Transcript: Malzahn, Tigers preparing for Ole Miss

Auburn football coach Gus Malzahn
Auburn football coach Gus Malzahn

Opening statement…"Coming off a bye week, it is a really good time for us as a team to get better at what we do. I feel like we have done that. Also to heal up was a big factor. Today will be the first day our entire team will go through practice, which is a positive thing moving forward.

"Ole Miss is a very talented team offensively and defensively. Their program is on the rise. It is good that we are playing at home. During our last home game against Mississippi State, our home crowd was a huge factor. We are going to need that same energy and passion. Our guys are excited about the game and excited to be playing at home."

On his relationship with Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze…"He is definitely a friend. He is one of my best friends in this business. We came from a similar background and a similar path. He is very talented. He is good at what he does. He is a great communicator. He is a very good football mind."

On their backgrounds leading to where they are now…"We kind of talked about that before. We feel very blessed to be able to do what we are doing. He is good at what he does. He has earned the right to be where he is at."

Does he feel any pride for opening doors to other high school coaches…"We were two guys blessed enough to have be given the opportunity to come from high school to college. The guys that came from high school to college stick together. There are a group of us guys that stick together and compare notes and stuff like that. Now that we are in the same conference it is a little bit different, but we still have a very good relationship outside of football."

Who does he think Chad Morris will be rooting for…"I don't know, that is a good question."

On making the transition from high school to college…"I feel very blessed to be able to do what I am doing -- just the fact that I was given the opportunity. There are a lot of great high school coaches out there that can be very successful in college; they just haven't been given the opportunity. Hugh and I have talked about that numerous times, that we feel blessed we were given opportunities."

Will Jeffrey Whitaker and Jonathon Jones be practicing…"We plan on everyone being out there."

Will he talk to Coach Freeze before the game…"I think he texted me other day and we texted back."

On the SEC giving chances to guys from high school…"I think once you get into college football and you have success, you can move up if you are in the right situation in the right time like I have been. I think it is just a big deal that we feel blessed to be given the opportunity and we are fortunate to be around good coaches and good players to get us where we are at."

On the similarity between offenses…"We are similar in pace and tempo. Going to Arkansas State following Hugh was a pretty easy transition. Offensively they at least had a base foundation. We have shared offensive ideas over the years. I have taken some of his stuff and he has taken some of our stuff. There are some similarities."

Does that add difficulty to preparation…"Yeah, I think that is every week. Every situation is different, and you just have to schematically try to give your team the best chance of being successful with what they are trying to take away. As the game gets going on, you learn more that goes on through the game."

Does he expect his team to hit its stride following the bye week…"That's definitely our hope; the fact that we were able to remove ourselves from the weekly grind of trying to scheme up someone. We sat back and really just got good at what we felt like we needed to get good at and got more reps. Obviously, it had to help our quarterback to slow down and really focus on some things that we feel like we can be strong in and really defensively, the same thing. We had a lot of information about our personnel, so we have a good plan in both areas moving forward to the rest of the season."

What stands out about Ole Miss's defense…"They've got a lot of speed. They play very aggressive. I'm very impressed with their front four, I'm impressed with their linebackers and their secondary guys can really run. Last Saturday, they did a very good job."

His impressions of Ole Miss's freshmen…"I think they are talented players, and they are kind of like us with some of our young guys. I think you'll see those guys get better each game as they get more familiar with the offense and the defense and this league."

What does it say for freshmen to be able to play immediately in the SEC…"I think it says that Hugh and myself, we're not afraid to play freshmen right off the bat, especially if they are talented enough, so you'll see quite a few on both sides."

The importance of October for Auburn…"This month is very critical. Of course, playing at home is a big deal for us, especially with our team right now where we're at. I think it's very important that we have home games this month. That should help."

Is there any added importance for this game as a swing game…"We're just taking it one game at a time. We're just focused on each week. We're not taking anything for granted. They're very important as we're building this thing, and we understand this is a big game, but we are playing at home against a very, very good opponent. We're not thinking ahead, put it that way."

What he learned from Ole Miss's game against Alabama…"Each game you try to gather information. Certain teams you take away more than others from certain games, but they played extremely hard against Alabama, I mean extremely hard. That's kind of what I took away from that."

Statistically comparing the offenses…"Speaking for us, we're a work in progress offensively. Our goal is to improve each week, and for the most part, besides a half or so, we've done that, but that's a function of a young quarterback, as far as that goes.  As far as pace, I think we'll see more and more. We'll get better at that obviously getting first downs. We're towards the bottom in our league in first downs, and that's kind of what stands out to me. If we can cure that, I think that will take care of a lot of things."

Preparing for the Ole Miss quarterback and offense…"We think he's very talented, and he has played inside and outside. We're also very impressed with the other guys they have out there too. Sometimes they get overlooked, but they're very talented, and they're long and fast up front."

On Ryan White and Ryan Smith…"We've been very proud of both of those guys, the way they've performed on the field and their leadership. They've bought into what our coaches have asked them to do with great attitudes, and really both of them have stepped up into leadership roles. I think that's critical for not only those guys, but really for all of our seniors. We've tried to empower our seniors. As a group, they've done a solid job."

On Auburn's defense improving…"We've had some big blows defensively, as far as injuries goes. Any time that happens, especially if it's to impact players, and definitely some are impact players, you've got to kind of mix and match. So hopefully we'll stay healthier moving forward, and we'll get some stability and improve. I think that will be a big factor moving forward."

About Keymiya Harrell's pass rushing ability, and helping the team…"That's a possibility. He's out there, and he's getting better."

On Jeff Whitaker having practiced previously this season…"No."

On Tre Mason's performance at LSU..."He made some real hard yards. Coach Horton is always talking about yards after contact, and I think close to half his yards were. I think that is important moving forward -- breaking tackles and making people miss. He did a solid job of that against LSU."

On ball security struggles..."We have to cure it. That was a big point of emphasis last week, ball security and protecting the ball. We can't afford to put the ball on the ground. We have to do a better job emphasizing it and coaching it. We've really turned up the heat in that area. It's an area that has to improve. It's been glaring. There've been balls on the ground that we actually got back, so that was a big point of emphasis last week and will be a point of emphasis moving forward."

On Ole Miss QB Bo Wallace..."First of all, I think he is a very good quarterback. I think he can make all the throws. I think he is very nifty as a runner, especially inside. He is very good with the inside zone. He's very good with their speed sweep read finding cracks. He's a tough guy. I know Hugh has a lot of confidence in him. When he has confidence, he'll call anything, so he's a very good quarterback."

His defensive concerns facing Wallace..."We have to do a better job containing. There's no doubt. He's a very nifty and talented guy, especially running. He's faster than you think he is. He's like a running back."

On Chris Davis returning as a punt returner..."We'll see how he does this week."

On Tre Mason's growth..."As a freshman, what stood out to me was he was a tough guy. He was willing to do anything. He had a great attitude. He still has a great attitude. He's a more veteran guy. He understands the big picture. He doesn't just know what he does, but he understands why we do stuff and the adjustments we make. That comes with experience."

On difficulties of playing a close friend…"You just have a job to do. You have to do whatever is best to help your team win and after the game we will get back to normal. This is a big game for both of us and we both understand that. Like I said, after the game we will go back to normal."

On Tre Mason getting more carries…"Well, you know we have three running backs we feel very good about. They are all pretty different and we utilize them at what we think their strengths are, but we are definitely happy with Tre, and we are happy with Cameron and Corey too. Week to week we will just see what they are giving us and week to week it will be a little different."

On Joshua Holsey..."He has been a big part of what we are doing; we are asking him to do a whole lot. He started at corner and now he is at safety, and played some nickel. He is just a football player. He is very valuable to what we are doing. He is a real intelligent kid, too, and he has really good football instincts."

Auburn's running game against the intensity of Ole Miss's defense…"We are going to need to be able to run the football to be successful, but that definitely is a concern. They have had a lot of negative plays and that is something we have talked about and we are focusing on. That will definitely be a challenge."

Will Melvin Ray and Brandon Fulse be filling in for Jaylon Denson…"I think so. Both of those guys got reps at that position and feel comfortable, so it has been good."

On Corey Grant…"He had a good week of practice last week. We expect him to be ready to go."

Any changes personnel-wise…"We evaluate everything and we try to get a plan moving forward that gives us the best chance at being successful and the best chance of improving each week. So Saturday you could see a few little tweaks in all that, but that is the plan we have moving forward."

On crowd noise…"It is very critical. We have the best fans in college football. That atmosphere especially in the fourth quarter against Mississippi State was second to none; we will need four quarters of that, and that will be a huge advantage for us with our crowd."

What Nick Marshall got out of the bye week…"Hopefully a chance to catch his breath, to get better at the foundation runs and passes of just what we do, and feel more comfortable. I think that was our biggest concern; we tried not to add a whole bunch of stuff, just zero in on the information we had on what we felt like his strengths are."

INFORMATION SOURCE: Auburn Athletics Dept.