A-Day 2014: Quotes and highlights from Auburn's spring game

John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

Check out some of the big plays and see what players and coaches had to say about the scrimmage.

With A-Day 2014 in the books, it's time for the long, slow trudge through summer before fall practice begins in August. But before that, take a gander at some spring game highlights and quotes, via Auburn Athletics.

Head coach Gus Malzahn

Opening statement...

"What I would like to start out just thanking our fans. It was a great turnout, especially with the weather like it was yesterday and even today. It really means a lot to our coach, staff, and players. For them to come out like they did today. Our emphasis was mainly on throwing the football. That has been one of  our main points offensively, this spring. It was good to see our guys throwing and catching the ball in  front of a crowd. Defensively, we are a little banged up towards the end. Overall, really happy with the spring. I really like where we ended. And I think we got better."

On Nick Marshall's throwing abilities...

"Yes, I am happy at the way he threw the ball. I think he did a good job with his eyes and his progression. He did not put the ball in jeopardy."

On Nick Marshall's leadership...

"Obviously when you are a quarterback, you are already in a leadership role. He earned the respect of his teammates last year, but now he has a chance to go through spring. To take that to the next level. Nick is more a leader by example. He does not say a lot, but when he does they listen. His teammates have a lot of respect for him."

On Nick Marshall from January until now...

"I think the big thing is just being more comfortable. You can see him in the pocket. He is just more under control. His balance is good. His eyes and progression are good. So you can tell that he has really improved."

On D'haquille Williams...

"He is a playmaker, there is no doubt. He can get open. He is a big, long, rangy guy that wants the football. He makes a pretty good target for a quarterback."

On D'haquille Williams and Sammie Coates together...

"We have some veteran guys that have experience that understand our offense. So I feel like that group is improving and of course you add Duke to it along with the younger guys. We have some depth there."

On running game...

"We feel really good about our running game. Probably the first couple of weeks we really focused on getting better up front. Pad-level and working to the second level. Cameron Artis-Payne has had a very good spring as well Corey Grant. Peyton Barber got a little dinged up earlier after a really good run. But all three of those guys have had very solid springs."

On player expectations...

"The veteran guys were what we expected. But some of the younger guys, the freshmen, or the junior college guys coming in, you learn a little bit more about them. But it was good to see them out there flying around. I thought for the most part that our guys played hard. They played with a lot of energy."

On postgame message...

"We feel like we have improved. We have a lot of work to do. They understand that, but I think they have a good idea of the foundation of our offense and our defense. I think they have the tools now to have a summer, work and try to get better and improve by the next time we get together in fall camp."

On coaches spending special time with players...

"You get two hours a week. It will help with your instruction and film and all that. Our coaches are really looking forward to having that ability to do that in the summer that we have not had in the past."

On Jeremy Johnson...

"Jeremy Johnson has had an excellent spring. Throwing the football and just really understanding the offense. Coach Lashlee has given him about 25 percent of our reps with the first group. Today was a little different because we put him on the other side. We are very happy with where he is at in his progression. We feel like he can play for most teams in the country. So we are in really good shape quarterback wise going into next year."

On Daniel Carlson...

"He is a freshman. He is young, but has a big leg. He has had a very good spring. We have put him in pressure situations in practice and has responded well. Him and our punter (Jimmy Hutchinson), those are two guys that get a chance to get in front of a crowd and see how they react. We really feel like both of those guys are talented and the more they get in that situation the better they are going to get. He has a big-time leg."

On Reese Dismukes being out...

"It was just precautionary. We know pretty much what we are getting with Reese. He has a very good spring and he has improved as well."

On offensive line...

"I feel like that will be one of our strengths. We have four starters back and we got two guys that are very familiar with our offense. That should be a strength of ours at least going into fall."

On secondary team...

"If you look at our first-team defense they didn't give up many plays period, much less deep balls. That has been an emphasis trying to keep away from the big play. I think our first-team defense has improved greatly this spring from last fall."

On halftime moment...

"It was a real neat deal. As a coach, I think about the last game a lot. It is good from time to time when you are able to reflect back and think about all the special things that happened during the year. You look around and see your players and they all have smiles on their faces. Great memories. It was a real special moment to be able to hand those rings out in front of the crowd there too."

On Carl Lawson...

"He is one of our leaders. His motors run all the time. He is very coachable. He had an excellent spring."

On the defense...

"We tried to play ones against twos like we did last year. Honestly, I think we are better at this time offensively and defensively with our ones. We kind of mixed and matched. With some guys that played with both groups. I do not read anything into the score. I think it is just a matter of both sides, at least with our ones are better than they were last year at this time. It should be expected."

On receiver improvement...

"I think so. That was part of it. We gave our guys a lot of chances to improve. They are attacking the ball, they are wanting the ball. They are expecting to make a play. I think that is very important."

On Khari Harding...

"You know he is a little banged up. He should be fine in the fall. We got a couple guys that we held out today. We don't think there will be anything that will affect our guys in the fall."

On any players not starting preseason...

"At this point we expect everybody."

On Nick Marshall struggling...

"It was kind of hard. I think that very first play we threw a fade to Ricardo. I can't tell how close it was. But down there on field the wind was swirling and blowing pretty well. So I know it was a deep ball, but I know its effects. I think when they hit that one to Quan right there and he stepped in the pocket, obviously from that point forward he threw the ball extremely well."

On change in summer...

"We got some signees that are very talented that could be in the mix. They will hit the ground running. We've got a veteran group that have a very good understanding offensively and defensively. They should be able to help that young group come in."

Wide receiver Sammie Coates

On the game...

"We did great today but we still have to get better. We have a lot of things that we have to work on."

On Nick Marshall...

"He is playing great right now. He is throwing the ball down the field and he is reading right. If he keeps moving in the right direction we are going to get better behind him."

On moving toward the fall...

"We got better in the spring but we still have a long way to go. We still have to prove a point. We are going to bust our tails to get better."

Quarterback Jeremy Johnson

On Nick Marshall and the receivers...

"They did what we were working on all spring, throwing the ball down the field vertically."

On his own improvement...

"I feel like I did great this spring. I matured more and I have become a better passer. I feel good about the spring."

On the upcoming fall...

"More passing and taking shots and executing like we did today. It's going to be fun."

Defensive back Johnathan Ford

On moving to safety...

"I felt really good. Watching the older guys and just going out there on the field feels really good."

On how comfortable he is at safety...

"I am still progressing each and every day and working harder and doing the best I can do."

Kicker Daniel Carlson

On playing in the stadium for the first time...

"It was good. I hit that 50-yarder which was nice. We had a new holder and it is still coming along. I think it was a good experience. It was good for everybody to get a feel for that. There's a lot of work we need to put in as a unit, and a lot of work I need to put in personally."

On special teams performance throughout the spring...

"We're still improving and getting better every day. We need to keep working and hopefully in the fall it will show."

Linebacker Kenny Flowers

"Thanks to the defense, we're improving a lot including the defensive line and the people behind me. We're all just improving a lot."

On being named defensive MVP...

"It was really exciting. I haven't been much of a factor on the defense last year, but me doing this makes me happy."

On his spring...

"I didn't have too great of a spring. I've been improving and I really didn't see it coming."

On last fall...

"It was a big learning curve coming from junior college and jumping into this. It was a big move and I had a lot of learning to do and mental preparation."

Wide receiver Quan Bray

On offenses improvement during spring practice...

"Definitely. We have a lot of guys that are veterans and go out every day to work on our craft. We're still working on our releases and we just harp on Coach (Dameyune) Craig telling us 'this is your craft.'"

On D'haquille Williams...

"He's going to be a beast definitely. We're going to feed off of him and we're going to feed off of each other to make big plays."

On big plays on offense...

"Once we have something going good we want to stick to it. As Nick (Marshall) came into the offense he got better and better each week. As people can see we have a lot of good players on our side."

Defensive back Jonathon Mincy

On playing in A-Day...

It felt good out there. I didn't compete much, but it was good to see our players out there getting after it."

On his spring...

"Spring was outstanding. Everyone got out there and got better. Everyone was buying into our coaches and taking it just one day at a time."

Running back Corey Grant

On the game...

"We still have some areas to improve on, but overall we have gotten better."

On importance of the passing game...

"Coming in that was our number one focus. Last year, we really focused on the running game, but coming into this game we knew we were going to pass. We knew that when Coach (Malzahn) called a running play we were going to step up and get the job done."

On accomplishing goals this spring...

"Overall, I think I have gotten better and have reached some of my goals. I have gotten more accustomed to the offense. Last year was tough having to come in and learn everything. But after being on the offense for a year, it made coming around this year a lot easier."

Quarterback Nick Marshall

On D'haquille Williams...

"He was great. He can really get on the ball. He is just an awesome kid to have on your team. He is one of those receivers who you just put it in his sight and he will come down with the catch for you."

On his passing game...

"I am a way better passer than last year. I took note of all the little things and what the coaches told me and put it towards my progress. I just focus on putting the ball in a place where my receivers can catch it and make a play on the ball."

On what he has worked on in spring practice...

"We have worked on footwork and keeping my shoulders squared, and just following through on every ball."

On what has changed...

"No, I've been keeping everything the same. I have been working hard on my footwork and getting down pat with my receivers so I won't miss a beat."

Offensive lineman Avery Young

On playing the guard position...

"It is great. The pass blocking is so much easier and laid back compared to going against Carl Lawson and Dee Ford. It wasn't that hard of a transition."

On the running backs...

"All of them did great. I just wish Peyton Barber would have gotten a better chance to show what he's got. He is a great, powerful, skilled running back."

On the focus of the offseason...

"We are just going to stay on top of the weight room. We just have to stay on top of everything so that when the fall comes around we are ready."

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