Quoting Coach Gene Chizik: LSU Week

Coach Gene Chizik

Comments from Auburn's head football coach are featured as his Tigers prepare for their SEC home opener on Saturday night vs. LSU.

Auburn, Ala.--Comments from Coach Gene Chizik's weekly press conference are featured as his football team prepares to play LSU.

Opening statement:

"I think it's an exciting week for our team. It's great to be able to play a game of this nature back here at Jordan-Hare. I think our team is very excited to play against a great football team. We understand the challenges ahead for us all the way around in a game like this.

"This is what college football's all about -- to be able to have the opportunity to have a very good football team come in here and see how much improvement we've made from the week before. I think our players are very excited about the opportunity. I know our coaches are, as well. I think it'll be fun for our fans. It's going to be a great evening, so we're looking forward to it. We get back to work today and start preparing."

How to prevent big kick returns from LSU?

"They've always been very good on special teams. They're a very athletic team from top to bottom, so obviously they pose a lot of challenges. We'll decide (our plan) as we get closer. We have a game plan in mind right now. Last year, they were very effective. They were one of the few teams that we thought beat us in the special teams game with getting yards and field position. Last year, that was something that stood out to us.

"We know they have a great return game. They have several guys that can return punts and kickoffs that are very potent, but we feel like our coverage units are very good. We think it's a very good matchup. We know the challenges of kicking it to their guys. We know that they return punts for touchdowns and things of that nature, but we'll have a plan."

Is this one of the more physical games Auburn plays during the season?

"I don't think there's any question. I think that part of their success over the last few years has been their ability to bring that physical nature to their game. There's no real secret with what they try to do. They execute. They have very good players. They try to out-physical you. They're going to run the ball and play-action you and take some deep shots on you during the game.

"The physicality part of their defense is very obvious, as well, when you turn that film on. That's what they're built on. That's one of the reasons, in my opinion, you've seen a lot of success from them. You can tell that's a way of life for them."

On what it takes to be consistently physical?

"I think you have to practice that way every day. You have to build it into your culture. I think what they do on both sides of the ball allows them to have built that culture over the years. It's a two tight end at times, two back pound the football at you and play-action you. I think when you're doing that on a daily basis in practice, that develops the toughness for your team, and they've done that. No question about it."

Was physicality part of the reason for the offensive transition from last season to this season?

"It's part of us trying to be more physical with the whole approach to our team. We've always been fairly physical on special teams. We know there's room for improvement. We've been aggressive in what we do special teams-wise. The physicality of our game needs to continue to improve, as we all know. I don't think that's a secret. I think by the way we're practicing and how much we're going against each other with some physical downhill play in the running game, I think you're going to see it continue to improve."

Auburn quarterback Kiehl Frazier will make his second SEC start this week.

Is it mentally difficult for a young player like Kiehl Frazier to learn from a mistake and move on?

"I think it's the individual, but I certainly think it's challenging for a young guy who's never really had to overcome those things. The quarterback role in this league is very mental. That's both when good things happen and when challenging things happen to you. I think it really depends on the individual, but again, if you're going to play quarterback in this league, that's what you have to be able to do, so there's really no option if you're going to be effective the next game.

"He's been good with overcoming the adversity two weeks ago to playing better this past week. Every week is going to be a learning experience for him, and there will be different challenges that come the next week based on something that happened the week before. He's going to have to continue to grow up, which I think he is, and work through those challenges."

On dealing with those challenges during the game?

"Well, you're just in constant contact with him and making sure that his body language and everything is right. The main thing is trying to get him some success early in the game. If you're able to do that, there's something that may happen bad somewhere down the line in the game, but you have to have a very short memory to be good at this position.

"It's about poise and character and confidence, and you can't be shaken. That's easier said than done, when you have everybody telling you how good you are or how bad you are or all of the other things that are out there, but that comes with the job, and he knows that. We've had several discussions on that, and he'll continue to grow."

On the importance of establishing the running game against LSU to take pressure off Frazier?

"I've said it several times. Our plan is to never put a game entirely on a quarterback, whoever the quarterback is here. There are other guys out there that have a lot of work that they have to do to help get the job done. We have to be able to move the football. They are giving up less than 50 yards a game running the football, so we have to find some way to run it. We rushed for 255 yards last week, but this is a different type of deal.

"Running the football is obviously imperative when it comes to trying to take a quarterback and continue to see him grow. What helps is running the ball. We know the challenges of that. We know what people have attempted to do in the first three games -- Washington and everybody else -- and it hasn't happened. We have to figure out a way to run the ball to take the pressure off our quarterback some and be able to throw the ball as well, but you mainly start taking pressure off the quarterback by finding ways to run the ball."

On the importance of re-integrating Blake and Lutzenkirchen in the passing game?

"Yeah, I don't think there is any question, and I think if we are able to spread the ball around to different people, then obviously the more people aren't going to be able to, if they choose to double one or double the other, they won't continue to be able to have the luxury to do that as long as other guys are being productive. So I think it is really important for four or five of our receivers to be able to be go-to guys that we have a lot of trust and confidence in that they will catch the ball when the time is right."

On how the absence of Tyrann Mathieu affects LSU's defense?

"To be honest with you, the ones that I saw come in and play besides him, they are very talented and very explosive and very confident. I haven't seen them have any problem covering receivers, whether it's man or zone. I can't tell you exactly what the drop off is in terms of him versus them, but as an entire defense, I don't see a drop off."

Does he feel Kiehl Frazier has command of the huddle?

"I do."

On his expectations for this week's game?

"Our expectations are to go out there and play better than we played last week, and our expectation when we go into that stadium against anybody is we play is to win. So that is the message this week, three weeks from now, six weeks from now; it won't matter."

Will this game speak to the character of the team?

"I think so. I think any time you play a team right now that is ranked in the top three in the country, no matter who you are playing, I think it tells you a lot about where you are, and I think it will tell us a lot about what direction--again, in terms of improvement--and how much improvement we have made.

"It is going to be a really fun game to play in for our guys. This is the kind of game that they should embrace and they should like to play in, so at the end of the day, our expectation is to win every time we step out into that stadium out there on that field out there, and, at the end of the day, we will always see exactly where we ended up and where to go from there one game at a time."

Is this game a chance to change the course of Auburn's season and does he communicate that?

"No, that's not how we talk. We talk about what a great opportunity to go out there and have some fun and have a chance to beat a good football team, and we take it one week at a time. We don't talk about the past; we can't change that and we will never be able to.

"We can only do what we can do moving forward, and that's what we focus on, so we don't look at what that means. That just means if we go into this game and play, play a great game and win the game, it means we won a big game, and we've got to move to the next one, so that's how we approach it."

On the development of Auburn's running backs?

"I think we've seen improvement. Obviously, a lot of that comes from the offensive line in terms of being able to get hats on the right people and trying to get some push up front, but I think I said earlier in the week the big question with Onterio (McCalebb) is: can he run in there? I think he has shown that he's been effective so far.

"This week will be a different challenge than any of the others that we have had previously. But I think Tre (Mason) and Mike (Blakely) have done the same thing. We've done some good things in the run game. I expect the run game to improve, and so for all three of those guys: ‘Is there a lot of room for improvement?' Oh yeah, sure there is, but in the same sense we've played three football games and, again, our goal every week is to improve. I think those guys, for the most part, they've done their job. It hasn't been perfect, but I think we are working in the right direction."

Have any of Auburn's running backs set themselves apart?

"I think that Onterio has been consistent in whatever we are asking him to do. Sometimes guys take away the edge because they know right now he is dangerous out in space on the perimeter, and when people have done that --i.e. last week--then we ran him up inside, and he was able to be productive running up inside.

"We are going to try to do with him what we can to keep him productive, but in every role that we have given him, he's been fairly productive, even when we put him back there as a kick returner, so we know he is productive.

"Tre and Mike have both done some nice things in their own right. They need to continue to improve, but the tailback position right now is one that we know we have to count on to improve and get better. I think, again, after three games they are in the right direction, but they certainly haven't arrived."

On SEC players being suspended for illegal hits?

"I think that Commissioner (Mike) Slive and our officiating crew and the people that are responsible for that, Steve Shaw, I think they do a great job, number one. Their number one concern is safety for young guys, so anytime you are looking at the safety and health of young guys they are going to make decisions based on that, which I think is outstanding. I'm not aware of all of the suspensions and things of that nature, but I know that they keep a very close eye on what is acceptable, and they are trying to make a statement of safety, and I think they do a great job of it."

On how he addresses such rules with his team?

"It's hard because you are trying to get guys to be aggressive and in the same breath you are saying, ‘Hey, let's be aggressive, but here's the things you can't do.' But, I think it is really all just educating your guys. When you're targeting above the shoulders to a defenseless player, it is what it is. You've got a chance to really hurt somebody, and that's not what we want.

"Some discretion certainly needs to be used by the player because they are all trying to play hard and they are all trying to play physical, but at the same time we are trying to do all the things we can as a league to police and prevent catastrophic injuries. I think it is all monitored and evaluated very closely, and I think rightly so."

On how difficult it appears on film to be to tackle LSU running back Kenny Hilliard?

"Very, along with some of their other tailbacks. They can throw in a 220-pound tailback, and if he goes out, they are just going to throw in another 230-pound tailback, so they are all good. They are physical. They are downhill. That's what they practice. That's the way they run. They have a very good offensive line. It's no secret. They are where they are because they are able to do that."

Zach Mettenberger

On LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger?

"I think you can start with his completion percentage first, and I think that tells a lot about what he is in terms of accuracy and decision making. He's very, very efficient when it comes to that, so he doesn't put his football team in positions to get beat. I think he threw one interception Saturday in the red zone against Idaho, but I think he makes very good decisions, and when your completion percentage is up around the 70-percent mark, that says a lot about what you are doing with him.

"He's got a great arm; he makes very, very good decisions. They'll have somebody else back there who can be a dual-threat type guy -- Russell Shepard -- they'll put somebody else back there as a little bit of relief, a little bit different flavor, but when (Mettenberger's) in there, he's very productive and he's very efficient."

On how LSU manages to be consistent and win?

"I think it is impressive that anybody can do it. I think Les (Miles) has done a great job there and has done a great job in being able to maintain some consistency. I think for anybody that's the goal as you move forward, but they've done a great job with it."

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