“Afternoon all. Nice to see y’all. Ted, again, always a pleasure to see you, sporting that sharp “lid” that you got there. I like that. Play a good quality Auburn team as we go forward. Playing in this conference every week is a great challenge to us.
Really enjoyed Saturday night at Tiger Stadium. Loved the old gold and the stands. I felt like that the crowd was there. We had a nice first half and everybody decided that they would go tailgate some. In any event, the atmosphere of Tiger Stadium to start the game was tremendous.
Our offense got a fast start. I think Danny Etling has done a great job moving the ball around and doing the things we asked him to do. Seven players caught passes, three wide receivers, two fullbacks, two tight ends. Really scored 23 points in the first — in the first stanza and should this offense come to play for 60 minutes we would be happy about it.
Turned the ball over twice and really that led us into some bad field position in the second half. But I’m really proud of how that defense came on the field and played when we needed them.
We had an offensive line that caught cramps and got injured and got knicked, and we had seven different combinations that played in the offensive line for us. We will return everybody to play, most everybody to play for next Saturday. Coach Grimes did a great job, didn’t allow a sack in, again, seven different combinations.
It was nice to see Leonard back, No. 7 is running like he would run. He’ll get nothing but better. I think he’s kinda getting a little of the rust off and looking forward to these series of games that can make a difference. The ankle feels good, apparently, I’m told. There was no swelling. So we are full speed ahead.
Defense, I think it’s exciting. Great speed, fun to watch. They had six sacks against Mississippi State. As a team, Arden Key had two of those sacks, leads the SEC No. 2 in the nation with five overall sacks. Held Mississippi State to 56 yards rushing and held them in check until late in the fourth quarter; and, again, what we want to do is have the offense finish the game there. And, you know, you drive, really in great shape, you drive and finish that drive and go up 30, put 30 on the board, it’s a much different game at that point.
The idea that the defense goes on to the field certainly in the last drive, forces two incomplete passes and gets a sack on fourth down. It’s nice to have them. We would like to have kept them off the field, let them have watched that last bit and controlled the ball in offense. Again, what we do is turn to each phase and each phase has got to step forward and when called upon place to win, and win that game.
Defense got called on last, and they did a great job. And special teams in my opinion, Josh Growden probably had as a most significant night as he could have. He averaged 49 yards per punt, and late in the game he flipped the field with a 61-yarder and that made a stress difference. I enjoyed how he participated in that game. Overall, felt like we improved. I think we’re executing better. I think there is more confidence offensively and I think there’s more enjoyment that the defense goes on the field and we can continue to improve. I like our kickoff team. I think you kick the ball off and you give our guys a chance to go cover. I think that is a fast, aggressive group of guys, and I like the way they play.
Again, I think this football team is improving, but we play a very quality Auburn team. Gus Malzahn is the head coach there. Does a great job in preparing them. Offense leads the conference in rushing at 261 yards per game. They’re fifth in the SEC in total offense at 455. They play two quarterbacks, and they played ’em in all three games. Sean White, 510 yards passing, and the other quarterback rushed for 117 yards and played in all three games.
We had two running backs at Auburn that gained 100 yards per game, a kid named Johnson at 278 and Kamryn Pettway at 275, and a touchdown top receiver, Tony Stevens, 13 receptions, 177 yards and two touchdowns.
Tremendous defense. We know the defensive coordinator there in Steele, Kevin Steele, but they’re allowing 440 yards per game and 149 yards rushing, 251 passing, so — but they’ve seen really two great teams. Clemson’s Deshaun Watson, a great quarterback and A&M’s Trevor Knight transferred in from Oklahoma, again, a great quarterback. So that defense has seen two really quality offenses, and I think our team will look forward to that challenge going to Jordan-Hare Stadium and I think they will look forward to playing at their best, and if they do that, we will like how at present finishes.
Q. Les, how surprised were you when Kevin Steele left last year, and what do you expect against a defense that he runs?
LES MILES: I expect they will be lined up right. I expect that there will be instructed correctly. They’ll not miss tackles. They’re a good football them, and Kevin did a great job for us when he was here.
Q. When he left were you surprised?
LES MILES: I found out — we had just beaten Texas Tech. I was going back to the hotel to get a bite to eat and as I walked in I walked through what was a common area and Kevin called me over and said, “I need to visit with you.” And he said, “I’m going to Auburn.” And I said, “Huh?” So I was relatively shocked! I understood, and I really wish him well.
Q. Coach, this will be Danny Etling’s first game against a road SEC crowd, but him playing in the Big Ten and playing in hostile venues in the Big Ten what does that give him playing in a Big Ten like this?
LES MILES: I think Danny is going to be a mature guy. He’s going to understand what he’s supposed to do. Best thing to do for the road games is to connect with your teammates, connect with your coaches, make sure you are communicating with your partners, your teammates and make sure you are doing your job and you find out after 60 minutes of hard-nosed football, what the score is, and you will like it if in fact you have been able to concentrate and focus on the things you are supposed to do on the field not actually the view of the crowd.
Q. (No microphone.)
LES MILES: Danny is one of the more athletic guys we have on the team. In what was our coaches’ workouts, which is the workout time after recruiting, just before we go to spring ball he was one of the guys that dominated the workouts, from start to finish. He has the ability to move, has a knack for recognizing somebody is coming in there, and he’s got to move out. And I think our guys are doing a really good job of extending plays beyond a scramble motion, sending receivers out on routes and looking for the Danny Etling style of throw. And I think it’s great. I think it’s good for our offense. I think it allows for ad-lib plays that make first downstairs.
Q. In the first half Leonard, got up and looked really agitated, as if something had happened under the pile. Does he let you know if things are going on like that, and if so, how can you prevent that?
LES MILES: You talk to the white hat. He’s responsible for the game, you know, and frankly, you know, making mention of that really general stops it. What happens is Leonard communicates with us if there is anything unusual about being tackled, et cetera, and then we go immediately to the white hats. And then it stops. So it’s just the way it is.
Q. Les, Danny was asked after the game how he spreads the ball around so much to all different position groups, and he said it’s all about reading coverages before the snap. Why is he so good at that time? Is that a pretty big piece that’s been missing for this team in the last couple of years?
LES MILES: Anytime that you’re successful throwing the football, you have — if you have a route concept the design is to attack it on both sides of the field and at least one side of the field deeply, okay? So if he can read route concept and get a check down or go to where the ball is supposed to be open, it just means it’s easy to get the ball to a number of guys because that’s just it is way you run the — you design route scheme.
I think that every quarterback or any completed ball, generally speaking, unless you’re forcing into coverage and have just an unusual receiver that can defy the odds and make those catches. I think it’s the only way to do it. I think every completion, generally speaking, is a quarterback that’s read it pretty well.
Q. Coach, over the years going to Auburn has never been easy, even in 2012 I think they were 0-8 in the SEC and it was a 12-10 game. What makes that venue so tough? Is it the crowd noise that you deal with?
LES MILES: There is crowd noise, certainly, but I think they’re a good football team. They have recruited well for years, and I think you will find that the guys that are carrying the ball for them and that are playing defense. They’re specialists. They’re all a quality team. Quality, talented guys.
Q. Les, how does Jeff Grimes go about getting all those guys ready in the offensive line to do the mixing and matching and changing positions as he had to do last week in the game?
LES MILES: Well, thank goodness he’s worked that through what would be our practice weeks so our guys can kind of anticipate where they were going. So to this point all those combinations had been seen by Coach Grimes and moved guys in positions to play to help us. I think there is some camaraderie about that group. I think they’re a very — I think they committed to each other, and I think that makes moving into other spots a little bit more comfortable. A guy that’s too rigid about where he plays, you know, he’s not really thinking about what the team is, and I think they’re a great group of guys that have team first!
Q. Looking back at the tape, Kevin Toliver, did he get picked on a little bit? How can he improve his defense?
LES MILES: I don’t know that he got picked on, to be honest with you. But I think he certainly can improve. He’s been a starter since he was a freshman and with each game he ads experience to what he’s already gained. I think Kevin is going to be a good corner for us, for years.
Q. Have you named Etling as the starting quarterback for the rest of the season going forward? Was that made official? Was that not needed?
LES MILES: What we’re going to do is we’re going to let Danny take the next snaps and continue his path and hope that he continues to improve and at some point in time down the road we’re going to look around and say boy that quarterback play that we got was great.
Q. With that being said, should he be worried that if he makes a mistake, he will get pulled?
LES MILES: No.
Q. Coach, you expect all offensive linemen to be back at practice today even Weathersby?
LES MILES: I don’t know about practice today. I think a couple of those guys may need a day off.
Q. Was Weathersby the worst of the injuries?
LES MILES: I’m not allowed to talk about the injuries. You know that, right?
Q. The —
LES MILES: Homeland Security has told me it’s not a thing I can do.
Q. Y’all played more 4-3 than 3-4. Was that the opponent, or do you think Aranda is going to stick with that more?
LES MILES: It’s a way to get certain personnel on the field and that’s the — that’s just kind of the — you’ll find that we will use in all situations a 3-4 base, but we like a certain, you know, personnel group or a match-up, and we will make a call there and it will look like a 4-3.
Q. I heard on the radio this morning and noticed that the offensive linemen, most of them weren’t wearing knee braces on Saturday. Is that their decision? Did that have any affect on the injuries from Saturday? Seemed like there were a lot.
LES MILES: I don’t think — I think shoulders have nothing to do with knee braces, and cramps have nothing to do with knee braces and I think that there’s probably some evidence with studies out there that say that the knee brace as worn in a game is relatively negligent. I believe on offensive linemen with the one exception which would be a medial collateral ligament. It is their decision. If they feel healthy, if they’re — unless, of course, certainly they have medical considerations or limitations and then we’re going to put a knee brace on them for that.
Again, what happens is, knee brace for the right guy is a tremendous — you use it well, and for the wrong guy it slows him up and makes him more susceptible to ankles and other injuries. Again, there’s a number of studies that are out and I mean to the tune of five that talk about knee braces and the percentage being not necessarily 100% everybody should have knee braces on.
Q. How much of D.J. Chark’s performance do you attribute to him and Danny having rapport for practicing together for over a year?
LES MILES: I think Dameyune Craig has done a really great job with those wide receivers and I think they have an aggressive, more confident demeanor. I think D.J. has really had, you know, some times where he had put himself in position to get a lot of playing time and I think now he’s making it count.
I think Danny enjoys all of our wide receivers and certainly those guys that get open. I don’t know if it’s just the rapport that he has with Danny. It’s just the fact that D.J. is getting a lot better and continues to, and Danny is going to use all the weapons that he can gather to move the football.
Q. You touched on Growden early. Is punting just a flukey thing and you mishit some of them and now what we’re seeing now is what you’ve seen most of the time, or did he change his game day delivery?
LES MILES: I think he’s consistent with us. When he hits a ball well, he hits a ball well the same way, and I think he’s just trying to be consistent. So that, you know, he can do the things that he did last Saturday. The 61-yard punt in a timely fashion was — that was just what we needed.
Q. On the fumbles, it looked like the ball was forced out or jerked out. Will that be addressed or will you say let it and not be too self-conscious about sharing the ball?
LES MILES: Here is what we do. We address all those things, but we really talk about ball security. We talk about how you hold the ball, how it’s covered, how the elbow pins against your body so that there is nothing from the backside to see, and when you get into a crowd the secondhand comes over the top. We talk about it all the time. This is not ball security. This with the elbow in and really seven points of pressure right here is ball security. Everybody carries the ball that way, and I want you to know one of the guys who has the finest ball security, when not Rusty is Leonard Fournette. We teach it every day. It’s not something that goes untaught. It’s really on our practice schedule every day. So I think you will find that we’re working on it right away.
- What do you think one of the biggest challenges the team faces this weekend against Auburn?
LES MILES: Again, I think, you know, Kevin Steele has a very good knack with defense. I think he’s certainly a challenge. I think the players that play defense for them are talented. I think offensively they have a nice scheme and that will be a challenge to our defense. I think our defensive speed certainly will be there in force. I think special teams are going to be a great match-up. It’s going to be — it’s more than one piece. It’s going to take quality effort and to do so on the road, can’t wait!Q. You mentioned the pregame environment with the crowd. Do you guys as competitors and you on the field notice the crowd thinning out within the game? Does that have an affect on how your guys perform?
LES MILES: I don’t think so. I think that there is an intrinsic value with victory on this football team and our guys. I think there is some style points. In other words, finish the game well, and I think there is a want for our team to do that, and I think we’re going to play extremely hard, irrespective.
Now, you know, on the — the people that left, we would encourage them to stay because when they stay they make a lot more noise and the opportunity — I did notice several of our guys say, “Bring some noise.” We would like to have some support, and we felt like the stadium at that point was not manned as well as it could have been.
But, again, I recognize, hey, listen, Tigers are up 20. Go ahead and finish this thing and let’s call it a day. Sometimes it doesn’t happen quite that effectively and you would like to have that crowd right in their seats making a lot of noise.
Q. You mentioned Dameyune Craig. Has he shared any thoughts with you about going up against where he played? Can you imagine coaching against Michigan?
LES MILES: The only thing I know he enjoyed his time there, loves the place and has great friends. It’s one of those moments, you know, walk on to the field.
Q. Les, to follow-up on Glenn’s question about the 4-3, Arden has been productive with his hand in the ground and he talked last week about how much he enjoys being able to rush the passer out of that 3-point stance. Has that influenced when you guys do? Obviously he’s a good protective pass rusher and if he likes doing it, does that influence that?
LES MILES: We like him doing it! We’re encouraged that he enjoyed it. It’s one of the things that you recruited him for, so we’ll look forward to giving him that opportunity. I think if you went back and saw the number of places that he rushed from, I think you could see that there’s an opportunity there for him to really show his skill. We’re for that.
Q. It seems like a pretty distinct possibility that they will play a quarterback with a different skill set than the one they’ve been playing. When you guys are preparing for that how much of a hindrance is it when they are so different?
LES MILES: You know, I think the Auburn offense has a wide scope and I think what you will do is you will prepare for some of the things that some of these other quarterbacks that have come through have done and certainly the things that he’s done this year are the kind of things that his players know. In other words, they prepared for three games, this style of offense, and these style of plays. And the experience is there.
So I just can’t imagine that they will change scheme widely. I think, again, they have enough to call for. So you’re going to have to prepare a quality game plan as it is. I don’t know that they’re going to change drastically at this point. There are some players that know the plays right now.