Auburn’s cadre of Gus Malzahn, Derrick Brown, Marlon Davidson, and Prince Tega Wanogho arrived at the Wynfrey Hotel for the final day of SEC Media Days this morning, and while nothing super groundbreaking was made known, there were some interesting tidbits nonetheless.
If you recall, during bowl preparations and after the supposed move to replace Gus as head coach of the football team, the head man got a little... uh... fiesty at times. He became cocky Gus, Swaggy G, Arthur Gustavo if you will, and it paid off in the Music City Bowl as Auburn set record after record in the obliteration of Purdue.
Maybe he knows something that we don’t know. Maybe he sees the ghost of Cameron Jerrell Newton in Joey Gatewood’s eyes and knows that #Greatwood is destined for something huge. Maybe he sees the senior leadership in the trenches on both sides of the ball. Maybe he sees the schedule with key home games dotting the landscape of a slate that’ll never be easy. This quote says a lot about being more self-aware than people have given him credit for recently:
“I’ve got a job that expects to win championships, and I expect to win championships,” Malzahn said. “I knew that when I signed up for it. In the years that we win championships, it’s good. The years we don’t, it’s hot seat this, hot seat that. ... We expect to win championships. I’m very excited about this year.”
Either way, Gus has broken out of his shell a little bit. Maybe he’s pissed off. Maybe he’s mad at himself for giving up the playcalling. He was the guy making the calls during the hugely-successful early run of his time at Auburn, and he took over again against Purdue. The result? 63 points.
See: Swaggy G.
Let’s dive in to what he had to say in front of the press today...
First question comes in regard to facing one of the toughest schedules in the country without having the quarterback battle settled.
Gus says that we’ve had to play the toughest schedule in the country pretty much every year, but that he hasn’t gotten too much into the actual starting QB yet because we have a chance to be really good around him, whoever he is. Thankfully there’s room to learn at the start of the year provided the Tigers can get by Oregon.
We get a question about not beating LSU in Baton Rouge since 1999 almost right off the bat.
And Gus refers to the 2017 game, which was one of the most heartbreaking losses that he’s experienced. Then he talks about last year. Both of those losses were ones wherein Auburn held a double-digit lead before LSU made a comeback. Personally, a win over the Bayou Bengals in Baton Rouge to break that ridiculous losing streak would go a long way for Gus to keep his spot even if we didn’t beat some of the biggies down the stretch.
Does it invigorate you going back to your roots in calling plays, and what’s the back story about reaching that decision to take over the responsibility?
Gus mentions that he’s been calling plays his whole life, but bad advice led him to relinquish control. Once Chip Lindsey left, Gus pretty much took the mantra of “IF YOU WANT IT DONE RIGHT, YOU GOTTA DO IT YOURSELF” as he got back into the groove and got back to being himself.
Someone wants to follow up about a new offensive coordinator, asking about Kenny Dillingham.
Gus needed to find someone who had a similar philosophy when it came to offense that he did, and Dilly was in the same situation advising a play-calling head coach in Mike Norvell at Memphis, so the fit was perfect.
Now we get a question about comparing Gatewood and Bo Nix and how the offense will change when each is out there.
Apparently there’s not much difference (at least publicly) at this time in their skill sets. Both can run, and both can extend plays, and Gus mentions that it’s always easier calling plays for a running threat. Now, based on what happened in 2010 and 2013, when Gus had his only two true dual-threat guys, it took a few games to warm up into what really became the offense. This year we’ve even got a bit of a quarterback controversy, so I’m very interested to see exactly what happens if Gus’ play-calling isn’t quite in the groove yet and we don’t get to see the offense that complements one quarterbacks skill to the highest potential.
Linebackers are being replaced, but we have seven starters back on defense.
Gus talks about the defensive line first and how good they’ll be, and that the linebackers aren’t going to experience a ton of drop-off thanks to guys playing some in relief last year and having good springs. There’s also a chance to have the best defense he’s had since his time at Auburn. This is a sentiment I can get behind. All we need to see is pretty solid play from the linebackers and this unit is going to be tough to move on. The defensive line will eat nearly everyone on the schedule, and there’s experience in the back end with speed to burn.
Next we get a question about the improvement of the running game.
Here’s an area where Auburn simply wasn’t great last year, due in large part to injuries and inexperience on the offensive line. However, Gus turns it around and talks about how throwing the football down the field — no more screen passes :-( — is an important element of what they want to do. He points to the bowl game again as evidence. In 2017, the deep ball was a huge part of the offense, and it was a backbreaker in many of the wins. We didn’t see it much last year with any success, Get back to the long ball and we’ll be a force.
Now we have a question about tuning out the external noise.
Gus talks about the leadership and experience that guys don’t allow that kind of stuff to happen.
Here’s a Kevin Steele question about how his relationship with the defense encouraged guys to come back for another year.
Gus tells the assembled media that the big idea behind Brown and others coming back was unfinished business and getting degrees. He does say that the core of the team is rooted in the group that decided to come back and eschew the NFL. You don’t come back just to play another year, but to have a successful season.
Any rising players that are becoming leaders on and off the field?
Auburn hasn’t had any real off-field issues in quite some time, and Gus says that there’s a good group of leaders, especially seniors and guys that have taken starting jobs already.
Any time table for naming a starting quarterback?
Not really. This ain’t Jarrett Stidham in 2017 when everyone knew that he would start.
Quarterbacks football IQ? How does Bo Nix compare being so young?
Everyone is hungry to learn, and there’s a healthy relationship between Bo and Joey. They’re both desperate to be the best they can be, but whichever one starts against Oregon won’t have any college football experience. That’s why it’s important to have the support around the quarterback position.
In other statements, Gus made sure to note that everyone was running some form of the HUNH that he popularized over a decade ago. Even teams that poo-pooed those that wanted to go quicker in the past made changes and are implementing hurry-up techniques. We’re basically one step away from Gus foregoing “Bullcrap” as his go-to curse, and slapping Nick Saban with a string of profanity that would make Will Muschamp blush.
I'm not sure anyone is catching this stuff, but Gus is firing some shots at people during this press conference. Just mentioned hurry-up offenses and how teams even with "health issues" now run it.— Brandon Marcello (@bmarcello) July 18, 2019
Elsewhere, everyone from this latest recruiting haul is on campus, including grad transfers from Youngstown State and Arizona State —
Auburn HC Gus Malzahn told local media earlier that Youngstown State transfer WR Zach Farrar will report today + OL signee Kamaar Bell arrived earlier this week. Arizona State HB/TE transfer Jay Jay Wilson has been on campus for "a month or two."— Justin Ferguson (@JFergusonAU) July 18, 2019
Auburn's incoming class is set.
Stay tuned here for a depth chart look, courtesy of AU Nerd, because the first string can play with anyone in the country. We need to know how depth is going to be established during fall camp before we can predict some really special things for this team.
To finish up, we got one piece of nice news that’ll help to put the Tigers on the map if they can take care of business against Oregon in Arlington.
It’ll be the 19th time that College Gameday has been present for an Auburn game, with the last one coming in 2017 for the Iron Bowl — you know, the “Kick Ass”. Let’s get more of that in about six weeks.