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Gus Malzahn likes foundation, direction of Auburn
July 13, 2015

Gus Malzahn paints a positive picture for Auburn at SEC Media Days

By Charles Goldberg

HOOVER, Ala. -- Gus Malzahn says he likes where his football program stands heading into his third season as Auburn's head coach.

"I believe this is the second year in a row that we've had everybody qualify, so that tells you a lot about the character of the type of players that we're bringing in, and I'm extremely proud of that group," he said at SEC Media Days on Monday. "I really feel like the future, the foundation from a player's standpoint is really set up good for us from a coach's standpoint. So very excited about that."

Malzahn gave an upbeat report on his team as he kicked off the four days of media days for the 14 league coaches. He spoke with the media that regularly covers his team early Monday, offering notes on some of his players. Later, he spoke to the assembled media masses, saying:

• New starting quarterback Jeremy Johnson "can flat out throw it."

Auburn wants to take advantage of Johnson's arm, but Malzahn said the Tigers won't stray too far from an offense that has produced two 1,000-yard running backs the last two years, or an offense that allows their quarterback to pile up rushing yards, too.

"We're going to have the same offensive philosophy and the foundation every year, but we are going to build the offense around the quarterback's strengths," Malzahn said.

Nick Marshall rushed for 1,866 yards the last two seasons. Johnson?

"He can make every throw that you ask him to do, but he's a better runner than people think," Malzahn said. "We didn't ask him to run the past couple of years, but he's a big, athletic guy. He probably runs a 4.6. So he will allow us to call all of our offense."

Johnson said Monday he can pass, and run, as he dashed about at Media Days.

• "We've got some big shoes to fill" on offense.

"We lost most of our rushing yards. We lost over half of our receiving yards. And the positives is we do have some experience coming back even though a lot of them didn't start. We have some young guys that are extremely talented also with that group. Another positive is we have our entire offensive staff back for the third year in a row, and I think that's very important.

"Even though we're inexperienced, we'll have a chance to improve each game. We're hoping to repeat the same performance offensively as we did in 2013.

"Defensively in the off-season, we hired Will Muschamp, in my opinion, the best defensive mind in all of football, not just college football. Our defensive players have taken on his personality, which I really like.

"Our front seven should be the strength of our team. We have some quality experience back, and with the addition of Carl Lawson, a healthy Carl Lawson, we think that could be a definite strength for us. Our secondary will be thin. We do have some of our main guys back, but we're going to have to ask some young guys to step up as far as that goes."

"Bottom line is our future is very bright at Auburn."

Malzahn also said...

• He wouldn't have any slogans before playing Alabama.

"We're really just focused on playing better defense," he said.

And for that, "I think it starts with pass rush. We didn't have a pass rush. We had to take some chances. We put some DBs on some islands, but the bottom line is we just -- we've got to get better."

Malzahn said Muschamp has "a good plan for our guys, and I really feel like you'll see us improve each game. Once our guys get in games and start understanding his expectations, getting more familiar with the defense -- and he's got an excellent defensive staff around him too. So I feel very good about our defense moving forward in the future."

• He called the SEC West "the toughest conference in football. I don't even think it's close."

"There are no off weeks. The thing that really stands out to me is the grind. If you're not in it, you don't understand it."

• Malzahn shrugged off satellite recruiting camps conducted by non-SEC schools.

"I think that whole thing kind of got blown out of proportion," he said. "The chances of a team up north coming into our state and a player that us or Alabama wants are slim to none."

• Malzahn finished his day at his last Tiger Trek stop, the Greater Birmingham Auburn Club.

Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at Follow him on Twitter:



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