AUBURN, Ala. Florida Atlantic head coach Carl Pelini held his weekly press conference with media members on Monday.
Heres what Pelini had to say during his interview session with reporters, which lasted more than 13 minutes:
"They are getting better every week. Good offensive team, balanced run-pass hurt you both ways. Defensively, fast and very athletic and keep getting better. (Its a) big challenge. (They) are the best team we have faced this year."
On whether it's easier to face a team like Auburn coming off a big win:
"I dont know. I would have to know the team better and the staff better. I dont know either, so, it is hard to say. It looks to me like they are making steady improvement, every week all year on both sides of the ball. So, when you usually see that on tape, that means one win or one loss usually isnt going to affect their progress very much."
On having an open date last week to get extra preparation:
"The extra week helps against Auburn. They give you a lot offensively a lot of formations and a lot of sets. They use their personnel in many unique ways, so to have the extra week probably helped us, in terms of our defensive staff getting ready."
On whether he has seen a similar offense to Auburn this season:
"Ours. I would say out of all the teams that we have faced, what Brian (Wright, FAUs offensive coordinator) does offensively, I mean, it is not exactly the same, but a lot of what we do mirrors a lot of what they do, especially in the running game. What we had in the spring and camp probably gives us something to draw on in terms of what we are going to see."
On how much of the bye week was focused on Auburn:
"They (players) have been watching tape on them for a week now. The focus for the staff was all on Auburn. For the players, we introduced them to some concepts. Last nights (Sunday) practice was all Auburn. Last weeks was more fundamentals playing fast, scrimmage-type stuff. But all the meetings and all the film work has been on Auburn."
On the health of the team coming out of the bye week: "I think we are healthier. I think we are fresher. I think we looked pretty fast last night. They had a few days off. It helps at this point of the year to have a bye week."
"Robert's out for the season. He had a broken ankle. It was one of those where I was more worried about the ligaments than the bone. It was a blessing that it was a broken ankle and there was no ligament involved at all, so it will be a clean heal and he'll be back before spring.
"The worst thing with those injuries is when the ligaments get severed at the same time. And now you're talking a year of rehab. There was no ligament involved, not even a stretch. It was all bone, so it was very good news for him."
On which players have to step up with Relf out:
"Freshman Andrew Curtis will have to step up, but Andrew's been working with the two's as well as Robert. Freedom Whitfield will probably get some more playing time with Robert out. Those two we're using Randell (Johnson) pretty creatively right now. He'll be giving us some snaps at linebacker and some at D-end as he's been doing, especially in passing situations. It's not the linebacker position as much as it's the secondary. You start playing teams that run well out of spread and you're thin in the secondary, where is your dime going to come from? Where is your nickel going to come from? And then guys who can also understand the run fits. It's easy to say, 'Well, throw a freshman in at nickel.' That's one thing against a Marshall, that doesn't challenge you the way (Auburn) does. Now you start to get all the cross-action and the fullback and the tight end back, and that's a lot for a young nickel to sort out, so you're looking at guys who are more experienced. So it'll be a mixture of linebacker sets and nickel sets."
On what made him move Johnson between linebacker and defensive end:
"The South Florida game, really. He was really playing linebacker at the time and but bringing pressure off the edge. You take a linebacker and you put him on the edge, and we worked him a lot in camp there. It's an adjustment for him. So we kind of stopped that at one point, didn't feel like it was translating like we hoped it would. Then right about the South Florida game we were playing more base and we were bringing in pressure off the edge and we saw again seeing what we wanted to see from him. So putting him at end but standing him up making him feel more comfortable has brought that aggressiveness back for him. He's just comfortable how we use him. Again, he's not a defensive end. You try not to have him in there when runs are happening and all the different things D-ends have to know how to do in those situations. But one thing it does allow you to do is to get into a 30-front pretty easily and get him off the ball and back to linebacker. So it's translated pretty well for us and we'd like to keep doing that and keep expanding that."
Areas he's doing well in:
"I think he's starting to be comfortable in that pass rush on a tackle. It's just new. It's easy to say, 'Throw that guy down at an end.' But it's a whole new set of skills those guys are trying to do. And for him, he's got some natural stuff: good with his hands, has a good spin move, good counter. Just trying to take little things like that and build on it and give him a little more tools to work with."
On Auburn being an even more difficult opponent to face after the Tigers beat Texas A&M on the road last week:
"I will say this. Certainly, I was not surprised by the result of that game (Auburn last Saturday). Not one bit surprised. Having spent a week watching the previous games and looking at their improvement, I wasnt surprised. They are still the same team I thought they were going into Saturday."
On how Auburn compares to last year's Georgia and Alabama teams FAU faced:
"No, we are in a different place right now. We are better. I think we were still trying to teach our players the basic fundamentals of our offense and defense a year ago at that time. Thats why that was scary, playing the teams at that level. We are just more comfortable with who we are I think. We will go in there and execute just fine.
"There wasnt fear. I say 'scary' more for coaches. Like, 'What am I going to call? What can I call against these teams?' They're going to give you a lot of different offense, a lot of different formations and we really werent sure the players were ready to handle that yet on that scale, especially on a stage like that. This year, minus the injuries, I feel pretty good about where we are and what we can match up with and get taught. I feel like we can actually it is a difficult offense to face, it gives you a lot. It is almost like a Wing T/Wishbone-style offense, in terms of just giving you all the different sways and swipes, different fits and using their fullback and tight end creatively. But, I also feel like we can talk conceptually with our guys and draw on experience. We are going to do this like we did against this opponent and this like this like we did against this opponent and our guys will pick up on it. So, we are much better equipped to probably handle type of game, on both sides of the ball than we were at that time
On Auburn running back Tre Mason:
"He's strong, he's fast. They've got them all over the place, though. They've got a lot of team speed, and the difference is we'll face speed in our league, but I think with those SEC teams you see these speed guys that are also powerful guys. So you've just got to bring it. They're going to be physical they always have been at Auburn. You've got to be physical back."
On the importance of having a good showing on Saturday:
"I will say this: I think it is important that we go up there and play our best game. I think if we do that, everything will be fine. I really do. I just think we need to go up there and play our best and not worry about where Auburn is ranked or what the crowd is going to be like or any of that. We just need to go up there and play our game. Let it all hang out and we'll be just fine."
On being more comfortable playing against high-level Division I teams than last year:
"It is. I dont think I could have said that a year ago. To challenge, in a game like this, a year ago we would have had to play way over and above where we were, actually were. But, I have said that from the beginning that's not who I want to be as a football program. I dont want to be that team that has that one big upset and then goes in the tank for three weeks. I want to play our best game every week and let the chips fall where they may."