Sept. 29, 2009
"It's going to be a really fun week for us, a really exciting week. Obviously, this is our first SEC road game and we are really looking forward to playing it. We've got a lot work that we've got to be able to do to travel to Tennessee and win the ball game. But, we feel like everything that we saw in the Ball State game, there was some good things and there was some bad things; but again they are very fixable and again we've got to make some progress. We feel like we made some progress in some areas. There are some areas that we feel like we still need a good amount of work to do. But again this is a very good Tennessee football team and we all know how tough it is to play at Tennessee. It's going to be a fun trip but we've got a lot of work to do for us to win the game."
What do you do to prepare for the first away game, being that it is so new?
"Well it will be, it will be new for us because there will be so many guys on the team that haven't traveled before, period. I don't think that there is anybody on this football team that has traveled to Tennessee so it will be a new experience all the way around for our whole team. But, we aren't going to change anything, we aren't going to change the way we prepare. You can put the noise out there and you can do some of those things. Does it help? I don't know. We've got to be able to communicate regardless. So there's really not much that you do to change what you've done the previous four games. We just know that communication will be the issue, whether that's hand signals for our offense. We just have to make sure that everybody is on the same page because we know how loud it gets. But our guys are use to that. It will be fun for them because they haven't played at Tennessee before. But we're not going to change anything, we are just going to do business as usual and again we are going to make sure that out communication is sound."
Do you think you are going to have to be constantly aware of where Eric Berry is?
What are some of the things that attracted you to the hire of Trooper Taylor?
"Well I think you are always aware of where he is and where he is in aligning and who he's on. What they decide to do, if they do decide to put him on a certain guy or take a certain guy out of the game, because he can do that; he can take a guy out of the game. From a secondary standpoint, well really from a whole defensive perspective, he is one of the guys that if you put him on somebody and you have him take somebody out of the game, you've got to know that, you've got to make previsions for that. We will always know where he is. We will always know what the idea and what the plan is with him because he is that good of a player. He can dominate a game."
"I think it's been great. I think you can look at our wide receivers and you can see that simply looking at that, that our wide receivers really have come on. You know I said earlier that you need to get used to some of the names because they are all new and some of those new guys have stepped up to the plate and I think that is true with Trooper. And I think he coaches them really well. I've known Trooper for a long time so I knew what kind of person he was and that was first and foremost when I hired him. He has been great for our football team, he has been great for our wide receivers and everybody loves him. The offensive linemen love him, the defensive linemen love him and the kickers love him. He has done a great job and he is a great coach as well."
Has Trooper Taylor cranked up the excitement for the Tennessee game?
"I think he's at the level where you just can't crank it up anymore. I don't know that he can get more excited on a daily basis than he already is."
What are the challenges of facing a (Tennessee Defensive Coordinator) Monte Kiffin coached defense?
"They are great. They are top three in probably every category. He (Monte Kiffin) is one of the best in the business. He proved that in the NFL and it's carried over to Tennessee. They have very good players and they are always in the right spot. It's a well-coached defense and he brings a lot to the table."
Will Onterio McCalebb get a look at returning punts?
"We are looking at everyone as a punt returner. We are opening options and not kicking anyone to the curb. We are open-minded to some different guys. We have to keep working the ones we've already invested so much time and energy on because they are young guys who have a lot of time left to play."
You are 4-0 and unranked. Is there anything you can do besides win to gain more respect?
"I don't control that and I don't even have a thought on it. Week to week we have to win and all that other stuff takes care of itself. I don't spend a lot of energy on things I have absolutely no control over."
Is that a concern here (polls), considering you were here in 2004 when Auburn was left out of the BCS Championship game?
"I think the circumstances of each year.....there are a lot of moving parts in those decisions. Again, it's something I have no control over. So do I worry about it? No, I really don't. "
Have you gotten angrier during special teams meetings with the mistakes (penalties, etc.)?
"We are coaching like we always coach, we don't change. We are very demanding and very precise about what we want. We have to execute better, we have to coach better."
Can you take anything away from facing Lane Kiffin (2005 Texas vs. USC BCS Champ game) before to help you this week?
"I think there are a lot of similarities in what Tennessee does and what USC did. There's some carryover. But, there is a lot that's different, different players obviously. Overall, it's very similar. Tennessee does a great job, it's a great scheme. I don't want to say it's exactly the same because he's put in new things, but there is a lot of carryover. We have been able to refer back to that game (2005) some. A system is a system. As long as you stay in that system, you don't vary a lot from it."
Is there more importance placed on a recruiting staff over a coaching staff?
"I don't know how to gauge which is more important. I feel the same as what I said when I took the job. There are three important things that you have got to have. So if you have one that won't cut it, if you have two it's good but you always want all three. Guys make a lot of money to be good coaches or recruiters and to make sure we treat the players right, but I do think that recruiting is important. We need to be able to go out and get the best guys to be able to compete in this league. Then once you get them here you have to make sure you have the right guys to take care of them and make sure that they can grow over their four years on and off the field. They need to be able to contribute in the meeting room and we also have to be able to got good players and keep them here. I don't know which is more important, but if you make a cake and leave out an ingredient it isn't going to taste good. I feel am three for three with some great guys on this staff that I am really proud of."
What did you learn from Monte Kiffin while coaching at UCF?
"He was always very good to me when I was a young coach. When I was at UCF I was able to watch Tampa and formulate my own ideas of what I wanted to do. Like I said he was always very good to me and I thank him for that."
What have you learned about the team so far?
"There is so much more learning to go because I don't know how we are going to respond after a loss, so there is still some uncharted water out there. What I have seen is how they have responded, especially in the last three games when we were not playing well and had to keep playing and make comebacks and not worrying about the score. We have played through a bunch of different scenarios so far this season and we are 4-0. I am happy to see that. After these four games the coaching staff has a better feel for the payers than they did a month ago. There are still a lot of things we have to get through together. I am proud of the way they have continued to play even if they were not doing too well, but they have kept finding ways to win and that is very important."
Has Chris Todd been even better than you expected?
"Back during two-a-days we felt that with what we saw and knowing that he had not gone through a spring practice, we felt that Chris could be a very good player in this offense. How good we were not sure, because we hadn't seen him on game day. He has a lot of room for improvement but I think he has done some things that we expected him to do. When you look at the touchdown passes this season you have to remember that there was a lot of work done by a lot of people, like when you throw it two yards and it goes for a touchdown. You still have to complete that pass. The thing that I like about Chris is he hasn't made a lot of bad decisions. He has made some really great throws and he is definitely working in the right direction. How good can he be in this offense? We don't know but he needs to continue to get better. We are pleased on how he has played every week so far, because we have seen improvement. He still needs to take it to another level and we think he can do it. That is why we felt from the beginning that he had a chance to run this offense."
What are the challenges of running a fast-paced offense?
"The main challenge is just trying to get lined up, getting your plays in and make sure everyone is together. Substitution matchups are also hard to do in a fast paced offense, especially if you're a team that runs a lot of nickel and dime packages. Also just the tempo as that game goes on, because if you can continue a fast tempo there is an issue physically if you are executing right. If we are not then we will have issues because we would have a lot of three and outs, so it always has to be clicking."
What is the status of Kodi Burns and Onterrio McCalebb?
"They are doing fine. It is day by day right now with hose guys. We are going to continue to watch out for them and get them healthy."
What is the importance of this game going into the rest of the season?
"Going to Tennessee is going to be a huge indicator of who we are for the rest of the year. We have not played on the road yet and we have not played in this type of venue with all these new guys. Taking about twenty new guys on the road is going to be an adventure and if you play well and win the game, then I think it definitely catapults you over another hurdle. Week by week we are trying to get over all these different hurdles. If you can go to a place like Tennessee and get a win, then it reveals more about your team and helps us into the month of October in a very good way. It is going to be tough and our guys are looking to play better than they have all season. "
What do you remember about the Tennessee game in 2004?
"It was a great night for Auburn football. It was one of those nights where everything went right and our way. As a defensive coordinator I could not make a wrong call. It was a great and exciting place for our players to play at, but it was one of those nights where everything just fell in to place."