Top Seven Points Gus Malzahn Covered at SEC Media Days
(photo: John Amis/AP)
SEC Media Days 2018 is in the books. And Gus Malzahn was the first to take the podium on the last day of the event. Here’re the top seven points the Auburn coach addressed on Thursday.
1. Auburn is a hungry team.
Not surprisingly Gus said he wants his 2018 team to take that next step. i.e. get to the College Football Playoff. He said Auburn finished the season as an “almost” CFP team after winning the SEC West before losing to Georgia in the championship game.
He didn’t make any excuses even though Auburn had to play both teams that were in the finals, and one of those twice, in a span of three weeks. Instead Gus said it has made his team hungry. “I really like our team. I like our leaders. There’s nothing like experience in our league,” Malzahn said. “And we experienced some highs, some lows, and, like I said, we were close. I just really sense urgency and a hunger from that group.”
2. Likes a change in a new rule change.
A few weeks ago, Malzahn came out strongly against the new headset rule restricting how many coaches and players can wear a headset on the sidelines and in the box during games. Previously the NCAA rules committee had proposed limiting the number to 20 but now has relaxed the total to 23.
Gus had called the rule change a joke and reiterated Thursday that if it was up to him, it would remain the same as it has always been. [But]”I think it’s better than what it was. “Like I said [before] my biggest concern was being able to function, to be able to coach the game at the highest level … and make adjustments during the game and, probably more importantly, at halftime.”
3. Gus and Nick on the same side of an issue.
Malzahn came out in support of a nine-game SEC schedule that heretofore was only championed by Nick Saban. After being strongly against the idea Malzahn said, “I’ve changed my tune I think Nick has been the only one for it. But I’m to that point I think is best for us moving forward to make the schedules more equal across the conference.”
“Looking at our conference and everything that goes with it: East, West, two new teams added to the league. My big thing,” Gus said, “Is for the equity within the conference, the strength of schedule and trying to be fair.”
Translation: It would solve the “unfair” scheduling problem of Auburn having to play both Georgia and Alabama on the road at the end of the season every other year.
4. Jarrett Stidham to be his first quarterback allowed to do audibles.
Malzahn said he plans to, “turn Jarrett Stidham loose.” The signal caller will be the first quarterback in Malzahn’s 12-year college coaching career to be able to make checks and change plays at the line of scrimmage regularly. This is a big move for Gus. Not even Cam Newton was granted that freedom. But Gus has put his trust in Stidham saying, “He’s ready for it.”
5. Running back position is Kam Martin’s to lose.
In a backhanded compliment, Gus said, “If we played today, Kam Martin would be the first one out there,” But he went onto say, “We’ve got four or five other talented young men. It’s just going to be a matter of who steps up.” He compared the upcoming competition to a couple of years ago when Kam Pettway unexpectedly, “stepped up and did a good job.”
6. Defensive back Jeremiah Dinson will return from injury.
Defensive back Jeremiah Dinson will be “…ready to go full throttle,”said Gus. Dinson is probably Auburn’s best DB, and he will be needed in the lineup when the Tigers face Chris Petersen’s high flying Washington attack in the Kickoff Classic.
7. Why he brought J.B. Grimes back on the coaching staff.
When offensive line coach Herb Hand left for Texas after last season, Malzahn quickly rehired former assistant J.B. Grimes. The reason? He needed someone that he had confidence in to get an O-Line back to championship caliber. “J.B. Grimes is a super teacher,” Malzahn said. “Probably the best teacher of offensive line coaches that I’ve been around.”
On an unrelated note …
There weren’t any jabs between coaches at this year’s Media Days. In fact there was little controversy save for a swipe at new Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruit by two network analysts (one from CBS and one from ESPN). The two former Georgia players said Jeremy Pruitt wasn’t fit to be a head coach.
While I’m no fan of Coach Pruitt, it seems to me that anyone claiming to be a television analyst who derides an opposing coach of a school they used to play for makes themselves look like they are “not fit” to be impartial TV analysts.