, Kamryn Pettway did not participate in the game against Georgia Southern. Also, Kerryon Johnson went down with a hamstring injury, leaving Kam Martin to pick up the slack. What will the running back position look like Saturday against Clemson? Malzahn first discussed Johnson.
"He didn’t practice Sunday. We are hopeful, but that is the best status I can give you right now. Later in the week I’ll know more."
Good news, if Johnson can not play on Saturday, Pettway will be available for Saturday's game.
Jarrett Stidham's much awaited debut was on Saturday, he passed for 185 yards and two touchdowns in the win. Malzahn gives an evaluation of the new guy.
“Really the biggest thing that stood out to me is him just needing experience - a guy that hasn’t played in 600 days or something like that. To go out there and play another team and the different things that go with it, and communication up front, communication with your teammates and taking command of the offense, I thought he did a good job. He is extremely tough on himself, which is usually a sign of a really good quarterback, and I expect him to play better this week.”
The big stinger in week one in the college football world, was the number of first-team quarterbacks going down with an injury. Deandre Francois of Florida State, and Jacob Eason of Georgia were a few of the big names that went down with injury last Saturday. With Sean White still inactive, will Malik Willis come into play if Stidham were to go down during the Clemson game?
"If it is a long-term injury, then Malik Willis would be the next guy in. If it is just a play or two, then we will try to be as smart as we can.”
Nate Craig-Myers and Kyle Davis:
Along with Kamryn Pettway and Sean White, Kyle Davis also did not dress out for the Georgia Southern game. Will he be involved in this week's game plan?
“Kyle Davis will be in the game plan and he’ll play a lot. He’s got a lot of big play ability. I think we saw that last year as a true freshman and I think he’s improved from last year. We’re excited to have him out there.”
Nate Craig-Myers played in Saturday's opener, but did not record a catch. Malzahn says not to worry, that every game plan is different. Craig-Myers should factor into many games this season.
New Role for Malzahn:
With a new offensive coordinator in Chip Lindsey, Malzahn is expected to have a different role this season. A role that will allow him to oversee more aspects than just offense. Did he do that on Saturday?
“I was a lot more involved with the special teams than I have been in the past, was on the defensive headset a lot more and just settling in as a head coach. I will tell you last year was good for me -- that I had eight or nine games under my belt. I thought Chip Lindsey did a very good job. I feel good about where we are there.”
While many players such as Deshaun Watson, Wayne Gallman, and Mike Williams have departed Clemson, the Tigers have many threats returning for 2017. Defense stands out the most to Malzahn.
"Their defensive front, like I said, I believe it’s one of the top in the country and when you turn on the film, it doesn’t take long to figure that out. It’ll be a big test for our guys up front. We’re not only going to have to run the football, but we’ll have to protect the quarterback, so that’ll be a big key to the game.”
The secondary is another aspect that stands out to Malzahn.
"They have played in big games. They have played against the best receivers in the country. They have big game experience."
#13 Auburn battles #3 Clemson Saturday evening at 6:00 P.M. central at Clemson Memorial Stadium.