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Not that I would every criticize the media members, but some of the questions....if not all of the questions....that Coach Malzahn fielded in his time at SEC Media days were atrocious, and for different reasons. Lot's of questions about satellite camps. One guy asked every coach about their thoughts on cost of attendance. Very little football related questions were asked. And, those that were, were softballs.
I can't really be too harsh on the media. It's not like Gus would have answered any questions with substance. We all thought that Chizik gave the worst interviews, but Gus is right on up there. I can pretty much sum up his answers to any and all questions:
"We want to get out edge back."
"The future is bright."
"XXX is a guy we are really excited about. He's done some things in practice."
So, let's pretend that I was able to sit coach down and ask a few questions. Whether or not he would answer them isn't up to me, but at least it would make us all think. Who knows...maybe he would give us a nugget.
1) Coach, so much has been made of the historically bad defense that was fielded in 2014. A lot of people point fingers at one unit or the other and most people question the overall talent on defense. But there a few things that make me really point the finger back at the coaching staff because I can't buy a "lack of talent." On the 2014 unit, you had two defensive tackles (Wright/Blackson) who ended up getting drafted. You had both linebackers who could have been drafted or made an NFL roster (and will do so in 2016). You had a secondary with at least SOME NFL-type talent on it (Jones). In 2013, Therezie looked like an NFL player(but he all but disappeared in 2014, which is a question in and of itself). Yet, this unit couldn't stop a runny nose for half a season. Why? I know that's a nebulous question, but I am really interested to understand the particulars of the situation, specifically when you first knew it was an issue and what you tried to do to correct it.
2) Speaking of the defense, the secondary is and has been hammered by media the last few years, specifically people who supposedly know a lot about the game and how it works. It's true that the secondary has been a weak spot since Tuberville left. But, this group seems to be on the receiving end even heavier than previous units. They (the media) seem to think Auburn will have the pass rush it missed in 2014 with Lawson back. The linebackers are both on watch lists. But, the secondary is the liability. People don't seem to understand what a lack of a pass rush does to a secondary. It is fairly amazing that despite the ridiculous number of downfield passes that were forced upon them, the secondary tied for the most interceptions with Ole Miss, a team whose secondary was worshiped by the media.
Enter the 2015 secondary who features terrific transfers from Michigan and UGA. Throw in Jones, who is a preseason All-SEC guy. I look at it and I don't see a weak secondary in 2015. In fact, I see the strongest secondary that Auburn has fielded since the last days of Muschamp. Why are people so down on these guys? What were your thoughts about these guys as the 2014 season closed out?
3) What are the realistic expectations for Johnson? I mean, in terms of actual numbers? Obviously a first 3,000 yard single season passer has to be a goal. Cam had 30 passing TDs. Can Johnson match that? We recognize that Johnson is a first year starter and that there may be unreasonable expectations from him, considering the overall lack of experience and turnover of personnel. Still, there have to be goals that are written down. What are they?
4) Piggybacking on that last question, in your time with Auburn, no Gus QB has thrown more than 330 times in a season. To get to 3,000, that's the kind of attempts that you are going to need, bare minimum. That averages to about 24 passes per game. Your two best passers at Auburn were Chris Todd and Cam Newton. Extrapolating from the numbers of those two QBs, we assume a 65% completion and a 9 yard per completion average, assuming you get 14 games. Obviously, you had a strong run game with both of those QBs and you didn't need a high volume passing game. Both had Darvin Adams, who was one of the best deep threats in the game. Looks to me that you need that deep threat. You need that guy who can make 50/50 balls really 50%. Is that guy on the field? It isn't Duke Williams. Louis is not a 50/50 guy. Who could it be?
5) A few weeks ago, I wrote an article about who the real winner in Auburn's backfield will be after the season gets under way.
Alabama has utilized a very unique system the last few years where two similar backs with slightly different skillsets have competed for carries, specifically 1st and 2nd down and 3rd and short. However, it was that 3rd and long back, that shifty guy who can catch the ball out of the backfield, who has been the sole piece to breaking open big games. When Lacy and Henry were together, it was Yeldon (who won the game in 2012 against LSU). When it was Henry and Yeldon, it was Drake. That hasn't been your approach, but this year looks strikingly similar. You have two backs who are 2 down backs for sure, in Barber and Robinson. Yet it is Thomas who has that unique skillset that doesn't match up. Will you copy Alabama's approach to using him? Or will he end up buried on the depth chart like many backs before him? We all know that you are a run-first offense, despite what other people say. And, you like to run between the tackles. While Thomas CAN do that, he isn't going to be as good as the other two. What are your real plans for him?
As a follow on, A lot of people see Thomas filling the position of the speedback. But he looks to be so much more talented than the previous two (McCalebb/Grant). Yet, in the past, these guys all but disappear in the back half of each season. Literally, every single season, their carries dwindled to nothing down the stretch. Why?