Oct. 9, 2012
Auburn head coach Gene Chizik press conference - previewing Ole Miss
Opening statement... "We have another great opportunity coming up this weekend. We're looking forward to getting a chance to go play at Ole Miss. This is a very, very good football team, and after getting a good chance to watch them, defensively, they play extremely hard and do a good job of pressuring offenses and coming up with some big plays.
"Offensively, I think it's pretty evident that they've got a very effective system. I know Hugh Freeze has done a really, really good job wherever he's been with the offense and with the scheme that he's got and with the production that he's had. You can really see them growing in confidence. Last week they came off a tough loss to Texas A&M and had a chance to win that game a couple of different times. It's just a very different football team than Ole Miss was this time last year, in my opinion.
"This will be a huge challenge for us, but it'll be great for us to go on the road and again try to get the win in Oxford. It'll take us to execute our game much better and at a much higher level than we have. We're looking forward to going back to work today. We're looking forward to getting to Oxford on Saturday and playing again."
Has a decision been made about the quarterbacks... "We're in the same spot as we were when you asked Sunday. We're going to go ahead and kind of go through the week, and we'll go ahead and look and see what is the best decision. Both of them did some things Saturday that were good, and both of them did some things that obviously we'd like to take back. We'll go through it, and we'll look at it starting today. We'll make a decision later in the week."
Could it be a game time decision... "No, I don't think it'll be a game time decision. Tuesday and Wednesday are the two big practice days for us, and we can usually tell exactly what we want to do at that point, so that's how we'll manage it."
Will the two quarterbacks split first-team reps in practice...
"Yeah, they'll split them. We'll make sure that we've got it measured out where they're going to get enough reps, obviously, but they'll split them."
Will the QB decision be based on factors from earlier in the season or just how they perform now... "I think it's (based) a lot on what is the comfort level is with the game plan that we're implementing and the comfort level with how they're executing that and what they're doing in that regard. Some of it is going to be with just performance Tuesday and Wednesday, how they're picking up the game plan, things of that nature."
Will Quan Bray play this weekend... "Yes. Quan will be playing this week. He's going to start practicing again with us today. He was out with us Sunday night, but we're going to see where he fits, and he's going to have to work his way back into whatever role he gets for Saturday."
Is Chizik comfortable with players being vocal about their frustrations with the season... "I think that if you're going to ask a young man a question, you're going to get his true feelings. The bottom line is when you're in a situation that we're in right now, where you're not as successful as you'd like to be and you're not as successful as you've been in the past, then you have frustrated feelings with some guys. That's the opinion of one man, as you stated.
"I feel really, really good about the majority of our team being right on point. I have no issues with that. The message is very simple, man. You don't practice and play and participate based on the circumstances. You're one way all the time, and that means you're always working towards improving and winning. Again, that's one guy's opinion. I think it's good that you have guys and leaders on the team that believe that. I think it sends a good message to guys right now that are frustrated and maybe not playing as much as they'd like and things of that nature, all those things that go along with when things aren't going exactly the way you want it.
"Hey, that's my message. I want them all in. We're going to continue on that path in terms of working and going with guys that we know are really continuing to work. That's a very, very high percentage of all the kids on our team, without question, but I understand the frustration."
On how he would characterize the quality of leadership on the team... "I think there are some guys that have tried to really step up and lead. Again, there's been some frustration, which goes along with guys that have been used to winning. That's part of human nature, and that's part of your life. I think some guys are really trying to step up and lead. We went out Sunday night and had a great practice. I think some of the leaders stood up and led by example out at practice, but we expect to have a great practice again today. That's never been an issue, and it won't be an issue."
On if he thinks there are any players not carrying their weight... "That's a young guy and one guy's opinion. What I see are guys really anxious and who really want to win. That's what I see as the overall picture. We just have to go out there and get a good win against a good SEC opponent. That's what we have to do."
Does he need to see players leading more on the field... "Yeah I think it's very important for any football team. I've been on great teams and I've been on teams that have struggled. It's real simple. Wherever your team falls in that category, you always want to see guys step up to the plate and lead amongst themselves.
"Leadership certainly starts at the top with all the coaches, but then it has to permeate through the team. You guys are asking 200-year-old questions that happen when you're struggling. Every team has them. You can go to the NFL. You can go to high school. You can go to college. It's all the same. The bottom line is we feel really, really good in terms of the overall attitude of our team and where we're going. Different guys are going to have different opinions. You could ask 125, and you will probably get 125 different answers.
"The bottom line is we have one direction. We have one goal. We have one focus, and that's to go out to practice, try to improve and win a football game. It's that simple."
Is he looking forward to how his team responds to adversity... "I've said it before; I really think that's part of our job as coaches right now. These guys are 18 years old, 17 years old, all the way up to 22, 23 years old. Guys our age struggle with adversity going through the pits and the valleys with what happens in our own life. This is no different. Let's not make this into something that's totally different. All of our struggles, when things are going great, boy it's great. When things aren't just the way we want it, everybody starts to try to figure out.
"Let me make this real clear. There is definitely an urgency around here to win and improve, and I like seeing that. But part of our job is to help our guys understand that when you're in a valley -- which is where we are now, because everything isn't always going to be at the peak -- you have to find a way to persevere and work out of it.
"I don't think that that message is a new revelation for anybody. I know our football team has heard that from me several different times. That's part of our job. I enjoy seeing us work toward that goal. When you have some success and you work out of those valleys and things, it's great to see young guys learn how to do that. Some people grow up their whole life and every time something goes bad, they want to take their bat and ball and go home. That's not what we're teaching here. It is important for me to impart that to my young guys, and I'll continue to do that as the leader of the team."
On his wanting to take a more active role in the offense... "I'm not saying there are wholesale changes; I just want to make sure that we're focused in and all on the same page. Not that we weren't before, but let's go ahead and really look at `What exactly do we want to look like Saturday?' and get a great plan and narrow it down a little bit. I think we might have been doing a little bit too much. Let's go into the game and execute the plan to the best of our ability after looking at things and trying to maybe cut it down a little bit. Again, execute better on offense, period."
On getting Jay Prosch more involved... "I think that Jay is a very good football player on our team, and he's a very good leader on our team. He has a lot of respect from everybody on our team. Jay being on the field is something that we have to do more, not just from his leadership standpoint and the respect that he has from all the players, but the value that he brings for us out there in terms of physicality. We're starting to open up a little bit where we can get him the ball some, which I think is good. He's a very powerful runner. We're going to look at different ways to have him on the field a little bit more than we have previously."
On what he wants Auburn's offensive identity to be... "I want us to be able to have definitive ideas on exactly how we're going to run the football and stay with the plan, stay with the run-game plan, being able to protect our quarterback. The two things we are doing offensively right now that we've got to improve on are: we are taking tackles-for-loss that are not sack-related; and we are taking too many sacks.
"We've got too many negative plays out there. We've got to be able to run the ball effectively, and we've got to be able to protect the quarterback; part of that is the quarterback getting the ball out of his hands and making quick decisions. Whether we narrow down the routes, whether we narrow down the run game to exactly what it is that we feel like is the best for attacking a defense, the identity of our offense needs to be that we are a physical offense that can run the football and play action and throw it down vertically some during the game. Again, we have been very sporadic at that."
Does he challenge the offense to be physical enough to run when the defense puts eight men in the box... "Yeah, I think so. I think you can't always say that because they dropped an eighth or a ninth guy down there, we can't run the ball anymore. Obviously, you don't want to try to beat your head against the post trying to do that every snap. That's why you've got to be able to throw it down the field as well, but, yeah, there are times you've got to just line up right now and it doesn't matter what they're in, you've got to be able to run the football."
On not having an established offensive identity at this point in the season... "I wouldn't say we don't have that knowledge. I don't think that's the case. I think it's more of focusing in on doing it more consistently and saying this is what we are going to do, so, if it doesn't work for two or three plays, don't get away from it.
"You've got to keep trying to go with what you know are your most effective run plays, whatever those may be. So it's not that you don't know, or we are trying to create new things, it's staying with what your ideas are and what your concepts are and continuing to run the football with what you know gives you the best chance to be productive."
On possible changes in the running back rotation... "That could be part of the equation."
On if he has sought advice from other coaches during the season... "You talk to all of your buddies in the business, but there is no one who could give me any more counsel than I need. I see it. I'm here every day. I've got it. I see exactly what is happening, and I know exactly what's happening with our football team.
"You have your friends in the business, and you talk to your friends. I've been doing this for 27 years, so there's really not a whole lot that I haven't been through one way or the other, so I don't need to seek advice from other people to handle adverse situations. I've been through plenty of them."
On what he thinks the problems are with the team... "Again, it is the inconsistency, and it's on both sides of the football. It's really just execution of what we're doing and, again, staying with the things that we believe in. That's really what it comes down to. It doesn't matter what happened two years ago; it only matters what is happening right now. Those are the problems we are working every day to get fixed."
What was his message to the team on Sunday... "I'm not going to get into the details of anything that I said to our team, other than we are going to keep working and we are going to stay very steadfast on what we believe in. Everybody on our team is going to be focused in one direction, starting with me, and that is to win."
On which running back he thinks has been the most consistent... "I think Tre Mason has really done some good things. It's been disappointing that we've put the ball on the ground a couple of times at our tailback spot. Tre fumbled earlier in the year, but since then he's been really good. I think Tre has run for some tough yards. Mike (Blakely) has done some good things, but again the fumble in the game Saturday is discouraging, but we'll keep working with him. We'll keep developing Mike. Onterio (McCalebb) has been productive at times both on the perimeter and some inside as well during the year. He's protected the football. We've got more than one guy that can touch the ball. We've just got to use them in a way that they can be the most productive."
On the status of Dee Ford and Chris Davis for the Ole Miss game... "We'll see. Injury-wise right now I think both of those guys are a little beat up, but again we'll know more with those guys as the week goes on."