Gus Malzahn Press Conference Review: Arkansas Week

September 19, 2018 By Taylor Jones

Coach Gus Malzahn
Auburn football Tuesday presser on Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2018, in Auburn, Ala.
Todd Van Emst/AU Athletics

Head Coach Gus Malzahn took the podium on Tuesday to recap the tough loss last Saturday to LSU, and to preview this week’s matchup with the Arkansas Razorbacks, led by one of Malzahn’s close friends, Chad Morris.

Well, that did not feel great.

Auburn (2-1) fell to LSU (3-0) last Saturday on a last-second field goal, giving the Bayou Bengals the 22-21 win. Auburn begins the season at 0-1 in league play, the first time that’s happened since 2016 season. As one would expect, Gus Malzahn and his team are putting the loss behind them, and are focusing on their next opponent, Arkansas (1-2).

Here’s what the head coach had to say on Tuesday during his weekly press conference.

Opening Statement

Malzahn addresses that his team has moved on from the LSU loss, and is now focused on Arkansas.

“Obviously, Saturday we didn’t play our best and that’s my responsibility and we will improve throughout the season,” says Malzahn. He went back to his first season as Head Coach, saying that it took the team a few games for them to find a rhythm, so he expects Arkansas to give it their all this weekend.

Like Malzahn, Arkansas’ Head Coach is a high school football coaching legend. Chad Morris was a Head Coach for five high schools in Texas from 1994-2009, before becoming the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for Tulsa in 2010. Malzahn was complimentary of Morris, who is in his first year at Arkansas.

“He’s a good friend of mine, but he’s an excellent football coach,” said Malzahn of Morris. “He’s got a staff that is very talented, got some veteran guys that’s been in this league a long time.”

Improving offensively

Last week against LSU, Auburn did not quite control the tempo as much as they wanted. Nor did they show discipline.

“Right now, we are an undisciplined team as far as penalties are concerned.” said Malzahn, before stating that it “starts and ends with me.”

So far this season, Auburn has accumulated over 100 yards in penalties in two of their three games. Malzahn says that he and his coaching staff have addressed the issue, and will continue to work at improving as the season goes along.

Offensively, Auburn ran 66 plays. Malzahn ideally wants to run 70-75, making for more sustained drives. Biggest issue? Third-and-long situations. Malzahn wants to improve on moving the ball, hoping that if Auburn ever faces third downs, that they are medium to short range.

Another way to improve? Be more explosive.

But when we’re at our best, we have more explosive plays and that’s something that we’ll be working hard to do. Like I said that and then being able to run the football effectively, You’ll see this team grow in the running game. Those are really the two things. They go together. When you’re able to run the ball, it changes things and opens up more explosive opportunities. And then you get a couple vice versa, the other way.”

Moving on

Now, onto Arkansas week. Malzahn wants to focus on Arkansas and only Arkansas. He knows that Arkansas has struggled recently, with big losses to Colorado State and North Texas in consecutive weeks. You can not get too comfortable, Malzahn believes.

“I think we’ve got a veteran enough team to understand that in our conference, in this league, it doesn’t matter what happened in the past, you’re going to get their best. And I think, too, us coming off a tough loss also helps with that kind of deal. We’re expecting their best. We need to play well and our players understand that and our coaches understand that. So I’m not concerned at all in that area.”

What will the team need to do to stay focused? Put the blinders on.

“You have to have tunnel vision. You can’t worry about last week, you can’t worry about the next week, you can’t worry about how good this team’s playing. That’s the simple answer to it. That is easier said than done. A lot of teams can’t do that.”

Will Hastings and Eli Stove

 

Eli Stove
LSU at Auburn football on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018, in Auburn, Ala.
Todd Van Emst/AU Athletics

 

What can we say about these two? Both had torn ACL’s in the spring and were cleared for practice during Alabama State week. They both have played in two games this season. While that is nothing short of remarkable, Malzahn is still looking out for them and wants to do what’s best for their health moving forward.

“At this point right now, our plan was to slowly work those guys back in to see how much confidence they have and how effective they can be. So, that was really the plan last week and it will continue to be like that,” said Malzahn of Hastings and Stove. “I thought both of them got a chance to get in there and do some things against a quality opponent. We’ll be aware of the (redshirt rule) if we need to but we are just trying to let those guys come along and get confidence. I thought both of them did good things.”

Nick Brahms and the Offensive Line

Could Auburn have a new starting center for the Arkansas game? Nick Brahms, a redshirt freshman from Navarre, Florida, will compete with Caleb Kim for the job this week at practice, says Malzahn.

“He’s gotten quite a few reps with the ones during practice,” says Malzahn of Brahms. “That’s a continued battle for that starting position, and I know he was ready and called upon on Saturday, and he will get an opportunity to compete this week in practice as well.”

As for the other positions on the line, Malzahn is pretty set with how they line up. He was very proud of their efforts last week, despite being “banged up.”  He also mentioned how the starting offensive line had 16 or 17 starts as a whole heading into the season and has played two really good defenses in LSU and Washington this season. He likes the direction that they are trending.

Improving Jarrett Stidham’s performance

 

Jarrett Stidham
LSU at Auburn football on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018, in Auburn, Ala.
Todd Van Emst/AU Athletics

 

Malzahn stands behind his quarterback despite his struggles against LSU on Saturday, calling him one of the best quarterbacks in College Football.

“We have a lot of confidence in him; he’ll rebound. He’s our guy and he will continue to work hard in practice to improve and get better at the things he needs to get better at.”

Younger Receivers

In addition to Hastings and Stove striving to make spectacular progress this season, there are young receivers who are gaining attention as well. Seth Williams has four catches for 72 yards so far this season. Anthony Schwartz has 104 yards on five catches and a touchdown.

“I don’t think the moment is too big for either one of those guys and I think both of them are coachable, both of them are very talented and want to compete,” says Malzahn of the two freshmen.

Malzahn wants their role to grow as the season goes along.

“We’ve got a bunch of young guys. I think we’ve got to keep that in perspective, too. We’ve got a bunch of young guys touching the ball on offense. We’ve got a new offensive line coming together so I really feel strong that we’ll improve on the offensive side.”

Auburn faces Arkansas on Saturday, kickoff scheduled for 6:30 P.M. inside Jordan-Hare Stadium. The game will be televised on SEC Network.