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'Playing together:' Gus Malzahn likes early returns for Auburn

Sept. 25, 2013

Gus Malzahn has found things to be happy with in the first third of the season (Todd Van Emst photo)

By Charles Goldberg

AUBURN, Ala. – Gus Malzahn didn't talk Xs and Os on Wednesday night when he was asked if his football team had met his early-season expectations. 

He talked about a mindset that has seems to have come together. 

"My main thing was our team playing together, playing hard, doing what their coaches ask them to do, and getting better. At the very first of the year when I said our goal was to get better each practice and each game, it sounded like coach-speak, but it's so true with this team." 

One third of the way into his first season as Auburn's head coach, and at an off-week break, Malzahn said he's been pleased with the running game, is happy his young players have performed and predicted quarterback Nick Marshall will get better. 

He also said a decision will come soon on the playing status of defensive lineman Jeff Whitaker, who hasn't dressed out this season because of an injury. 

Malzahn said Marshall has been effective. He's hit 60-of-103 passes for 809 yards with four interceptions and four touchdowns. He already has more passing yards than any Auburn quarterback had last season. 

"We feel like he’ll get more comfortable and I think they’re be a time in the season that we can say, ‘Hey, it’s clicking,’ and he can play football and not have to think," Malzahn said. "Hopefully, that time will come sooner, rather than later."

Malzahn said Marshall is still learning barely two months into a new offense. 

"What we ask our quarterback to do is more than most pre-snap. The fact that he didn’t go through spring, for some of the things he is able to do, is really something. In some ways, he’s met our expectations of what we need," Malzahn said.

"If you were the quarterback in our system and we put you out there, it would blow your mind what you have you do before the play is even snapped. It just takes a while to process all that and then you have to actually execute the play, and that’s a feat within itself. We’re asking a lot of him and this is our first quarterback not to go through spring. In some ways, he’s done a phenomenal job. In other ways, there’s certain things he needs to get better at. We’re a work in progress but we’re going to get better and he’s going to get better."

Overall, Malzahn said, he's collected "good information" after a month of the season.

"We have a chance to get better and improve and I think most of our mistakes are correctable. We've played a lot of young guys, either because of injury or because of depth, and a lot of young guys have gotten their feet wet. And I've got to believe they'll improve throughout the season." 

Auburn arrived at its first off week with a 3-1 record. Auburn is using this week to reassess itself. 

"Anytime as a coach that you remove yourself from game planning and everything that goes into leading up to a game week, you can really focus on yourself," Malzahn said. "You can really identify your strengths, you can identify areas you need to improve on, and we've learned a lot about our team. From a group, from an individual standpoint, on what we need to do moving forward." 

The strengths? 

"I feel like we can run the football effectively, I think we can operate our base offense effectively moving forward. We need some work on some of our timing throws and all that, but that's what really stands out to me. 

"We have four or five things offensively that we feel like we're strong in." 

Video: Gus Malzahn talks football after Wednesday's pracctice

Charles Goldberg writes for Follow him on Twitter:



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