Countdown to Kickoff
Coach Mike Shula Press Conference: Auburn Game


Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Coach Mike Shula
Coach Mike Shula

Opening Comments & First Five Questions Transcript


"We all realize how big a game this is, how big a week this is. If any of us has forgotten over the course of the last 15 years, we were quickly reminded when we came to work here and then also this week by a lot of you people. It's an exciting week. My experience as a player, in not knowing and coming from South Florida, it was something that is just hard to describe to anybody else that hasn't been a part of this. It's the biggest game I'll ever prepare for in my career. I think our players are extremely excited about the opportunity for a lot of reasons: because it's our in-state rival; because they want to go out and prove themselves and make up for the way we played last week and move on and end up on a good note in the SEC for our seniors; and build momentum; and have bragging rights going into the off season."

Mike, can you talk about the progression of your offense from having to install it so quickly and then having injuries that have made you have to tweak it throughout the course of the year?

"Probably the bottom line is, hasn't been as consistent as we'd have liked. I think we've flashed and shone some real good things both running the football and throwing the football. And we've been real, real close in some other games, offensively speaking, close coming up with some big plays that could have been a big difference. We've kind of adjusted our offense because of injuries throughout the year. Felt good about what we did for example against Southern Miss where we felt like we had to run it; having Shaud (Williams) have a productive year and doing the things that he's done running the football-wise. Those are all things that we feel like have been positives and things we can build on. The consistency thing and consistency throwing the football are the things that we want to definitely work on and get better at."

Mike, you talk about explaining the game to newcomers. Coming from South Florida and not really knowing, how was it explained to you? And then what do you tell new players as well as they get ready?

"First of all it's a game unlike any other as far as the media attention. It's talked about every day of the year. It seems like that or something's written about the game every day of the year. I guess I can just tell you the guys the things I was taught when I got here (as a player): families split as far as whether or not it's husbands and wives or brothers and sisters or uncles, half Auburn, half Alabama. The amount of pride that the people have when you're on either side--this is witnessing after I got out of school and started coaching and was away from the state coaching---the bragging rights and how the winner of this game, they love to talk about it. And the loser of the game can't wait until next year's game."

Can you talk about how the special teams have progressed this year I guess in all phases?

"I think we got off to a little bit of a slow start. And yet I say that, we did some real good things early with Shaud's (Williams) punt return. I think our coverage teams have gotten progressively better throughout the year. Now last week we did not cover well against some good returners. I think injuries affect that a little bit without sounding like I'm making excuses. I think similar to our offense we haven't been as consistent as we would have liked to be. Those are all things. I think we show signs in all phases of our special teams of being real, real good, we just have to do it more often. I think with (Tyrone) Prothro back there as our kickoff return, he's had some returns that as of late have gotten us some good field position. So there are some things that we've got that we feel good about what we've done. There's a lot of work (to be done) as far as the consistency but I think there's a good nucleus of core players so to speak in that special teams unit that's going to help us hopefully this weekend, next week and then next year."

Mike, what makes Auburn's run defense as good as they are and how do you go about establishing the run considering you're thin at tight end?

"They've got real good personnel. They've got a good size up front. Their front seven are probably the nucleus. There are a lot of good players in that front seven. They've got guys that can run with the football sideline to sideline. They've got inside linebackers that take on lead blocks really well and stuff holes for making it harder for runningbacks to run inside. They've got speed and quickness with their defensive ends. I think that combination more so than maybe some other defenses have made them really good against the run. This team, they like to blitz. Other teams that we've played have blitzed a lot more than this team does but those guys are effective and it starts up front."

Coach, what are you going to do to maybe change up? Last week you didn't have a lot of success in the running game. Is anything going to change scheme wise this week to get back on top?

"Let me give you our game plan...No, we need to be more effective running the football. We realize with Shaud (Williams) being on top there of the SEC as one of the leading rushers, he's got to be a guy that's going to help us win the football game. Now we realize that teams know that and we've got to still be able to run the football. We've got to mix it up. I think the best way to help our running game is to be more effective in the passing game. You're not going to sit there against Auburn and run it 50 times and feel like you're going to have a lot of success or do things that it's going to take to win the football game. You've got to mix it up. You've got to create things as we say each week whether or not it's by different personnel or by formations that are going to help put our guys in position to best do their job. You feel like with Shaud if you just give him a crease here or there or make sure you get guys that as we say, hats on hats, our guys on their guys and let Shaud just go find a hole, that's going to give us a good chance, too, hopefully."