The Auburn Tigers are hoping to speed things up. Coach Gus Malzahn said Monday the return of quarterback Nick Marshall and most of the offense gives the Tigers a chance to operate his hurry-up, no-huddle system even faster.
Auburn opens spring practice on Tuesday also looking to get better prepared defensively for fast-paced attacks.
Malzahn opposed a failed offseason move to rein in fast-paced offenses with a 10-second minimum for snapping the ball. As for his own offensive tempo, he says, "We definitely need to improve in that area."
Having a starting quarterback return for the first time in Malzahn's college coaching career should help in that regard.
His first Auburn team managed the biggest one-year turnaround in SEC history before losing to Florida State in the national championship game.
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TRANSCRIPT: (Provided by Auburn Athletics Dept.)
Opening statement… "First of all, our players and coaches are extremely excited to start spring ball tomorrow. We will practice Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays -- a little different than last year – but it will allow us to better coach and spend more time in the film room.
"Our goals for our spring: One: improve our base offense and defense with fundamentals. Focus on what we want to be good at, really our foundation offense and defense. Second: keep our edge. This time last year we were talking about getting it back. We felt like we got that mental and physical toughness that Auburn is known for. Look for a very physical spring, just like we did last spring. Third: play faster, both offensively and defensively, and be able to communicate. The last goal is to acquire and develop quality depth at every position. We know a little more about our team now than we did last year. Note a few position changes going into spring. Trovon Reed will be moving to corner this spring and Rudy Ford will be moving to safety."
On moving Rudy Ford to safety… "First of all, we are very confident that Rudy can be a very good player for us at this position. He's got a really great attitude and we are really looking forward to seeing what he can do for us." Will Ford continuing to play at running back… "This spring, he will not."
On replacing the secondary… "We will look to mix and match during the spring with Moncrief and some of those other guys. With the safety positions we are going to mix and match a little bit and have a better idea by the middle of the spring with those positions."
On Robinson Therezie… "He will be staying at the star."
On Derrick Moncrief… "He is going to start out at boundary safety and, like I said, as it goes there are a lot of unknowns and spring is a good time to figure some of those out. You could see some movement in the safety positions."
On Justin Garrett…"He has the ability to play both, so you'll be seeing him play at a little bit of both (LB and star) as the spring gets going."
On Nick Marshall's growth… "You can tell his leadership; he's more comfortable around his teammates. He doesn't say much but when he does, people listen. I think he is really looking forward to the spring and being comfortable. This is the first time we will have a quarterback in the spring who started the fall before and I know Coach Lashlee is excited about that. It'll be a good thing moving forward."
The goals for offense…"It is going to be the base fundamentals of our offense. We need to just get better at that. In our run game and play action game, we are going to be able to slow down and get really good at what we want to. That will give us flexibility in the fall."
On Kalvarez Bessent…"Kalvarez will be coming in. He will be on probationary status when he gets here, but he will be coming in with the other signees."
On Avery Young…"Starting out, he will stay on the right side, but with those guys Coach Grimes will do some mix and matching at the tackle position. Obviously we know what we are getting with Avery. Ideally, you would like to have your answers by the end of spring, but that doesn't always happen. You would like to have as many answers as possible moving forward to summer, so they can work in one position, get better on their own, and show up at fall camp ready to go."
On the running back position…"You would like to have some sort of idea moving forward. Running back is a position that we have had success with two and three guys. Usually, in a course of a year one guy really steps up like Tre did last year. But the great thing about this situation is we have a lot of guys we feel comfortable with."
On Jonathon Mincy…"Jonathon is a guy that has a lot of qualities and a lot of experience. He is someone we will rely on to really lead that back end, specifically that corner position. He is more confident; he has had a good off season working out. You can really tell a difference in him. I think he is ready to step up as a leader back there."
Developing a secondary option in the passing game…"It is very critical. We feel like we have more options now. With Nick and Jeremy going through spring and Jonathan Wallace back, there are more starters back. Any time you have that, there are more weapons developed, not just in the passing game, but also the running game."
On D'haquille Williams…"He is very talented, we know that. We will have to get him out there and coach him up and see."
On quarterback repetitions…"Coach Lashlee will have a plan. Nick will be with the first group, but at the same time, Jeremy will get some quality reps with the first group. And then Jonathan Wallace will also get some quality reps, so he will have a good plan. The great thing about spring is that you can rotate the guys in a lot of different situations."
Expectations from Marshall…"Just taking more command of the offense, and the base fundamentals -- the base offense of who we are -- just getting more comfortable and better at executing. That way you leave spring and you get to the fancy stuff later, but you still have that foundation to fall back on. Nick is a very talented player, not just running; he can really throw it. I said that a lot during the fall, but now that he has spring he will be more comfortable and more reactive. We feel very good about him throwing the football."
How much faster can the offense be…"We think we can be a quite a bit faster. Last year we had a lot of new people out there and a lot of moving parts. As you get more comfortable, though, the faster you can get. The thing about pace too is now there are so many pace offenses, we've got to get better on the defensive side, too, with our communication, our alignment and everything that goes with that."
On the defense having enough contributing players to make that next step… "Yeah, we're getting closer -- there's no doubt. Depth is a big factor. We didn't have a lot of quality depth last year. We had a lot of moving parts on the back end and we were probably one injury away on the back end from being in a really dire situation. This spring will be really good for us in all areas. We'll have more depth coming out of the spring we feel like."
Is it important to find someone to fill Dee Ford's pass rushing role…"Coach Garner is going to mix and match on that. You are liable to see some inside guys move to the outside at times during the spring. He's going to give some guys different opportunities, but you are exactly right. We need somebody on that other side to take Dee Ford's place. The great thing is that we've got options."
How will Nick progress this spring…"Really, what Nick did with two weeks of practice was really phenomenal. So the little things the casual eye has seen would be frustrating, but a lot of times there was a lot more to it than what it looks like. The goal for him will be at the end of the spring to know our base offense, our base fundamentals and be reactive. We really feel like that's going to happen and it will happen before the end of the spring."
On his reaction to the NCAA Rules Committee's tabling of a proposal…"Well, I mean, I was obviously in favor of that. I think they did the right thing."
On the early enrollees and their adapting to college…"I think just getting used to the routine is the only thing that could be hard to adapt to, and everything that goes with it like the class schedule, the studying, the meetings and the practices. Their heads are spinning, but they're starting to fit in and develop relationships with their teammates, which is good."
Is the culture you desired attained…"I think we're going in the right direction. I feel better knowing about our team, about who we are physically, mentally and everything that goes with it. We've still got work to do and get better. We're going to have the same approach we did last spring. We're going to be physical and get after it."
How is the team dealing with higher expectations…"We've been straightforward with the players. We are proud of how far they came. That's in the past; this is a new team. The seniors have moved on and we've got to earn it. All we are talking about is earning the right to get back to a game like that. We'll be working real hard every day to do that."
Will this team be the fastest team he's coached..."I'd like to think with our quarterback coming back we'll be able to get further ahead, not in just spring, but in fall camp, too. That's yet to be seen, but that's definitely the plan."
On increasing offensive speed…"It is this year, from the standpoint of we have a lot of guys coming back, and we have our quarterback coming back. We ought to be a lot more comfortable. We have an offensive staff that's been together for a year. With all that being said and with that being who we are, we feel that is one of our advantages. We feel like this year we definitely need to improve in that area."
On filling any more support staff positions…"No, we are done."
On completing new contracts for assistant coaches…"For the most, we are almost there."
On Cameron Artis-Payne…"He's a guy that has game experience. He's a tough guy, and he has had a very good off-season. His teammates have a lot of confidence in him. Of course, he and Corey Grant are two seniors in the same boat. Peyton Barber is a guy we feel very good about too. He's a very big, strong and fast guy that has a lot of potential."
On not looking into the expectations of the season…"We can't control it. The only thing we can control is getting better out of that practice field. We are going to focus on us. We aren't going to pat ourselves on the back from last year. We are going to have that blue-collar, lunch-pail mentality that we have to improve each practice and each game. That's how we go about our business."
His relationship with Bobby Bentley…"We go way back. I have a lot of respect for him. He's one of the better high school coaches in the country. He's going to be an excellent college coach. I've tried to hire him in the past at different places. I'm glad he is with us, and he'll be a very successful college coach."
The other new support staff members…"Travis Williams is a former Auburn player. He loves Auburn. When I was a coordinator here, he was our graduate assistant. He's really a sharp guy. We're really excited to have him. Doug Goodwin is a guy that is one of the top high school coaches in the state of Alabama. He has a great feel for Alabama high school coaches. He has great respect. He's a good person as well as Travis. We're happy that we have both those guys."
On importance of high school coaches getting chances at the college level…"It is very important, especially due to the fact that I was one of the fortunate ones that got an opportunity. There are a lot of high school coaches out there that are a lot smarter than me, but they never had the opportunity that I had. Any time that I can help provide high school coaches the same opportunity I had is a really good thing. The guys that we have are very solid people, and they are very solid coaches. I think all of them will be successful."
Is there a stigma hiring high school coaches…"I think there are a lot of questions, no doubt. When I first got into college, there were a lot of questions. I think the more you see the Todd Grants, the Chad Morrises, the Huge Freezes and all that, it is becoming more popular. There are a lot of excellent high school coaches that just need an opportunity."
Is everyone expected back for spring practice…"Yes."
On the middle linebacker position…"We have Kris Frost. We have Cassanova McKinzy. Cameron Toney has a chance at the position. Justin Garrett will go back and forth. There will be some movement and some rotation at a lot of defensive positions."
On filling Jay Prosch's slot…"Brandon Fulse and C.J. Uzomah are two guys that will definitely start out there, and both have experience in that position. Those are the two that will start on first team."