Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Malzahn says running game needs work

Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn met with the media after Tuesday night's practice. Here's what he had to say.

"We had a good 24-period practice. Got a lot done. It was a very physical practice, very demanding practice."

Lots of contact?

"I would say for a normal Tuesday, I would say it was a lot of contact but contact is definitely needed right now."

What are your thoughts after looking at film from Saturday?

"We've got to find a way to run the football. We're a run, play-action team. We've got to find a way to get that done. Our thoughts early on in that game was to run the football. We weren't able to be successful. We've got to find ways to run the football, and we've got a chance to be a good offense if we can do that."

Were you stubborn on purpose about running the football?

"Any time you go into any game, you have a plan. You have a new quarterback. So our thoughts were to run the football early. We were trying to gather information at the same time. And we weren't able to get first downs, and we didn't make very many plays in the first half. We definitely ran the football in the first half and that was our plan. Ideally, we'd like to make more plays and open it up a little bit more and keep them offbalance a little more."

How did you think (QB) Barrett Trotter performed?

"I thought he had a solid performance to start out. I was pleased with the way he protected the football, that's the No. 1 thing that you worry about with an inexperienced guy with his first start. He also managed the two touchdown drives at the end; I thought that was positive. But he's a competitor, and I expect him to get better each week."

How big was it, those last two drives:

"The positives were we didn't turn the football over. That's very important. And then find a way to win. There's a lot of teams that can't find a way to win. I kind of told our guys that's a positive we take away. We've got to protect the football, that was a big thing for us. We've just got to find a way to get more first downs and get momentum. We're a momentum team. When we get the momentum in our favor, we're a pretty solid offense. And when we don't, when there's three-and-outs, it can definitely look ugly."

How is Tre Mason progressing?

"Tre Mason is making progress, and i think a lot of our young guys too. I think you'll see those guys come on each week even more and more. A lot of them are overwhelmed, but a lot of those guys will get better each week."

Do you anticipate any personnel changes, particularly up front?

"We'll gather information. With an inexperienced team with a lot of unknowns, as coaches you learn a lot each game. I look back at last year, and we had a lot of pieces to the puzzle in place. But we didn't figure out our true identity probably until game four. So we are gathering information each week as coaches. Our goal is to get the best 11 on the field. We're still a work in progress."

Does the line need to be more physical?

"We've got to get better, there's no doubt about that. Coach (Jay) Grimes is one of the best in the business, and I know that he'll get those guys ready. Our guys came out today with a really good mindset to play physical football. You've got to remember we have one lineman that had 11 games starting experience; the rest of them that was their first rodeo. We had a true freshman starting at center. The encouraging thing is we really feel like we can get better each week. It's just a matter of how quick they can get the communication, the cohesion. It takes a lot for an offensive line to get together, so hopefully that will happen sooner rather than later."

Talk about Mississippi State's defense.

"They're a very good defense. A lot of those guys in the front and a lot of the guys in the secondary, we've been playing against for the last three years. They're an experienced defense. They’re very physical, they're very fast. It'll definitely be a challenge for us."

Is it different for Brandon Mosely to be at left tackle as opposed to right?

"Left tackle and right tackle is a completely different position. There's a lot of new faces up there, and I really expect those guys to get better every week. And that's our goal. I feel like we've got a chance to get better each week. If we can do that, we've got a chance."

Is the play-calling harder this year?

"What makes it challenging is we've got whole new faces for the most part other than a couple of positions. Last year was the first time since I've been coaching college that I've had the luxury of a guy that could run like that. As a coach, you try to build around your quarterback's strengths, and Barrett has definitely strengths. So you will see us try to build around his strengths.

Will defenses key more on the tailback without Cam running the offense?

"I think that's any offense that has more of a traditional quarterback, they're going to key on the tailback."

Assess how Barrett managed the game.

"Protecting the football, he was outstanding. And the way he managed the situation the last two drives, I thought was very impressive for a first starter."

Before that?

"There were some things that he'll get better at and he'll see and he'll understand better. The quarterback position in college is an extremely tough position to play. It doesn't make any difference if he's been watching and been in the offense for three years, until you get out there and actually see the different looks and actually play the position, that's when you learn. And I'm learning more about him and he's learning more about himself each game.

"The thing about offense, you've got to have all of them do the right thing. If one of them's not, it can really make everything ugly."

DeAngelo Benton was supposed to play a lot at wide receiver and didn't. Any reason?

"You have a plan to play a lot of different players. The way the game transpires changes some things. We'd like to play some other guys, not only DeAngelo but some other guys, more snaps. But the way the game transpired, the urgency, kind of changed things. The fact that we had 50-something plays didn't help either.

"Not only him, but there's some others that you'll see on the field as the year goes along."

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