Aug. 28, 2012
A transcript of Auburn head coach Gene Chizik's press conference previewing Clemson - August 28, 2012
Opening statement... "Obviously this is an exciting week for Auburn. It's game week, so that's a great thing for our football team. I think it's that time of the year where they're about tired of beating on each other. They realize that game week is here, so that's exciting for our fans and for our team and for our coaches.
"We're in a good place. We're really looking forward to this great challenge. We have a fantastic opportunity here to see where we stand as a football team. In my four years here, we haven't quite ever opened with a team like Clemson in terms of this good of a football team. I think it's going to be a great measuring stick for us. This is the third time that we've played them in a row, and we have kind of a good feel for Clemson and what their ideas are.
"I think it's an exciting type of game to open the season with. It's been a little bit different from the past, and I think our guys are really into it. Sunday's practice was very focused and locked in, and I think they're really in a good place with getting mentally and physically prepared to play this game. We're going to Atlanta, and we're playing in front of a lot of great Auburn fans. I think the venue there is exciting to our players as well. We're looking forward to it. It ought to be a lot of fun. We have a lot of work to do in the next week before we play Saturday, but we're going to go back to work today, and we're going to continue to try to improve and see what we can do Saturday night."
On keeping discipline issues from becoming a distraction... "That's part of the job as a coach. Our job is obviously to win games on the field, and we know that. Our job is also to help young, immature guys grow up and become men. One of the things that I think we've done here in the past, and we'll continue to do because that's always a point of emphasis for us, is we always try to stay focused on all of the things that matter at that time in terms of preparing for football games during the season.
"Obviously you can let outside things distract you as a football and as a coaching staff, but over the years, we've been pretty steadfast in our movement towards staying focused and preparing, so we'll do the same here. My main focus and concern when you have events off the field that aren't very flattering to your program is to get help for young guys. That's our job, and we try to grow them up. That's what we'll continue to do. The distractions or potential distractions off the field -- we'll always be very steadfast on how we try to move through those and not let them become a total team distraction.
"I'll say this. I've said it before. The majority of our kids make great decisions, and it's been disappointing when a couple of decisions that have been made out there obviously don't paint a very flattering picture. It's very bothersome in terms of what you try to get accomplished off the field with your players in terms of the importance of doing the right things. But in the same sense, I'll say it again, the majority of our kids do a great job of that, and I appreciate them. When they don't, we'll address it. We're going to try to help them and help them grow up. It's part of what our job is, and we feel like we do a really good job in terms of monitoring and evaluating guys when we bring them in here. We'll always continue to have that at the forefront of what we want to do, and we'll continue to educate our guys on choice-making and move forward.
"I think that every case is individual. On the outside looking in, unless you have all the details, you don't know exactly what all of the details are and the cumulative effect. No one knows that, and that's within everybody's team and how head coaches choose to handle that. Every situation is individual and specific in detail, and so there isn't one cookie cutter way of dealing with every single episode. To the outside looking in, that may not make sense, but that's the way it is on the inside."
On why the Clemson game has become a tone-setting game the past two years... "I guess it's just the way it's unfolded the last two years. In 2010, that was an eye-opening game for us because we were able to win it, but I felt like we got physically beat on the lines of scrimmage in 2010, and that was something that I think catapulted us into understanding what it was going to take to win this league that year. For them, the game got away from us in the fourth quarter, and they really played well down the stretch of that game. That catapulted them into a win against Florida State the next week and so on and so forth. It was a trend-setting game for them as they moved forward.
"This year, it will be interesting. I'm really looking forward to it. The next week we have to play a tough SEC West game, so I think this is going to be a great indicator for us of just where we stand. Whether that dictates how the rest of your season unfolds or not, you don't know that until December. The last two years, if history has anything to say in it, then it might."
On containing Clemson's offense... "This is an offense that averaged 33-plus points a game last year. It's an offense that averages 440 yards a game. That's hard to do. That's really, really hard to do. They're very, very explosive. I think one of the things that makes this offense -- and us being in a very similar offense for three years, I think we have a good idea of this -- this is an offense that is very explosive, and its big play potential and big play capability is the number one thing you have to defend against when you go into these games.
"Now, specifically related to Clemson, you're looking at that type of offense with a lot of guys in key places that can make that happen. Sammy Watkins is apparently not playing. I promise you there are a lot of other people on their team that have the capability to make explosive plays. DeAndre Hopkins was a wonderful receiver last year that played very, very well, Andre Ellington at tailback, I could go on and on and on, and the guy who runs the show: Tajh Boyd. So, there are a lot of weapons there. There are very few cases right now where they've had a problem scoring points and amassing yards. They are real tough to defend. If Sammy doesn't play, there will be somebody else that steps up to the plate because they've got a very young, talented football team, and they've done a great job recruiting to fit what they want to do."
On any advantage Auburn has being familiar with Clemson's offense..."I think it certainly helps. There's no question that there are things in the offense that we feel when it comes to a defensive strategy Brian (VanGorder) and I have talked about what is imperative that you stop if you're going to be successful. Well, you can say explosive plays, yes, but that offense has so many different variations in terms of different types of explosive plays that you're going to have to stop, you don't know which ones you are going to see. If you made a cut-up of us of the last three years of explosive plays that look different than the other ones, you would have 120 different plays, so we've got to stop explosive plays. It definitely helps that we have at least seen and been around it, so we know where and how those explosive plays are made or could occur, but again you've got to go out there and stop them and recognize them on game day when everything is moving real fast and that's a whole different ballgame."
On Auburn's understanding of the pace of Clemson's offense... "There is no question of us understanding the pace and what they are going to want to do for us particularly after they get a first down. We are very in-tune to that. So, I think for our players in their mind it's not that that is a real discomfort level. They know that is going to happen. They've got to know the next play is up and running in several seconds, so our guys need to be aware of that, but they've seen it, so they understand that."
On Angelo Blackson earning a first-team spot at defensive tackle... "Angelo is really one of those young guys that is still in somewhat of an inconsistent stage. I think one thing, if you look at our two-deep on our defensive line, I don't know if there are very many spots where you can say this guy is the true starter, and I think Angelo is kind of in that world because our defensive tackles, although on paper it says Jeff Whitaker and Angelo Blackson, you've still got some guys behind them that are really going to push and that's the Gabe Wrights and the Kenneth Carters of the world. Even at defensive end, we've got kind of a rotation of starters in there. Craig Sanders has played a ton of football, Nosa Eguae has played a ton of football, and so you've got that really kind of all over our defensive line where there are guys where we have to name a starter, but it doesn't necessarily mean that he's heads and tails above the next guy. Where I'm going with that is that Angelo has got to be much more consistent as a football player to really be where we need him to be, so there will be continued battles going on at that position, and that's good for us."
On Jermaine White and Ryan White earning starting positions... "I think one thing that both of those guys were able to do is mentally be able to grasp the system, and there are a lot of communication issues back there that have to go on with the secondary in this defense, particularly starting at safety, but Jermaine is a smart player. Last year, he was a starting corner/nickel. He's a 200-pound kid; we just felt again, we needed help back there. We had to move somebody back there to challenge for jobs. We moved him back there in the spring to challenge for a job, and he grasped everything to the point where once he started understanding it, he really started improving every day. So, that was very good to see.
"Ryan White is another guy, again, that played sparingly last year, but as we said going in, all bets are off. If you're the guy and you produce and you're the one that understands the defense and you're being productive in practice, then you've got a chance to win a job, and he just went in there and won a job. Now, again, I say this, that doesn't mean in our mind that T'Sharvan Bell and some of these guys are backups because you are going to see a lot of nickel and you're going to see a lot of rotations in there, so with those guys we consider some other guys starters, too, but Ryan won the job. It's that simple."
On Auburn's familiarity playing in the Georgia Dome... "I think, again, this has been a very fun venue for our guys. This is the third year in a row we've played there; our guys enjoy it. I think it goes along with the pageantry and the excitement of this game. I think the excitement of this game is that it's not a home game, which we love playing here, but this is the next best thing for us. It's the next best thing for our fan base. It's the next best thing for our players. Atlanta -- we spend a lot of time there in terms of recruiting, and we've spent a lot of time there recently in the last few years playing there as well. So, it's kind of a home away from home for us, if you will, a little bit, but our guys are very, very excited about playing there."
On Corey Grant and Robenson Therezie not being on the depth chart... "Corey is still battling some injury issues; Robenson is definitely going to be there on the trip. Corey, we are going to play day by day, and see where he is health-wise, but he's coming along. He's making some strides. We'll know more today and tomorrow, but that's why you don't see him on there."
On Tyler Nero being on the depth chart... "There are some cases in there where we are still evaluating some of these young guys. There are some guys in there who we may bring on the trip -- some guys who may be on the depth chart that they are still under redshirt consideration -- so everything is not set in stone right now. It's kind of like what we did with Greg Robinson last year. We took him everywhere, we had him prepared, we had him ready, but we knew our idea was to try to redshirt him unless we had to do something otherwise. So some of those kids are still falling into that category at different positions. Gimel (President) would fall under that category as well."
On how Reese Dismukes and the team have responded to his suspension... "Obviously Reese is going to do everything we ask him to do if he is going to get back on the field, so I made that very clear. Our team has responded really well in terms of not letting it become a distraction, understanding that Auburn is not made by one guy and the next guy has to step up. That guy is Tunde (Fariyike). He responded well. We had a terrific practice on Sunday. We expect to have the same today. Again, we move forward. My sole focus with Reese is to get him the help he needs to be successful in everything he does. We will continue to do that, but as a football team, on Sunday night at practice we moved on. We are getting prepared and focused to do one thing, and that is Saturday night against Clemson."
On how daunting of a task it is for Fariyike... "It is a unique challenge. The great thing about young people is that they know that a challenge is in front of them. In my experiences, they really do everything they can to respond. We don't expect it to be any different in this case. Tunde had a good practice on Sunday and he will have a good week. I feel very sure of that. It is a big challenge for him. That position, if you don't know, is extremely critical with communication in directing the lines and protections and things of that nature. It is a very critical position for us. He has been here a couple of years and that is what he is being called to do."
On Trent Fisher being ahead of Erique Florence on the depth chart... "Erique has been banged up and missed some time. Trent is a young guy, but he came in here and learned the defense. He earned the backup job. You are going to see him on special teams as well. He is a very reliable guy. I think this is a great case and point for a young guy that comes in and seizes an opportunity when he knows there is one. When you have a new defensive coordinator come in here and say that all jobs are open, you wait to see the guys that seize the opportunity, who maybe wasn't a starter before or didn't play much before. Trent did that."
On the maturation of Kiehl Frazier... "It will be very interesting to see him perform Saturday night. Here's the deal with Kiehl: he did get enough experience last year that when he walks on the field for the first time, it won't be the first time. That is a good thing for a quarterback. Kiehl is a very talented athlete. He has worked extremely hard to get to this position. We expect him big things out of him. Our standard doesn't come down just because it is his first game as a starter. We expect a lot out of that position and he understands that. He has matured as a player and we are excited to watch him play.
"Our players and coaches have a lot of confidence in him. It will be a really neat thing to watch the ebb and flow of the game go with him and how that he responds to potentially negative dynamics out there. I am really excited about watching him play. He will continue to prepare really hard this week. He does a lot of stuff on his own, and that is good to see. He is into it. He earned the position and we are excited to see what he can do."
On how hard working with a new center will be for Frazier... "The obvious challenges are there, no doubt about it. They worked Sunday evening and they have three or four more days. That will obviously be a point of emphasis. We will put them to work on the center to quarterback exchange to get that feel for both guys all week long."