Gene Chizik Previews The Ole Miss Game
AUBURNTIGERSDOTCOM
AUBURNTIGERSDOTCOM

AUBURNTIGERSDOTCOM

Oct. 25, 2011

All-Access Audio Andy Burcham Audio Interviews:
OL A.J. Greene | WR Travante Stallworth | DB Erique Florence | QB Clint Moseley

Ole Miss Press Conference - October 25, 2011

Head Coach Gene Chizik

Opening statement...
"We're excited about being able to come back home and play another night game here at home. It'll be exciting. We've been gone the last three out of four weeks against some tough road opponents, so it's always nice to come back home and play in front of our home crowd for a 6:00 game. I want to encourage all of our fans to come out and do their thing, and again, they're a great part of the game day atmosphere here so I want to encourage them to come out. We have a great challenge for us this week. We're playing an Ole Miss team that is extremely talented. It's the best 2-5 team in the country. They're very dangerous, and they're very good in a lot of different ways. I think they found themselves in exactly where they want to go in terms of quarterback. He's extremely athletic, very dangerous, a very good junior college player. This is a very good football team. They're probably a play here or a play there away from winning five or six football games. They had a touchdown against Georgia called back on a punt return. They're a play away from beating an Arkansas and BYU, so again, I think the record is not indicative of how good they are. They're a very good football team. They have a lot of speed, a lot of athleticism, and we're going to have to play really well to be able to come out with a victory, but we're excited about the challenge."

On quarterback Clint Moseley's performance at LSU last Saturday...
"I think when we gave him time to throw. He did some nice things, I think there are some things he could have done better and improved on, obviously. For his first game and being in an environment like that playing against a defense that was as good as they were, and him being under duress as much as he was, I think when he had opportunities to make plays, I thought he did a nice job of that. He'll continue to improve, I don't think there's any question about that, and we expect him to do that this week."

On being tough on the offensive line after its performance at LSU...
"I'm not necessarily tough on the offensive line. I'm tough on the level of play that we need to have to win from the whole offense. It's not just the offense. It's defense, special teams; nobody's exempt from that loss or any loss, for that matter. The simple fact of the matter is we need to be better everywhere offensively. It's not pointing fingers at the offensive line. Do they need to improve? Absolutely. No question about it. So do the running backs, the wide outs, the quarterback and the tight ends. Again, that wasn't the intent of the message."

On Moseley's confidence and psyche during and after the game...
"That's one thing that I can say I'm extremely proud of him. During the game when things didn't look good and things weren't going our way, I never saw anything in the game that indicated to me that he was losing confidence or didn't feel like he could get the job done. I felt the same way Sunday just watching him. I expect the same thing today in practice today. I'm real proud of the way that he carried himself and handled all the adversity that we had and encountered Saturday. I feel like he did a great job with that.

On potentially finishing the month of October with a winning record...
"I think that's a really good point. It was a challenging month, I don't think there's any question about that. I think that we knew that going into it. Particularly when you're playing road games against, I want to say, three top-10 teams - it seemed like every time we went on the road, it was against somebody in the top-10 - that's very challenging, especially for a young team. If we're able to get a win this Saturday, winning three of those five, I think there are things we can build on without question because we played some really good teams. We'll build on some things. To say that you're happy losing two games, I don't want to go there because I feel like there were some things that we could have done much better as a team to put ourselves in positions to win. Again, building on the positive things, because I think our football team has done some positive things with arguably one of the toughest schedules if not the toughest schedule in the country, we're hanging in there."

On re-setting goals...
"We try to erase everything and just take everything day by day and week by week, and we really do that, and so our goal this week is to beat Ole Miss. That's our number one goal, and that's what we'll focus on. As the season gets later and you get into game nine and game 10, different teams have different goals in the back of their minds, but for us everything that's going to happen post season is going to happen if we take care of our business week to week. That's really more of the way we approach it. Even last year, we didn't talk about championships and things of that nature, we talked about taking everything one week at a time, which is exactly what we're doing the rest of this year. So, mathematically whether we're out of a championship, in a championship, everybody's going to make what they want out of that. Bowl season and who's going where, certainly that's coming up around the corner for a lot of chatter, but for us, our goal every week is to have a chance to win each football game, and literally it's no more than that."

On walk-ons Chandler Shakespeare and Ryan Preston...
"Two great kids, great kids who really do a lot for us. Ryan and Shake have been a huge part of giving our football team looks every week. The value in that is huge, especially where our numbers are right now. Our numbers are down, and we count on guys like that that show up every day and come to work. They don't do it for the glory and the glitz, they do it because they love football and they love Auburn. So my hat's off to all those guys, and that's why we try to reward all of our walk-ons when we can if they've been here. I had one of them say to me, `Thanks for giving me a scholarship.' I said, `I didn't give you a scholarship, you earned it. I don't give scholarships. You earn them.' That's what those guys do. Those two are really good examples of guys who come here and do it every day because they love it, and I have a very high appreciation for those guys, and a very high level of respect for them doing this for free."

On the defensive line and Craig Sanders...
"Craig is an incredible guy. He's one of those guys that never says a word, comes to work every day. We could tell Craig tomorrow that he's playing offensive guard and he would just say yes sir and go play offensive guard. I mean, we're not doing that, but you could and that's the way he is. He's a special teams guy. He's a huge part of special teams. He's a defensive guy. We consider him a starter because of his value to the defense, and his flexibility to be able to do more than one thing. He's kind of the iron man guy. He can go in there and play however many plays you need him to play and then go cover kickoffs right afterwards. The value of a guy like that to your team is probably overlooked a lot of times, but not by the coaches and his teammates."

On Auburn's special teams' performance at LSU...
"If you look particularly at the punt game, Steven (Clark) has been having such an unbelievable year, and I think we've all come to expect 50-yard punts with five second hang times pretty much every time he goes out there. That didn't happen Saturday, but we feel really good about him coming back and getting back into his rhythm this week. Even with our kickoff coverage, everybody expects Cody (Parkey) to go out there and to kick it out of the end zone every time, and everybody starts at the 20. Realistically, that doesn't happen even in the NFL when they were kicking off from the 30-yard line, so we just have to play better. We didn't play bad, but we weren't as dominant as we had been, but the team on the other side a lot of times has a lot to do with that, too. Let's not lose sight of that. We played the number one team in the country. They have a lot of good football players. We are going to continue to work to try to get better, and we have a great challenge this week as I think Ole Miss' special teams to me is one of the best in the league. I think they've had several punts returned for touchdowns whether they counted because there was a penalty is really immaterial in terms of the danger of them. They are very dangerous, and they are very good at their cover teams. Jeff Scott, he's a guy that is dangerous on offense, he's dangerous on special teams, so we definitely have our work cut out for us right now in terms of trying to win the special teams battle this weekend. It will be huge because, as we know, as close as this game is going to be, it's probably going to come down to the end, and special teams and field position always play a huge part in that."

On the receivers stepping up with Emory Blake out due to injury...
"I think it's been too sporadic. I think it's been very sporadic. At some points, you see these really nice catches, and other times you see them drop balls in their hands. I just think it's been very inconsistent. I would like to see more consistency in terms of catching the football from all of our receiving group. Again, we have some young guys that we have to try to get the ball to a little bit more. The Quan Brays, which we did a little bit more of Saturday, but him and Trovon (Reed)being back and getting healthier week by week I think is going to help us have a comfort level in getting the ball to guys like him. The fact of the matter is, like any place on your team, when somebody is out, somebody has to step up to the plate with consistent play. I'm not saying they haven't done anything good, I'm just saying the level of consistency from that group that we are going to need to win games needs to be better."

On if he is surprised more receivers haven't stepped up in Emory Blake's absence...
"I'm hopeful that we will continue to work on it. I don't want to say surprised. I know, again, there are challenges with that group with just not much experience. But again, the consistency level is something that we just have to continue to work on and get some more production out of those guys."

On the receivers' route running and getting open...
"Again, I think it's very sporadic. There are some times when we are trying to come off the line of scrimmage right now and the guy gets in press coverage, and we have a tough time just getting off the line of scrimmage. That's very disappointing. There are other times where you are trying to run routes at these depths and that's what you practice every day, and then if the depth is two yards off here or three yards off here instead of the depth we work at practice, that causes incomplete passes, and our margin for error is very slim. So, Coach Troop (Trooper Taylor, wide receivers coach) does a great job with those guys, and we've been coaching the same thing for three years. When you get into games, you can't run a route at five yards in practice every day and get into the game and run it at eight and expect to be a good receiver, and we're getting some of that."

On being concerned that safeties Demetruce McNeal and Neiko Thorpe leading the team in tackles...
"Well, I think our goal defensively is to be, every week, much improved. I'm not going to get into the stats. Stats can tell you one thing that's not necessarily so. I could probably look at 12 people in this league, and they'd probably have safeties that are somewhere in the top of their range of tackles, so I don't think that that is necessarily an indicator of how well you play defensively. Our goal is obviously to get better every week. Whether our safeties are the top three tacklers or they're in the bottom three, I don't think that necessarily tells the tale because a lot has to do with what type of offense you're facing or tackles down the field after completions or are they tackles cause their runs broke the line of scrimmage consistently or are they runs that they are making at the line of scrimmage cause they were outside the wide plays and they did what they were supposed to do so? I'm not really into all the stats and who gets what particularly when it comes to the tackles, because you don't really know how they unfold. I'm concerned when the other team is scoring points. I'm not really concerned with who's making the tackles.

On Onterio McCalebb's evolution as a receiver...
"First I'm going to talk about his evolution as a football player. This is a guy who is kind of like what I said about Craig Sanders on defense. He comes to practice every day, and he only knows one speed. He can be a kickoff return guy. We can't afford for him to be that every week because he's so valuable to the offense that we can't really afford to have him get hurt, and we have other guys back there who can do that as well. He could do that consistently if we wanted him to. He's really developed his game as far as catching the football, whether it's bubble screens, screens out of the backfield, check downs. I think he's somebody that we've become confident with being able to do that. Along with him being able to carry the football and carry it out there on the edge and on the corner, we've even run him up inside this year on counters and things where he's made some nice runs there. I just think he's a complete player. Certainly him catching the ball has become something that I think he's become more confident in over the last two years, but he is just a complete football player. I'm just really proud of him. I just think he's worked at it. He's become a better football player because he's worked at it."

On McCalebb's size being a factor in not returning kicks...
"He tries in the weight room to put on weight, but he's 175 pounds. It's hard for him to gain a lot of size, so everything he does is full speed. I'm not sure how fast he is, I just know he's really fast. But he continues to work at that size. He's in protections blocking linebackers, and you know he does whatever we ask him."

On LSU being good enough to force opponents to make mistakes...
"I think they are a very good football team. I don't think you're ever in the position they're in this late in the season without being a great team. There are virtually very few weaknesses to their football team. We certainly didn't find any. They're athletic, they're physical, they know exactly what they want to do, and that's why they've been able to do it against everybody they play. They're an extremely talented, well coached team."