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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Late night notes: Malzahn: 'We’ve got a good thing going here and I’d like to see it through'

Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn's name is already starting to pop up for coaching jobs that aren't yet vacant. A Denver Post columnist last week mentioned Malzahn as one of four coaches Colorado could target should it fires Dan Hawkins at the end of the season.

Malzahn's response to such speculation?

"To be honest, I’m in my own little world," he said. "My entire focus is on this team and making it the best it can be. I’m extremely happy. I’ve said that time and time again. I love coach (Gene) Chizik and I love coaching these kids. And my only focus is trying to win games and trying to win a championship."

Malzahn, who was a head coach at various Arkansas high schools before being a college coordinator the last five years, is sure to garner some interest this offseason.

The Tigers are among the best in the country in most major offensive statistical categories. They're fourth in rushing (307.7 ypg), sixth in total offense (496.2 ypg) and 10th in scoring offense (40.0).

Malzahn would like to be a head coach some day but isn't desperate to do so.

"Somewhere down the line I’d like to," he said. "I’m in no hurry. I feel like a lot of people think I am. But like I’ve said before, we’ve got a good thing going here and I’d like to see it through.”

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Some other notes and quotes from a full night of interviews:
  • LT Lee Ziemba joked earlier Tuesday that Malzahn's mood depends on how much coffee he's had to drink and how much gum he's chewing. "I drink too much coffee, there’s no doubt about that," Malzahn said. "I’m already high strung, that’s probably a bad combination. That’s probably what you’re talking about. Gum relaxes me somewhat.”
  • Although we media types think Malzahn has a different persona when he's talking to us versus when he's on the sidelines on the game, he disagreed. "Nah, I’m pretty much the same. I’m pretty high strung, the whole deal," he said. "The team might see it different I don’t know.”
  • When told that he didn't seem very high strung, he said: "Yeah. I’m still pretty worked up. Yeah."
  • WR Darvin Adams seems to have a knack for getting open on third downs. He said it's not much different than regular plays, though. "I'm just trying to get open," he said. "It seems like every time on third down, I'm just looking for the ball, just like T-Zach and the rest of the guys. But sometimes it does get a play designed for me and sometimes it doesn't."
  • RB Onterio McCalebb, on the notion that this is a one-man team: "I don't pay attention to that. It's all about the team thing. Everybody goes out there to practice every day. Everybody goes out there on Saturday and they what they have to do."
  • RB Mike Dyer agreed: "We're really appreciative of his work, but there's always that feeling that hey, we have a role in this. We want to do our part. When the time comes to actually do our part, that's what we're going to do. We try not to make it a big deal or not, as long as the job's getting done and we're winning and everybody's enjoying their roles and having fun, it really doesn't matter what the outsiders say. As long as when the time comes, we have our chance to just do it."
  • Dyer is closing in on Bo Jackson's freshman running record at Auburn. He has 723 rushing yards. Bo had 829 as a freshman in 1982. "I know a lot about Bo Jackson," Dyer said. "I've been meeting with him and talking to him and he's come down here to show support to Auburn and the running backs. I'm just one of those guys that when I have the chance to do that for the team, I'm more than willing to do that. But if we go out and win the rest of the game, I'm fine with that."
  • Dyer gave a lot of credit to the guards, Mike Berry and Byron Isom, who get overlooked a lot. "When they get out there and pull and hit and get back up and try to hit someone else, it makes it a little bit more fun to say, hey, these guys want to do it," he said. "It makes it easier for us to just get out there and run. It doesn't matter which one is pulling. We know the job is going to get done because they have the attitude to do it. It's fun when the play's getting called and those guys are right in front of me. It's like, OK, here we go again."
  • A lot of folks remarked that Dyer looked faster in the Ole Miss game. He said his right knee is 100 percent, which might be a factor. He also thinks he gets better as things get deeper into a game. "Throughout high school I learned that as the games goes on, I might get a little stronger and a little urge to me, because I know what they're going to do and how they're going to do it," he said. "After a quarter of learning what they're doing, where there are holes and you know what they're doing, it gets better for you. So as the game goes on, I try to make sure I know what all the linebackers do so I can read it and just go. And if the hole's there, you just go."
  • On Demond Washington's kickoff return for a touchdown against Ole Miss, McCalebb, a blocker, got trucked by Rebels running back Rodney Scott, who went out of his way to his McCalebb instead of going for Washington. "I wasn't very confused," McCalebb said. "We watched film all week. He'd been squeezing like that all year. I just had to get in his way so he wouldn't hit Demond. After I got up off the ground, I saw Demond was in the end zone. I was happy then. I wasn't worried about it."
  • Some sad news today. Freshman LB LaDarius Owens was a close friend of Mississippi State DE Nick Bell, who died suddenly from skin cancer Tuesday, only weeks after starting against Auburn. Owens and Bell were teammates at Bessemer High School, near Birmingham. "Devastated," defensive coordinator Ted Roof said of Owens' reaction. "That was his buddy. And he's hurt."
  • Roof spoke to the media on Tuesday instead of his usual Sunday. Here's his assessment of the defense against Ole Miss. 1) Didn't start great but adjusted well to an offense that was unconventional to what Ole Miss had done all year. 2) Played well in the second and third quarter but didn't finish well. 3) Proud of resiliency, citing Washington's interception at the 2-yard line and a fourth-down stop on a Jeremiah Masoli sneak as two game-turning plays.
  • Tackling still needs to get better, said LB Josh Bynes. "I think we missed a lot of tackles last game, myself included," he said. "It’s just, as a player sometimes we think of ourselves, especially me, when I get to a ballcarrier I’m only seeing I want to make the tackle, but sometimes we have that chance where we can turn it back into other teammates or something like that."
  • Roof told the defense a pretty telling stat today. In six of Auburn's nine games, the defense has committed a penalty that's resulted in a first down, eventually leading to a touchdown. "That’s not going to get you nowhere at all," Bynes said. "It might not seem like nothing this week, but as soon as we play the next coming weeks, those could change a game a lot."
  • Bynes was the one who made a leaping fourth-down stop on Masoli on the QB sneak. He timed his jump well. "That’s a play we actually call, to be honest with you," Bynes said. "But it’s just like we already knew that’s what they were going to do, because that’s what we watched on film. Third-and-1, fourth-and-1, anything short like that, they did a quarterback sneak. ... Sure enough, we knew from the split, the linemen were really tight like this, so we knew the sneak was going to come. It was just a matter of timing it at the right time. I just got so happy as soon as the ball was snapped. I was already jumping across.”
  • Bynes' dad is going to be at the Chattanooga game. Amazingly, neither of his parents have been to a game of his at Auburn during his career. "It’s going to be good for him to walk down on the field with me, the first time he’s actually been to the stadium and stuff," Bynes said. "I think it’ll be a good last-year experience for me."
  • Auburn has continued to make a point to rotate in young players on defense. "We don't want to get in a situation like we got into last year and don't have to do that because we've got some guys that just need some experience and just need some reps," he said. "And the only way you get it is by playing."
  • That's true of Jake Holland at MLB spelling Bynes. "Jake Holland is playing 12 or 15 snaps a game right now, which doesn't seem like a lot, but when you times it times 12 games, 144 snaps is a lot of snaps," Roof said. "You're saving two games is what you do. And at the same time, Jake's going to be so much better next year as a result of those reps, there won't be the initial experience of playing in this league next year, so it's two-fold. It helps us this year and it also helps us in the future as well."
  • Roof thought Jonathan Evans did OK filling in for Daren Bates but wanted to see more consistency. Bynes agreed. "Starting for the first time all year, he did all right," he said. "His eyes were kind of all over the place sometimes, and I don’t know if that was some adrenaline going. He does give great effort, period, even in practice. So in the game, he gives fantastic effort. Full-speed to the ball. He tries to get there as fast as he can. He still made some mistakes here or there. We all did. But I think he’ll just learn from this game and move to the next one."
  • Roof was pleased with the development of Chris Davis, who is the team's third cornerback with T'Sharvan Bell sidelined by a hamstring injury. "He's getting better each day," Roof said. "He's bought in and I'll tell you what happens with those young guys too is when they have some success, they start to get get it more. It kind of snowballs. Not to be confused with where we want to be with Chris, but he's taken some real positive steps and made some progress and I expect him to continue to do that."
  • Ryan White burned his redshirt against Ole Miss to give the cornerbacks some depth. "We think he has a good chance to be a really good player in the future," he said. "But he's so new to the position because he was a high school quarterback. You don't just make that transition overnight. But he's bought in and done the things we've asked him to do and needs to continue to do that because I think he's got a great future."
  • Roof wouldn't say he was disappointed Auburn had to burn the redshirt on White this late in the year, saying sometimes that's how circumstances work out. "In a perfect world it would never happen," he said. 'But for the benefit of everybody, we'd like to let guys kind of play when they're ready and not when they have to. But that's where we are and that's where it is. And we all do what's best for our football team. He's certainly done that."
  • Freshman safety Demetruce McNeal got some work as a regular safety in the fourth quarter. He has been a special teams standout all year but hasn't gotten much time on the base defense. "I’m just glad my time is finally coming," he said. "I said I was just going to wait patiently for my time. Right now, my time is coming. They’re getting me in right now so I’ll be ready for next year, to have game experience and the game speed. The next few games after Chattanooga are big games, and I’m looking forward to getting in them."
  • He dropped what looked like an easy interception that was thrown right to him. "My eyes got big," he said. "I tried to cradle it, but it slipped out the side. I was in disbelief. I could have had my first career interception."
  • McNeal's teammates let him know about it. "They’re killing me. They’re killing me," he said. "They do that to the freshmen. It’s all good. I told them I’m probably going to have more career interceptions than all of ya’ll. That’s what we got going right now. The next one is not going to get away."
  • McNeal, who has 12 special teams tackles this year, four more than his closest competitor, said there's a lot of pride on the kickoff coverage teams. "Before every kick in the huddle, we say it’s going to be a race, a race to the ball," he said. "I’m a ball guy. I don’t really have an assignment, I just get to the ball. I’ve just got a knack of getting to the ball. I’ll be out of position, but I’ve just got a nose for the ball. I’ll be over there, but I’ll find a way to get over here to get to the ball. That’s just the type of player I’ve been since I started playing football."
  • It seems like every SEC team has some sort of wide receiver that can hurt you, from South Carolina's Alshon Jeffery to Alabama's Julio Jones to Georgia's A.J. Green to Auburn's Darvin Adams to the receivers at Arkansas and LSU. Roof agreed. "You go through this league, everybody's got at least one," he said. "And I think it's a result of guys that were 6-foot-3 basketball players in high school that may not have been Division I basketball players but their football coaches got them out playing receiver in high school. And I think with all the spread offenses and things of that nature. But everybody's got one of those guys that is a tough matchup. Some guys have more than one."
  • Does the prevalence of the spread make teams redefine defensive success? "Football's changing, "Roof said. "If you look at the SEC, for instance, how much it's changed since three or four years ago to now with all the spread offenses and the high-tempo things and things of that nature. But that's the transition of college football. Redefining it? You define it by what you see when you turn on the tape and you're getting what you're coaching. That's how. And obviously this being a bottom-line business, are you winning? But certainly we've got to keep working to get better because we've got some work to do."
  • Roof said it's cyclical. "Just like when the wishbone first came out and things keep evolving and things catch up and then the offenses do the next step," he said. "You have react to what you see, what you have to stop And to try and stay a step ahead of things that could possibly happen, but at the same time, there's only so many reps in a day. We talk about defending ghosts. You've got to defend some things that you think might be the next step in the progression. But at the same time, you've got to work on the meat and potatoes that are the dish."


Anonymous said...

When I read that Malzahn was being considered for this opening, I thought "Okay...that's to be expected I guess." But this guy also mentions Les Miles as a possibility for the opening. Either he just made up names for the article or his source is an idiot.

The only part of the article that is important is where he says, "This is not a good job." Hopefully Malzahn will think long and hard with this one...he could do much better.

Andy Bitter said...

I'm dubious how serious this report is, specifically to Colorado.

But know this: somebody is going to make a major run at Malzahn this offseason. And if a school is a good fit and offers enough money, it'll be hard to say no, especially if Newton is a one-and-done deal at Auburn. This would be a selling high moment for Gus.

Clint Richardson said...

If Gus is to leave, ouch that hurt, who would be a good fit? Does Chizik try to keep the same offense or does he pull a Tubby-Franklin deal and go completely different?

Andy Bitter said...

I'd imagine he would want something similar. It's a matter of finding someone who can run an up-tempo, run-first scheme. Aren't many out there like that.

Anonymous said...

Kiehl Frazer is a Malzahn recruit. He's really a QB coach - man, look what he did with Chris Todd! I think Malzahn will probably wait for an SEC job. Maybe he's hoping Petrino will hop somewhere in a year or two, and then he can head home to Arky. With all the good players we've pulled outta that state, heh, I guess we better enjoy this while it lasts. :)

As far as a replacement, I don't think it'd be THAT hard to find somebody who was similar in philosophy. Malzahn is really not some sort of wacky mad scientist. Like that LSU fan said on EDSBS, it was boring (for him) to watch the same 5 plays run over and over. We're basically a power run team with a few zone read type plays thrown in.

Nancy said...

I think a lot of SEC people are eager to see Coach Gus leave....is Colorado far enough away for them?

brian said...

andy,who do you think would be a good replacement for gus if he were to leave?

MikeP said...

Every good CEO keeps a "short list" of candidates to replace key employees if they leave, get sick, drown in the Chattahoochee River or whatever.

I'm sure Coach Chizik has such a list. If/when Coach Malzhon leaves CGC will have his list ready. Chizik hired Malzhon, he'll do a good job of hiring a replacement when necessary.

Andy Bitter said...

I can't imagine somebody on the current staff being the pick to replace Malzahn.

I'd imagine Chizik would hire from outside. I don't know who, but there has to be someone who runs stuff similar that would be a good fit.

AUsome mom said...

I read somewhere where they are grooming Coach Luper to run this offense. Could be a rumor, but if true, it would be great for us!