Quoting Coach Gene Chizik: Texas A&M Week

Coach Gene Chizik

Comments from Auburn's head football coach are featured as his team prepares to face high-scoring Texas A&M.

Auburn, Ala.--Comments from Auburn football coach Gene Chizik's press conference are featured as his Tigers prepare to play Texas A&M on Saturday.

Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. CDT at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Opening statement:

"I'll start out by just addressing the obvious. It's been a tough 24 hours for me personally and my family with the passing of my mother. That's never easy, no matter how old you get. It's been quite challenging, but I do want to say, on an encouraging note, it was really good to hear from so many great Auburn people that were very supportive and people outside the Auburn family.

"It was very encouraging to hear the different thoughts and prayers that went out for me personally and my family, and I appreciate everybody respecting the privacy of that.

"It's tough. We're going to have a private family ceremony at some point moving down the road, not necessarily this week. I wanted to get that off the plate because I'd like to make this more about Auburn football and playing Texas A&M and moving forward into that, but I do want to say thank you to a lot of people out there that were very good to myself and my family.

"We have a great week of football coming up this weekend. It's Military Appreciation Week. I have a very high regard for past and present military people that have put their lives on the line previously and several thousands that are obviously still doing that. I have a high level of appreciation for that. I really want to encourage everybody to come out, and I think we even have the Wounded Warriors at the coin toss. I think it's going to be a great day.

"That, and I think we have a great football team that we're going to play. It's going to be a great challenge for us. Obviously this is a very good football team. They've lost two games against two top five teams. They're very good. They're playing with a lot of confidence, and they played a very close game against LSU last week. As everybody knows, they're very explosive offensively, and so we have our challenges with containing their quarterback and their running game. They lead the league in just about every category offensively that there is.

"Defensively, they're very aggressive. They have an elaborate scheme defensively that allows them to be very productive in terms of negative plays. We have our work cut out for us, but we're looking forward to the challenge. It's another great opportunity for us to get out there and try to improve Saturday, and it's great to be home at Jordan-Hare for the next month. This will be a great start to that month. We're looking forward to it. It'll be a great challenge for us."

Is Texas A&M's version of the spread different than other versions?

"It's a little bit different than some. It's a very tempo-oriented attack, number one. I think that becomes very problematic. If you look at their games they can run anywhere from 75 to 105 plays in a game. The tempo and speed of the game is critical, and teams being able to line up and get their defense set. That limits you a little bit if the tempo is quick in terms of how complex you can be, because the name of the game is to get to the quarterback.

Johnny Manziel plays quarterback for the Aggies.

"As we know, their quarterback is very athletic, and he's the leading rusher on their team. He escapes and they have designed runs for him as well. It's a tough scheme, but they spread out their receivers with a lot of three-by-one formations, empty formations. They're very good at throwing the ball down the field.

"Their offensive line is very effective when it comes to protecting the quarterback. They have a lot of experience there, and then, of course, the quarterback does so much with his feet, being very elusive and staying in plays.

"All the way around, there's a reason they're where they are in our league in terms of productivity. There are a lot of versions of the spread offense, but theirs is very well run and very well coached, and they have some players in their offense that are very productive."

On Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel:

"He's very good. He's a young guy who really is very mature beyond his years if you just watch his film. He has an uncanny ability to just get a feel for the game and the pass rush. He sees things, and he has great vision for the field. He extends plays. I count him sometimes, and he'd stand back there for 10 seconds before he ever made a move. That's a long time for a quarterback. That says a lot about his offensive line.

"Then he has some opportunities to make things happen by extending plays with his feet and making decisions down the field. He's very productive, and he's very good. They help him a good bit by getting him into the right plays, which takes a lot off of a young quarterback. All those things combined, I think that's why you're seeing this offense being pretty high octane."

Can this game be similar to the LSU game in defensive players rising up to the challenge:

"Absolutely. I think it's a tremendous challenge for our defensive guys, and I think it's one that they're really going to embrace. The LSU game was a very challenging game for obvious reasons, and this is a very similar type game--two different types of teams, but same type of challenge.

"I think it's going to be a great night venue, and it's going to be a fun game for our defense. They have to go out there and execute and get lined up and play with a lot of intensity and passion. This game could be, depending on how you play on defense, a 75-play game or a 105-play game, depending on whether you can get off the field or not."

On what Auburn has to change tempo-wise in practice:

"It's definitely a challenge in practice to be able to get this done, but we feel like we have a really good plan for it. It's a little bit different than some of the other plans, simply because you could get it all game.

"The way we're going to approach it is being able to do some two-huddle practices continuously through practice. When we play these high-tempo offenses that can potentially get a play off anywhere from 13 to 17 seconds after the ball is tackled, you have to try to emulate that the best way you can in practice. We definitely have a plan to do that."

Is it an added challenge to younger defensive guys with more potential plays in this game"

"I think it presents a challenge for everybody, particularly in the secondary. If you're not lined up properly in the secondary against a team that will throw the ball vertically down the field so much, that's where you see guys running wide open. That obviously has the potential for big plays, but I think it's a challenge for everybody, not just young guys that haven't played a lot, but are playing more. It's certainly going to be challenging for them, but it's going to be on everybody."

Is preparing for this offense similar to preparing for Oregon in the 2010 National Championship Game?

"That's some of the stuff that we were able to accomplish in preparing for the national championship game two years ago. You just have to get creative in how you're going to do it. The efficiency of it in practice is very crucial. At the end of the day, when you're working these situations that you can try to run plays off from 12-17 seconds consecutively, you can't do that all practice, but you can do it enough in segments of practice to really get the feel for it. We talked this morning, and Brian (VanGorder) and I feel like we have a good plan with that."

How difficult is it to have two scout teams that can run everything?

"It won't necessarily be two scout teams. It'll be a mixture of some of our twos and some of our scouts. You have to be able to do that because when one group runs a play the other group has to be coming up as the defense is coming back to be ready to get the next play. Then they come around, and you just kind of make it a cycle. That's really how you have to do it."

On Auburn's defensive ends containing Texas A&M's quarterback Johnny Manziel"

"Your first thought is ‘well, we've got to pressure the guy and sack him,' which is true, but there is a fine line in there right now of being able to contain the pocket and push the pocket collectively to be able to get sacks. Again, if you are running the defensive ends up the field and you get no pressure inside with your inside guys, then you open up huge seams in there.

"Like I said earlier, he's got great vision, he can see those seams and he can escape and then you are looking at potential disaster down the field, whether it's with his feet or him buying more time for a receiver to come open. I think you've got to be very smart on exactly how you rush him. You have to get pressure on him, there's no question about that, but he's got to feel the pocket push on him and collapse on him. It's not just guys running up the field. There has got to be a lot of method to the madness."

Has he faced a similar quarterback?

"He is one of the guys that has certainly been one of the most productive that we have played. There's no question about it. He's productive in so many different ways. There are designed quarterback runs. There are quarterback escapes where he carries the ball down the field. If you are going to play man coverage right now, there are challenges to that because now your (defensive backs) are running down the field with their backs to the ball.

"There are several things that you've got to look at. Different people have tried different things. Sometimes they are going to score 58 or 60, and then some people have held them to less than that, but he's very productive, and he's very productive in several ways. For a freshman to be as productive as he is and to do what he does in this league is pretty incredible."

On the importance of Auburn's offense controlling the tempo of the game:

"It's huge. We've got to be able to get first downs offensively. We've got to be able to get first downs. We've got to be able to control the time of possession to the best of our ability through running play action. We've got to be able to convert on third downs. That's been our Achilles' heel, but getting the ball in our offense's hands and keeping it, that's going to have to be something that we've got to be able to do. We've got to be able to accomplish that."

On the challenges that the Texas A&M defense poses"

"Their blitz packages are very exotic. They do a lot of three down (linemen. They do a lot of different problematic pressures so we are going to have to be very, very good at whether we are going to protect with six, protect with seven, but we know we've got to protect the quarterback. That has been a big point of concern for us. For us to be able to survive and really convert on third downs, that's where we've got to tremendously improve."

On the personal difficulty he has faced this season:

"I'm the leader of the program. I'm the leader of Auburn football so that's my job. Your jobs aren't easy sometimes what you guys do. My job is not easy sometimes what I do, but I love my job, and I love being a part of Auburn, and it's all my responsibility.

"Have there been difficult times? Of course, there have, but there have been some great times absolutely, too. So, we do not look at the past and the ‘woe is me.' You've got to take one day at a time, and you've got to keep moving forward. That's the name of the game for me.

I've got a lot of faith in these young guys, and I've got a lot of faith in Auburn, and I've got a lot of faith in our coaches. We've got to keep plugging along and we can't look back at what things happened in the past and didn't just unfold exactly the way we wanted them to. You've just got to keep working every day. That's my responsibility--to make sure that is what happens, and that is exactly what is going to happen."

Is Clint Moseley better equipped to handle this season than he was last year?

"I don't think there is any question. I'm not exactly sure what he said, but I know this, as a young man where he is, I think he's grown a lot. He's a guy that is really just trying to become a better football player, and that's really what he's trying to work to every day in practice. For the last two or three weeks, I'm really seeing a guy come on and really just try to be an improved player so it's very good to see, but I don't think there's any question he's grown up a tremendous amount the last year."

Has there been a decision on who will be the starting quarterback against Texas A&M?

"No. Again, we are going to go into the week and we are going to let it unfold like the last two have. We've got to look at the health of guys and things of that nature so it will be the same. We'll go ahead and look at it starting today and see where everything is at by Thursday."

What is the injury update for AU's players?

"The injury updates are really pretty similar to what I said Sunday. I do want to say this about Philip Lutzenkirchen. In our team meeting Sunday, I said to the team: ‘This is a guy who's crushed right now.' He has put so much into Auburn and came back and has really tried to play all year with a painful injury that he was pushing through, and he was pushing through and he was pushing through, and he just couldn't do it anymore.

Philip Lutzenkirchen

He's crushed when you have five weeks left in the season and all of sudden your season is over. He is going to have to have surgery this week. It is going to be a long rehab process for him, but I do want to say that I am very proud of him trying to push through in a year that was tough for him physically.

"He never gave up. He went until he gave out and couldn't go anymore. I've got a high level of respect for any young guy that does that, and he certainly did that, but to speak of the rest of the injuries we are pretty much in the same spot that we were the other day. Dee Ford is a work in progress. Several others are, too, so we will continue to monitor that as the week goes on."

On Lutzenkirchen's role for the rest of the season:

"We definitely want him to be around all the time. We don't know exactly what that is going to look like after he gets his surgery, but he is a part of this football team. He's a part of this family. He's been a great contributor to us since he got here as a true freshman. What a career he has had here! He is always going to go down here in the record books as a guy that is an Auburn man and been very productive. We want and him to be around here all the time, and that's who he is. He'll be here for meetings. He'll be here for practice. That's just who he is."

On Lutzenkirchen using his popularity to do things away from football:

"I think that is the mark of the man. We try to get our guys here to understand the importance of being able to give back to other people. Cancer patients behind the scenes, he really tries to encourage and embrace and meet with and talk with and that's just one small example. He's done that since he's been here, and that means a lot, because that's a sense of responsibility that all of our guys have, whether they know it or not. Some do more than others, but he's certainly one that has always done that."

On the possibility of Lutzenkirchen playing in the NFL"

"Yes, I think there is no question. It's going to be challenging how these next five or six months unfold, depending on the recovery process for his injury, but I think that's part of his pain, too. I think he's a guy that certainly has that opportunity, and he'll take advantage of it the best way he can, but I'm sure that is weighing heavy on him as well."

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