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Transcript of Opening Comments and 1st Five Questions
"As I said to most of y'all yesterday, I think the biggest thing for this game for our players is the ability to focus in on their preparation. There is a lot more attention from the media. There's a lot more things going on; it's going to be talked about more in the classrooms and when they call home to their families and to their friends, and maybe a little more time taken away from there normal routine and one of the biggest games of the year for us. So the ability to focus and to maybe spend a little time on their own with the extra preparation and take that preparation and utilize it on Saturday the best way they can is going to be our focus. If our guys can do that collectively, that's going to give us the best chance to win.
"Auburn is playing as well as any team in the country, is very talented; well-coached; is playing with a lot of confidence right now. I think it's going to be important for our players to play with a lot of confidence. To do that you've got to have a good week of preparation."
Can you talk about how Auburn has been so good this year at taking teams out of the game early?
"They've done a nice job scoring early and I think their defense plays well with a lead as most defenses do. Their defense is built around speed. They're fast flow; their front four is fast. Their linebackers get to the ball quickly. Their safeties play a variety of coverages where they are asked to do a lot actually. They are asked to come up and support the run and then also play the pass, and they've got that kind of ability to do that. Their corners are real good cover corners and also tackle, so when you get a defense that has a lead, they can maybe do a little more things and get after the passer a little.
"Offensively they've done a real nice job utilizing their personnel and mixing things up, sometimes showing you something early in a game that you haven't seen in the tapes that you've watched prior. And when they've had the opportunity to make a play, they've made it."
Can you give us an update on Spencer (Pennington) and Le'Ron (McClain)?
"They're both getting better. They'll both practice today and be limited but as of right now we expect them both to play."
As a follow-up, with all the injuries, especially in the offense, how has that changed how you prepare in practice?
"Last week we went to not practicing in pads. That's one way it changed. Practice is a little bit shorter now than it was earlier in the year, not much, but we spent probably a little more time with some early practice walk-throughs and going over assignments on the field. Especially with younger guys doing it or guys that weren't our starters earlier, sometimes the best way that they learn is not necessarily by watching tape--which they'll learn from--but a better way would be just walking through it where they'll physically kind of get that rep even though it's a walk-through rep. But they get that. So those are some of the things that we're doing, and then monitoring guys that have been beat up a little bit so they're not practicing maybe as much as they would have earlier in the year."
In watching tape of all of Auburn's games this season, is there anything that you have seen that maybe will present some opportunities to do some things both offensively and defensively? Do you see some things maybe you can do or is it pretty much they've played pretty flawlessly?
"They're solid. The last two weeks with LSU and Auburn, we're playing against teams that are very talented and can do a variety of things but the bottom line is they are very sound in all three phases. And I think that's why they've had the success that they've had. They haven't asked their guys to do too much; they've gone out and let them play. And they've also catered to the abilities of their players in all three systems. I know they have the ability to do more, whether or not it's blitzing or offensively probably even more--they threw the halfback pass a couple of times already this year and things like that. I'm sure they've got even more stuff than what people have seen, but they've been real, real good at the stuff that's really sound for them. They probably haven't had to use it."
Because of some of the circumstances that went with the LSU game, has that been a hard game to put behind you, or does the fact that this is the Auburn game sort of take care of all that?
"Yes. I think the fact that it's Auburn probably has made it much easier to get out of our minds for sure with all of our players. I said the other night our players, on both teams, they all know each other--most of them know each other. They've already started talking about that. That's usually the first thing that the players start talking about is you get the players on the other team. I think because of that it's been (easier to move forward), but, yeah, last week was a tough one to swallow, especially the way the game went. But that's how it goes. You've got to move on. And I think it's easier to do that knowing you're going to play your in-state rival the next week."