Late night notes: Gus Malzahn says Clemson's defense 'whipped' Auburn last season

abitter@ledger-enquirer.comSeptember 13, 2011 

It’s been a long day, so we’ll jump straight to the bullet points.

* Offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn was blunt in his assessment of Clemson’s defense in last year’s game at Jordan-Hare Stadium, a 27-24 overtime win for Auburn. “They whipped us,” he said. “We made some big plays. We didn’t earn much. We’ve got our work cut out for us. We know we’re going to get their best shot. They’ve got a lot of very talented players.”

* Malzahn has incorporated boards with pictures on them into Auburn’s play-calling this year. He hopes it will help his young offense communicate in a noisy road venue like Clemson’s Memorial Stadium. “It’ll be a great environment,” he said. “It’ll be very noisy. We’ll see not only how he handles it, but how our entire offense handles it.”

* The Tigers haven’t gone deep on many of their passes this year, something Malzahn hopes to change. “When we’re at our best, we have big plays,” he said. “We definitely need more big plays.”

* Malzahn had a deadpan reaction to Cam Newton‘s strong NFL debut, during which he threw for 422 yards. “He’s pretty good,” Malzahn said. “It doesn’t surprise me.”

* Lots of d-line talk, since both Corey Lemonier and Nosa Eguae came in to chat. Lemonier thinks the group showed improvement in the second week, even if the numbers disagree. The biggest improvement? “Just being physical,” he said. “Before it would just be mental mistakes like lining up wrong, and stuff like that.”

* Eguae on that same subject: “You see during two-a-days that guys are making mistakes, repeating them, repeating them, repeating them. And now, they’re making mistakes but they’re learning from them and not making those mistakes again.”

* Lots of talk about Dee Ford, which I plan to turn into a feature for Thursday’s paper. Here’s the best quote Eguae had about him, though: “The way he gets off the rock, he makes offensive linemen just chase him.”

* Lemonier and kicker Cody Parkey are both from South Florida. They didn’t know each other until they both made an official visit during the Alabama game in 2009. “He messaged me one time and said, ‘Are you a Dolphins fan?” Lemoner said. “And I said, ‘Yeah, I’m a Dolphins fan.’ And he was like, ‘We’re going to be goof friends.’”

* Like Ryan White earlier in the day, Lemonier was also asked about how old Parkey looks. “He had that kind of little salad bowl haircut,” Lemonier said. “I was like is this kid in college? I didn’t know what he was doing there. Plus he has no facial hair. He can’t grow facial hair.”

* Jokes aside, Parkey made huge strides in the offseason. “He’s been working hard, running with me and some of that in sprints, keeping up with me,” Lemonier said. “It helped him out and practicing the extra hours. You can see it now.”

* Tre Mason got some carries in the Mississippi State game. He’s still getting used to blocking, since he never had to do it in high school. “Carrying the ball is the easiest part because once you get the ball in your hands, you just do what you’re supposed to do,” he said. “That’s why you were recruited to come here. Learning the blocking schemes, there are certain things you have to do. There are certain landmarks we’ve got to be at and you’ve got to pick up on certain things. That’s the hardest part of learning this offense.”

* Mississippi State started squibbing kickoffs late in the game because of the threat Mason posed. “It makes me mad because I love to have the ball in my hands,” Mason said.

* Mason on the speedy Onterio McCalebb, who’s about 172 pounds: “He’s so driven no matter what his size is. He plays like he’s 240 pounds.”

* Who’s the fastest player on the team? Mason didn’t say. Could be McCalebb, could be him, could be Sammie Coates (sans crutches, obviously). “We’ve never raced,” Mason said. “Maybe one day we’ll race. We’re not sure yet.”

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