We were able to get some insight into the Auburn Tigers thanks to FlyWarEagle and their editor Jack Jorgensen. Thanks to Jack for taking the time to answer these questions and look forward to seeing his team do well this season, just not this week! Go Cougs!
ACU: I’m interested in Malzahn’s attack this weekend and it really seems like mixed reports on what he plans to do coming from Auburn country (Fans). Athletic quarterback, 1,000 yard rusher, no proven receivers and good success rushing with Cam Newton in 2010 in the same system. I think they try and run vs WSU but Auburn fans are telling me the “Malzahn genius” is all about spreading you out and creating mismatches in the pass game. What’s your take for this week?
FWE: Believe me, I’m equally as interested as you are. That is true that Malzahn does like to spread the field as much as he can with the passing game, however our receivers are mainly young and unproven. I’d expect him to test the waters with Tre Mason and Cameron Artis-Payne (our running back duo, Mason being the 1,000 yard rusher you alluded to). But I don”t expect your rush defense to be terrible by any means, so those young receivers may have to grow up–and quickly.
ACU: Last year WSU struggled out of the gate vs BYU on national tv. I think over-expectations were thrust onto the team and they didn’t respond well. Then a mixture of a true lack of knowledge in the system and the coaches trying to put too much in (a common mistake) led to mass confusion on a lot of plays and ultimately the WSU demise. Kinda feels like that could happen to Auburn in game 1 of Malzahn with all the expectations and stuff. How will the team handle that with a new quarterback and all that?
FWE: Well I can tell you, our squad will handle a letdown with Coach Malzahn in charge than they would with Coach Chizik. We learned a lot about Chizik and adversity in the past couple seasons since we won the BCS title. Malzahn has a much stronger hold on this team and would have no problem being able to turn a letdown into a valuable learning experience for these guys, should the worst case scenario happen for us on Saturday.
ACU: Based on everything I’ve read and seen on junior quarterback Connor Halliday this Spring/Fall, he finally “gets it” in the Mike Leach system. How much stock do you put into that from a WSU perspective and where’s Nick Marshall at in this regard and do you think he’s running an offense suited for his talent?
FWE: I’m on board with you–and many others–in buying into the fact that Halliday should be the guy that proves Coach Leach was perfect for you guys out there. I love his pocket presence, but most importantly, he seems adept at making solid reads down the field, which is perfect for the air raid system.
As for Marshall, as talented as he is, I firmly expect some bumps in the road. Athletic ability can take you so far. I’m anxious to see how he is with his reads, especially out of the spread. He’s definitely running an offense suited for his skill sets, but execution is the key.
ACU: If Washington State goes over and wins, do you think Auburn fans will lose it or will they be patient?
FWE: Man, we’re an SEC team that won the national championship within the last decade–of course they’re going to lose it.
ACU: Your over/under for WSU? What’s your prediction for the season?
FWE: As far as an O/U, I could see this around the 70 range. In all seriousness–and I think we can both agree–neither of our teams are going to trot out a defense emulating the ’85 Chicago Bears, but we both have offenses that can explode at a moment’s notice.
And as for the season, I would see Auburn finishing at 7-5 as a huge step in the right direction and expect that’s where we’ll be when it’s all said and done.
Thanks for having me, Josh!