Auburn vs Arkansas Coachspeak: The Week in Quotes


Jan 6, 2014; Pasadena, CA, USA; Auburn Tigers head coach Gus Malzahn during the second half of the 2014 BCS National Championship game against the Florida State Seminoles at the Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Every game week Friday, we will recap the events leading up to kickoff with quotes from the coaching staffs of both teams. However, the Tigers and Razorbacks have been preparing for each other all off-season, so this edition of Coachspeak includes more that just seven days’ worth of dialogue.

So, Before we turn to tomorrow’s matchup, let’s take one last look at the week we’ve had, through the words of Gus Malzahn, Bret Bielema, and others from Auburn and Arkansas.

Note: All quotes are taken from press conferences or radio shows, unless otherwise noted.


Gus Malzahn, on the first practices preparing for Arkansas:

“Slowly starting to put in our game plan for our first opponent, but we’re still focusing on basic fundamentals. Just really trying to get good at what we do. First games are always about adjustments and it usually comes back to doing what you do well.”

Malzahn, on preparing for the first game of the season:

“The first game, no matter whether it’s this one or other years, there’s always a feeling-out time. There’s usually wrinkles that you have to adjust to. First games are usually about adjustments.”

“We’re going to do what we do. And we’re going to hopefully get a feel for them earlier in the game rather than later and try to take what they give us.

Auburn defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson on preparing for Arkansas’ Offense:

“They’re going to give us some formations we have not seen. You would say that sounds simple, but when you put in two tight end wing sets and our players have not seen them all through spring and (preseason) camp, that’s another adjustment.”

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“If you go back 15, 20 years, there were a lot of people who were more like Arkansas. A lot more people are running a spread attitude, and a mobile quarterback and zone-read options and all of that type of thing, more three-wides on the field constantly.”

“Sometimes they’ve got one-wide or maybe two, with big tight ends and fullbacks,” Johnson said. “It’s an adjustment, as we said earlier, from the standpoint of lining up, and it’s an adjustment from the standpoint of complexion of the offense.”

“It was partly our guys playing in the first year in the system, and then the unorthodox formations. The biggest thing, we’ve harped on it with our players, to play good against these guys, you’ve got to get lined up right, you’ve got to get adjusted to all the formations, you’ve got to fit the run and you’ve got to tackle well because they’ve got backs that really run hard.”

Malzahn, on how quarterbacks Nick Marshall and Jeremy Johnson will be used during the game on Saturday:

“We have a plan, and they know the plan. Me and Coach Lashlee and the rest of the guys know it.”

Malzahn, on Robenson Therezie’s status for Saturday:

“I don’t know, but we just didn’t feel like we needed to put him on there until we have a better idea,”

Malzahn, on Auburn’s running backs:

“We’ve got four guys that can run, and all four can take it to the house.”

Apr 19, 2014; Auburn, AL, USA; Auburn Tigers defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson reacts to a play during the second half of the A-Day spring game at Jordan Hare Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

Malzahn, on the Arkansas running backs:

“All three of them are extremely talented. They probably have one of the deeper backfields in our conference.”

Malzahn, on facing Bielema’s Razorbacks in week one:

“I think you’ve got to be prepared for everything. He’s a very good coach; look at his track record. He’s always been fairly aggressive. … They were very aggressive in special teams last year.”

Malzahn, on Arkansas’ special teams:

“The kicking game last year, they were very aggressive. We expect them to do the same thing this first game.”

Malzahn, on preparing for a game:

“You’ve got to be prepared for all types of situations, not just in the kicking game, but also on defense. It’s not just because we’re playing them. I think that usually holds true for any game, but the fact that they took a lot of chances last year, we’ve got to be prepared.”

Malzahn, on the way the Tigers practiced leading up to the game:

“I thought our guys were out there focused, trying to get better. I thought our attitude was real good. I didn’t see any lackadaisical stuff or anything like that. That was encouraging, that we had guys wanting to practice.”

Malzahn, on Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema:

“I’ve got a lot of respect for Coach. He coaches his program, and I coach mine.”


Bielema, on Malzahn:

“Again, like I said at SEC Media Days, I don’t know that here’s a guy, we’re calling each other up, going to dinner, breaking bread, but I don’t have any ill will, don’t have any malice. We’re two totally different kind of people, probably, in certain regards, but also two very similar people when you look at the details of what we believe in.”

Bielema, on the new Razorbacks’ defense:

“I couldn’t be more pleased with what defensive coordinator Robb Smith, defensive backs coach Clay Jennings, defensive line coach Rory Segrest and linebackers coach Randy Shannon have done. Those guys together I think have been very engaged on how to make Arkansas better. With the three new guys that I brought in, the details of their coaching shows up.

“Robb is always quoted saying, ‘the devil’s in the details,’ and these guys are very detail oriented. It’s going to be a tough matchup, going out of the gate you’re going against one of the most proficient offenses in 2013 – but 2013 was 2013. Whatever shows up in the backfield, and whatever person lines up on the field, we’ve just got to roll with it and make the best of the situation. What I’m excited about is our depth chart in particular and the consistency we’ve had over the last 10 days of preparation. We know who’s lining up, we don’t have any suspensions, we don’t have anything hanging over us.”

Arkansas defensive coordinator Robb Smith on last week’s visit from his former boss Greg Schiano:

“He’s bouncing around here. He’s a football junkie. It’s great to have him around us a little bit and just get an extra set of eyes on things is always good.”

Smith, on preparing for Auburn

Nov 23, 2013; Little Rock, AR, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks head coach Bret Bielema reacts during the game against the Mississippi State Bulldogs during the second half at War Memorial Stadium. Mississippi State Bulldogs beat Arkansas Razorbacks 24 – 17. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

“In order for the things we need to do we have to be very disciplined in our approach. We’ve got to make sure we’re taking away the dive by the quarterback, any throw off of that.”

“We’re spending a lot of time in the film room making sure we understand our system and how we need to operate.”

“They play with great tempo. They can run the football. They have great speed on the perimeter. They’re a great offense and that presents a great challenge. They can stretch you vertically and you try to gear in and stop the run, stop the run, all of a sudden they take a shot deep down the field on you. We’ve got to play great assignment football and be prepared to be challenged on every play.”

“They’re a challenge. They can threaten you in a lot of ways. I think they’re very good upfront. No matter who is playing quarterback they’re going to be effective. They can run the football and have great speed and athleticism on the perimeter so we’re going to have to defend all areas of the field.”

Malzahn, on preparing for Arkansas’ new defensive coordinator:

“I think there’s going to be some similarities. He’s a very good defensive coordinator. He’s very sound. You just do the best you can on predicting about how they’re going to play you.”

Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee, on the new Razorbacks’ DC:

“The first game of the year, especially when your opponent has a new coordinator, that’s always hard. You have an idea of what you think people will do, but you really don’t know.”

Bielema, on opening the season with an SEC contest against Auburn:

“I always used to sit at a conference from afar and look down here where these guys are playing each other early on. I thought it was a great thing. I think it allows you to focus early on and with the time of the schedule, against the defending SEC Champions.

They’ve got players offensively. I don’t know how long their quarterback’s not going to be in there, but their second-string quarterback is a very good player. Who knows how long the second-string corner is going to be in there, and their second-string corner is a good player. Who knows if the safety’s going to play. There’s a lot of unknown things but what matters is the 11 guys who are going to suit up for Auburn are going to be well coached.”

Bielema, on the Razorbacks’ history at Jordan-Hare Stadium:

“It jumped out to me a year ago when I saw the statistics, obviously. To have the traveling record over there, I think it’s a good indicator that sometimes past history is one of the best things you can predict the future with, so I’m excited about sharing that with our guys.”

Malzahn, on Auburn’s history against Arkansas:

“They definitely have had success. The thing about it is each year is definitely new and it’s different. We played very good at home last year, so we’re hoping the same thing will happen this year.”

Lashlee, on the “rivalry” between Bielema and Malzahn:

Apr 19, 2014; Auburn, AL, USA; Auburn Tigers offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee calls a play during the first half of the A-Day spring game at Jordan Hare Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

“All that other stuff is good for storylines, because I know for y’all, six or seven months in advance, you’ve got to find things to talk about. At the end of the day, we’re both playing our first conference game and both of us want to be 1-0. All that other stuff doesn’t matter unless it affects you on the field — them executing a play or us executing a play.”

Lashlee, on his relationship with Arkansas defensive line coach Rory Segrest:

“We’re all professionals, and at the end of the day, I’m a part of the Auburn family, I represent Auburn, and I’m trying to do everything I can to represent Auburn and myself.

Rory is the same way over there at Arkansas, but other than for those three or four hours we’re competing on Saturday, we’ll shoot texts, call whatever — just probably not as much this week.”

Bielema, on nerves for Saturday:

“The only thing you can control is the controllables.  When I walk in the room, I feel bad for the other guy.  I think that’s the way you have to act as a person.  We’re confident in what we’re doing and a lot of people are talking about what we’re not going to do.  For us at Arkansas, we have to think about what we’re going to do and concentrate on that.”

Smith, on anticipation for Saturday’s game against Auburn:

“There’s a little unknown there, but I feel really good about the way our guys have prepared. I know they’re anxious to get out on the field and play a football game. It’s going to be our first time doing it together but it is what it is. We have to be ready to go and hit the ground running when the ball is kicked off.”

Arkansas offensive coordinator Jim Chaney on Auburn’s coaching staff and team:

“I think Coach Johnson is a very talented coordinator. They’re schematically solid, they don’t make mistakes, they play very hard and they have a lot of athletic ability and talent. A team that’s accustomed to winning games – that, above all else is, what you’re dealing with.”

Malzahn, on preparations for possible bad weather Saturday:

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  • “The big thing when it’s raining is to keep your hands as dry as you can (and) keep the balls dry. We have worked with wet balls in all phases and we’ll do the same thing this week.”

    “There’s nothing better than experience and the fact that we went through a couple of those situations last year in the rain, the guys know how to handle it better, I would assume, this second time. But Coach Lashlee and (special teams) Coach Fountain, our specialists and everybody that handles the ball work extremely hard with wet balls and those types of deals.”

    Bielema, on preparations for possible bad weather Saturday:

    “We don’t have any say in that. I think we’re prepared for that. Going back to fall camp, we had wet balls. We threw a ton of those in yesterday’s practice and we will again today. Our players understand the concepts behind that, but whenever it is, we just want to be at our best Saturday and give an opportunity to showcase where we’ve grown.”