Nov. 6, 2012
Opening statement… “It’s another great SEC game coming up with the oldest rivalry in the South. It’s going to be a great night game, and I want to encourage all the fans to come out and really support our guys. It’s a great challenge for us. What Georgia has to play for coming in here, with the possibility of clinching the East, and just the history of the game and how important the history of this game has been over the years and how close these games have been, I think our players are extremely excited about playing in the game. Our coaches are excited about coaching in it. We’re looking forward to a great challenge. It’s a very physical football team on both sides of the ball. They’re very talented and have really been playing well of late. It’s going to be a great challenge for us.”
How was practice after the win… “As I’ve said before, there’s only one remedy to what was week after week occurring there for a while, and that is a win. It was great to see our guys in the locker room very excited about getting a win and what that feels like again. It had been a while. Practice Sunday, I thought it was very energetic. We have a lot of guys up and down the hallways this week watching film on their own, excited about playing in a game like this as well. I think it’s carrying over. I know it did yesterday, and my expectation is that it’ll carry over to today’s practice.”
Is there motivation to try to stop Georgia from winning the SEC East… “We have been on the other side of that, and there’s a lot of motivation. No question about it. They’re playing for the ability to clinch the division and play in the SEC Championship game. When you play in rivalry games like this that have been going on this long, and there’s so much just involved with the game regardless of where each team is at and where they’re at in their season, it just makes for a great game. Our guys are going to be excited just because it’s Georgia. A lot of our players are from the state of Georgia and certainly close by if they’re not from the state. Georgia recruits a lot of the same guys, and these guys are playing high school football together or against each other. I think the history of the game, proximity and geographically how close we are and with our guys just enjoying the chance to play in a rivalry game like this 6 p.m. ESPN game, I think all those things together, we’re going to be very excited to play Saturday.”
Does his team want to be the “spoiler”…
“I think that’s kind of what anybody in that situation realizes, whether you say it or it’s in the back of your head, that you have an opportunity to play in a great game and if you play well and if you do end up winning the game, that’s the result, but that’s not what we’re feeding on. We’re feeding on the opportunity to have another great SEC game and have the opportunity to play on national TV against a great football team and have an opportunity to go out there and compete. That’s more of what we’re focused on -- and trying to build on what we did last week as well.”
Does it help that Brian VanGorder and Willie Martinez previously coached at Georgia… “I think so. I think that over the last however many years, I think Georgia’s changed some in what their ideas are philosophically on offense, but not that much. Those guys spending that much time there, I’m sure that there’s things that are coming back that as you watch the film and you say ‘I remember that in practice,’ that certainly can’t hurt you.
“I think it’s a little bit both ways. The bottom line is, when you watch this many games, 10 games, you know what they’re going to do. They know what you’re going to do. It’s just a matter of executing and being in the right position to make plays. Defensively, they’ve seen the last nine or 10 games. They know what we’re going to do, and they’ve been around those two guys as well. I think it’s probably kind of a push.”
What does Georgia do well offensively and defensively… “Defensively, they’re very multiple because they have their 3-4 stance, meaning their philosophy of 3-4 defense, which gives you problems offensively; it’s giving quite a few people some problems right now in terms of who to block. There are going to be so many different looks in there. They have some really good talented players who are very productive in terms of sacks and tackles for loss. They have a huge defensive line. They have some safeties back there that are extremely physical, and their corners, if they decide to play man coverage, are very good at what they do. I just think schematically, all the way around, they have good players. They’re coached well, and that’s why they’re where they’re at.
“Then offensively, they’ve been so explosive. They have a very big physical offensive line. The two young running backs are very explosive. I think they’ve really complemented each other well because one guy doesn’t have to carry it 35 times a game. They’re a little bit of a change-up. One’s a little bit bigger than the other, but they’re both extremely fast. Obviously, with the quarterback being as efficient as he is and throwing for 21 touchdowns and receivers that -- even though they’ve had a couple of injuries -- the next guy just steps up to the plate. I think everybody understands that they are where they are offensively because they do have explosive guys, and they’re very efficient at what they do.”
On Georgia’s defensive players, specifically Jarvis Jones… “I think you start with trying to always find out where he’s at. He’s going to move around some, and they do a really good job with that. He’s definitely a tackle-for-loss hazard, whether it be sacks or in the run game. They don’t have any problems with pressuring him from wherever. You always have to know where he is, and then on top of that, he’s just a very physical player. He’s made plays against pretty much everybody they’ve played. You have to know where he is, and you have to have a way to account for him in both the run game and the pass game because he has great penetration from wherever he’s coming from.”
Does Georgia’s pressure challenge players like Brandon Fulse and Jay Prosch to help more in blocking… “Absolutely. There’s no question. Combined with the fact that when you’re in a 3-4 defense that really creates just protection, it’s a tough scheme protection-wise. That’s why a lot of people bounce in and out of it. Even if they’re not a 3-4 defense, they’ll bounce in and out of it just because the protection issues that (Jarvis Jones) gives you. All of that becomes a factor.”
Did he think Jarvis Jones had All-America potential when Jones was in high school… “He was coming out right when I had gotten here, so I knew somewhat about him, but I think at the time he was committed to USC, if I’m correct. I thought he was a very good player, and I thought he was a big good-looking physical specimen. I didn’t know enough about him at the time of exactly how good he would be as a football player, but I watched enough film on him to know he certainly had a chance to be. Him transferring and being this productive, I’m sure that the people who were around him for three years aren’t surprised, but I just didn’t know that much about him when I got here.”
Will the speed of this defense change compared to what Jonathan Wallace saw last weekend… “It’s night and day. It’s going to be a completely different issue, and that’s what we’re preparing him for. The bottom line is he’ll study it, and he’ll know where they’re coming from. The speed and intensity with which they blitz and pressure and move around will be completely different than last week.”
Is it important to get the run game going to help Wallace… “Getting the running game going is an imperative; there’s no question about it. Anytime you’re going out there with a young quarterback, the number one priority is to run the ball enough to protect him where you’re not so much drop-back, or you’re not in that many drop-back situations. First and second down and manageable third downs is really the key, and obviously the key is first and second down and being able to run the ball on some of those downs; even being able to run the ball on third down, too, is really critical when you have a young quarterback. I think that’s always the case.”
On Philip Lutzenkirchen (who spoke to reporters earlier about his progress)… “He’s just a solid guy -- a guy that comes out to practice, and he’s always around the team -- a very positive, upbeat guy. He was obviously one of the first guys that we recruited when we got here. I’ve just gotten real close with his family, and I just believe and trust in him and his family and what they stand for off the field, as well as everybody has pretty well documented what he’s done on the field. He’s just a young man that I have a high level of respect for in a lot of ways.
“I think he is a very selfless guy, and I think that is what is going to make him be successful whatever he does after this because it’s never really about him, and it’s never really been about him. He could stand up and beat his chest for a lot of things that he’s accomplished that most people would dream about accomplishing in his career here, but he never does that. He’s always going to talk about somebody else, and he’s always going to be one of those guys that steps up to the plate and tries to help somebody else; again, that’s why I talk about what he represents off the field as well as on.”
Does Lutzenkirchen’s game-winning TD catch in the 2010 Iron Bowl come to mind when recalling his career… “It’s one of the first ones that comes to mind. He’s had so many great catches out there. He’s had so many one-handed snags. He really came on as a blocker as his career unfolded, because when he came out of high school, he was primarily a glorified wide-out. He had to learn the blocking game, and he had to learn how to do all of those things. It was very important to him to be able to try to improve in that regard, and he did.
“He’ll always be remembered for certain catches that he made and some spectacular ones at that and some that the timing was impeccable as you just mentioned in the Iron Bowl two years ago, but his blocking and just everything that he has brought to the table other than the things that you even visibly see him do as a player what he’s like in the locker room, what he’s like in encouraging young guys, what he’s like bringing young guys in that want to play and he wants to help them. He wants to help them learn the offense or just learn what college football is all about. He’s just always been one of those guys, and I think that’s why most of our guys on our team have a very high level of regard very similar to me on Philip. It’s because he’s a different guy.”
On the conversation Chizik had with Lutzenkirchen about having surgery… “Well, he was very distraught. My number one goal always is for doing what is in the best interest of our student-athletes, particularly when it comes to injury; I try to treat everything like I would if it were my own son. (Lutz) was at a place where, when it all went down, nobody was really sure exactly what direction this was headed. I just told him, ‘I know there is a lot on your plate because you’re thinking about wanting to finish this season out and making sure that you do all that you can to help Auburn win’ because that’s who he is. Then on the other side of that, you’ve got him thinking about a career beyond this. I just said, ‘at the end of the day, when you really sit down and think about this and you really soul search and pray on it and do whatever you have to do, you’ve got to end up doing health-wise what is the best for you, not 10 weeks from now, but 30 years from now.’ One of the things that happens with an injury like that is you don’t want to walk around with a limp for the rest of your life, just so that you could finish what you started -- I think those are hard decisions to be made sometimes. When all of the evidence came back, it wasn’t hard. He had to get it done, but in the interim, we had to have that conversation.”
Injury updates for Auburn players… “C.J. (Uzomah), it doesn’t look like he is going to be able to end up playing this weekend. Chris Davis is still on the bubble. Jeff Whitaker I think has got a chance. He practiced Sunday night; obviously, we’ve got to take some baby steps with him. A couple of those other guys like Chris will be a little bit later in the week as we move forward, but it’s very unlikely that C.J. will play.”
Is Dee Ford to the point where he can start… “We played him between 30 and 40 plays the other day, which was good to see. I feel like he held up well. We’re getting to the point where we’re looking at getting him back to that, but, again, I think it just depends on how this week unfolds, certainly tonight at practice.”
On the significance of C.J. Uzomah being out… “Well, I just think when you’ve lost your two top tight ends, it certainly doesn’t help. I think he had gained a good amount of confidence with the last couple of games that he had played, and so he was becoming somebody that we were starting to really feel good about him catching the ball. Again, he was kind of like Philip. He was a different position coming out of high school, so he really needed to learn the world of blocking and blocking the edge, but he was coming on as a tight end just being able to do all of it a little bit better. So, again, I feel bad for him. It was kind of a freak deal on Wednesday night, but he will continue to try to get back before the season ends; it’s going to be touch and go as whether that will happen or not.”
Has Corey Lemonier’s production changed since the beginning of the season… “I think early in the season, boy, you could really see him -- his very quick first step -- and I think that people knew all the preseason talk, and then the first few games, the pressures he was getting on the quarterback. Early in the year, he was getting some good pressure and there were actually three or four sacks that he had missed. I think protection-wise, every offense is going to take what is considered to be your best guy and they are going to have schemes for them. So, I think it is a combination of all of that.”
On Jonathan Wallace stepping in as Auburn’s starting quarterback as a true freshman… “Well, I said it earlier in the week. I was very proud of some of the things that he was able to do, but if you look at how the game unfolded, early in the game he was slow in terms of just kind of getting a rhythm and just kind of getting into it. Typically, what you look for in a young guy is that you are able to do that and recover. So, I felt like he did that. I felt like as the game went on he kind of calmed down a little bit. He hit some throws that he should have hit, and, overall, ended up managing the offense well and throwing some nice balls out there. So, hopefully, he can pick up where he left off, but, again, this is a different defense this week with a different caliber of guy, but he won’t go out there and be fearful in any way, shape or form. I know that. He’ll go out there starting today and really try to improve on everything that he knew were the things that were responsible for a slow start. So, I have no question that he is going to go out there and compete very hard.”
On Clint Moseley’s status… “I think he is coming along. Tonight we will see at practice how he is moving around, but I think he has gained in the last two or three days a little bit more movement, but we’ll know more tonight. He moved around a little bit Sunday, but even then we’ve had a little bit of time off since then, and I think that he will be in a little better place tonight, but we won’t really know until after practice.”
What threat does Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray pose… “Well, Aaron Murray made plays and so did his wide receivers. They had kind of a high pass on a third-and-one and he hid it behind his back and there is nobody within 15 yards of the wide receiver that was a touchdown pass very well executed. You’re looking at a quarterback that’s pretty much seen it all, done it all. If you look at him just when people decide to pressure him, he’s going to be somewhere in the high 70s in terms of percentage of completions, so that doesn’t faze him. I mean he’s pretty much seen it all.
“They’ve got a great scheme, and they can get the ball to one side or the other. Back to the receivers, even right before the half, here he is he’s scrambling around -- Ole Miss is playing well; they had sacked him three or four times on the drive -- and he escapes out of it and he throws the ball just about the only place you could put it before the safety came over, and they score right before the half.
“So, I think that pretty much sums it up. He’s a very efficient quarterback with very, very capable wide receivers, and I think they are all on the same page and you can tell the timing. Even though Marlon Brown is going to be out, you’ve still got some receivers -- Malcolm Mitchell and (Tavarres) King and some other guys -- that I think are all very, very synchronized and on the same page.”
What is his appreciation for the Auburn-Georgia rivalry… “Just incredible. It’s incredible. That’s why I say that, regardless of what the situation is for either team right now. It’s very important for the other team to go out there and play extremely hard because it’s a game as a little guy, if you grow up wanting to play college football as a little kid, these are the games that you dream of playing in.
“I have got a great appreciation for this rivalry. There are a lot of similarities in the schools, and of course everybody knows the similarities over the last 100 and some odd years between scores and just the results of the game.”
On the impact freshmen in the SEC this season… “I think this is a little bit of a unique year. I think that from the running backs at Georgia to the quarterback at (Texas) A&M to just so many young guys that have come in and played very, very well, I think it goes back to the level of talent that people are recruiting in this league. Pretty much every week you play somebody that has got a young guy that’s contributed and contributed very well; again, I think it just goes back and everybody knows the level of the skill in this league and it’s not just skill. It’s offensive linemen. It’s defensive linemen. I think the level of play and the level of skill from some of these guys coming out of high school in this league talent-wise is why the SEC is what it is.”