Gus Malzahn: Offensive line continuity ‘critical’ this week — ‘I think you’ll see improvement’
Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn emphasized his team’s continued development on both sides of the ball at his Tuesday press conference.
Entering the fourth week of the season, Malzahn thinks each game has been valuable for his team’s improvement.
“Our goal is to get a little better each week,” he stated. “If we do that, we think that we think we’ll have a chance to be in the mix at the end. There’s not going to be a whole lot of teams to improve especially under these unusual circumstances this year.”
One of the ways Malzahn and his staff have sought to fuel that development is through more padded practices, even on Sundays.
While pointing out it has been helpful to all position groups, Malzahn mentioned a particular point of emphasis in the padded practices was adding depth along the line of scrimmage.
“Trying to get those younger guys, all of them up front, and then our two junior college players and our two junior college players on the offensive line, too, to get them more reps,” he explained. “We’ve got a couple freshman on the offensive line that we feel like just needs more reps, too. Getting those guys developed for depth.”
He has found what he has seen on tape to be encouraging, as well.
“That’s been part of the process and our plan and develop more depth and get our guys ready,” said Malzahn. “You can see improvement even watching the film Sunday night after we went 16 plays or something you can see a couple guys starting to take that next step.”
After three games, the Tigers have scored five touchdowns on 10 red zone trips, but Malzahn hopes to see better offensive production across the board.
“Chad [Morris] is learning a lot about his guys,” Malzahn advised. “He’s got three games under his belt. Just like anything else, the offense will continue to improve each week, not just in red zone but third down and first down and all that. That’s the goal.”
Malzahn addressed the current construction of the offensive line, which has struggled at times this season. He indicated the mixing and matching of linemen caused by some injuries has been at the root of the problems.
He highlighted offensive tackle Austin Troxell’s being injured, a player Malzhan said had been really coming on. He also said the inability of a player like Brandon Council to settle into a single position has been challenging. Council has played three different positions along the line so far this year.
“I really believe that getting five guys, getting healthy up front, which this week will be healthier and getting those five guys set,” Malzahn offered. “I think it helps everything not just red zone and all that.”
Malzahn is eager to see five guys working for an entire week of practice at their best positions, creating continuity he called “so critical.”
“I think you’ll see improvement,” he stated.
Another position group that elicited an optimistic outlook from the Tigers’ head man was at wide receiver. He believes the snaps gained by Kobe Hudson, Ja’Varrius Johnson and Ze’Vian Capers have been valuable to their development.
“The more reps those guys get the better they are going to be,” Malzahn outlined. “We think they’re very talented, and I think those guys have done some good things so far. They’ve practiced extremely well. I think that’s a hungry group that really the moment is not going to be too big when they start playing more which is just a matter of time. I think their development is going really well right now.”
Auburn currently ranks 67th in total offense, averaging 329 yards per game. The Tigers are 62nd in scoring offense, averaging 22 points per game.
The Tigers’ game at South Carolina kicks off at 11:00 a.m. CT on ESPN.