“Well, this is certainly not the time to relax or be satisfied. We need to focus on A) things we can do better to improve on our last performance. Regardless of the score, there are still things we can learn from and improve from. And this is another one of those division games against a very good team that’s going to take the best preparation that we have throughout the week to to get ready to play this game.
“We’re very pleased that Levi Wallace is the SEC defensive player of the week.
“Da’Shawn Hand has just an MCL strain. He will be out probably and very doubtful for at least this game and maybe more. Trevon Diggs has a foot injury. He’ll be day to day but also is very questionable for this game.
“Texas A&M is the strongest team that we’ve played to this point looking at them from a holistic standpoint. They’re a very explosive offensive team. They run the ball very effectively. They’ve got really good running backs. Christian Kirk is maybe the most explosive player _ returner, receiver, runner _ of anybody in our league. Offensively, tough to run against. They create a lot of negative plays. They’ve got good pass rushers. John Chavis always does a good job of playing very aggressive, physical football. Because of Christian Kirk being a fantastic returner, these guys are very dangerous on special teams. So this is by far, I think, the strongest team that we’ve played to this point all the way around. This is certainly going to be a big challenge for us ?? and a division game on the road.”
How do you guard against overconfidence after these last two games?
“I think it’s an individual thing. It’s a leader thing. It’s a coach thing. Everybody understanding the challenges that we have and how we want to move forward and you can’t look back. We had 24 hours on the last game and it won’t have any impact or effect on the next game. We need to move on and everybody’s got to get psychologically and physically read to execute and play good football and winning football in the next game.”
Do you like the way Jalen has spread the ball around among a lot of guys or would you like there to be a No. 2 option after Calvin Ridley?
“I think that we want to utilize all the skill players that we have. That’s the best way to use all your weapons. I think that’s something that we want to continue to emphasize on offense, whether it’s the running backs, the receivers, the quarterback, whoever it might be that gives us an advantage to be able to make plays in a particular situation and a particular game. I think all the skill guys have made progress and played well. We have had a few dropped balls in the last couple of games.
“We’d love to eliminate that. But we’ve also made some really good catches. I think everybody needs to focus on what they need to do to be a complete player at their position and take advantage of the opportunities when they get them.”
What has allowed your offense to be so successful in the red zone?
“I think the fact that we have balance and we can run the ball probably helps. We use tempo down there to help us get the other team off guard a little bit. It’s obviously one of the things in the offseason that we wanted to do better on both sides of the ball. I think we have made some improvements. I think teams will make it more difficult for us to run so we’re going to have to be able to be effective in the way we throw the ball down there as well.”
What range would you be comfortable using JK Scott for long field goals?
“You know he has a really strong leg. We usually define the yard line every week based on the wind conditions and that type of thing, but probably 35-38-yard line where the ball is there, whatever that makes it.”
Was it good to see Ronnie Clark score a touchdown after everything he’s been through?
“Ronnie Clark has been, to me, the consummate, ultimate great story about any program and what college football should be all about. Here’s a guy that has done everything that anyone could ever ask as a teammate and contributed to the team in whatever way he could, regardless of how much accolade that may have brought him. I think every player on the team respects that and understands that, and I think every coach, including myself, respects that and understand that. When a guy has an opportunity to score a touchdown, I think a lot of people were very, very excited for him. So excited that we really could have gotten a penalty because the guys ran out on the field without their helmet on, so we caught a break on that one. We were really, really happy to see Ronnie have a positive self-gratification for all his dedication and hard work and commitment to the program and the team in every way that he’s been able to contribute.”
Did you go back and see the hit on Da’Shawn Hand? Was it legal?
“Yeah, it was legal. He just cut him. If it’s illegal, we should eliminate cut blocking. I’ve been an advocate of that for a long time, but you’re allowed to cut. It was a legal block. Until someone changes the rule, there’s nothing illegal about it.”
You guys have used DBs to blitz, used RBs as receivers. How much has your philosophy as coach based on maximizing your best personnel and using them in different ways?
“Well, I think that’s a big part of it. You don’t ever want to ask players to do things they can’t do. You always want to try to feature guys doing things that they’re good at, they have confidence in and can make plays doing. So I think that’s especially true on offense, but also trying to get the matchups the right way on defense to be able to utilize some of that speed and ability not only to cover but to do other things as probably a multiple that can be an advantage for you on defense.”
How much has the offense evolved or opened up in the last few weeks? How has Jalen progressed?
“I think Jalen has really developed very nicely through the course of the season. One of the things he did in this game which we’ve been working with him on is, even when he scrambles, keeping his eyes downfield. He actually did that on several occasions. One of the balls, Robert Foster jumped up to catch and got pushed out of bounds, another one Ruggs dropped. But those are two occasions where he scrambled, kept his eyes downfield, found an open receiver and made a good throw. I think that can be a tremendous compliment to his running ability and his scrambling ability. But I think from a dropback standpoint and a timing standpoint, he missed a few throws in the game. But at the same time, we’re in the right place, making the reads, we’re getting the balls out of our hands, and we also made some really good throws in the game. So we’re excited about the progress that we’ve been able to make and the balance that he can create for us.”
You talk about players not looking at the scoreboard, I’m sure some teams do it better than others. What are the common threads among the teams that do that?
“I think the common thread is that we have an old saying, ‘Out of yourself and into the team.’ Look, everybody has individual goals and accolades and things that they want to accomplish and do personally. I think they should. But I think there’s a fine line between ‘What do I put first? Do I do what’s best for the team and for my teammates and know that it’s important for me to be a complete player, whether I’m getting the ball or not getting the ball? Getting an opportunity or not getting an opportunity, but I create an opportunity for someone else and that same person can create an opportunity for me when I get my chance to make a play.’ I think players keeping that in perspective… Look, you want to be able to catch passes, but you also have to manage your frustration if you’re going to be able to catch those passes. So you have to be able to focused on what you want to do to get open and the process of things that you need to go through and accomplish in preparation so when you get in the game, you can play fast and be confident and have an opportunity to make plays. That’s what we try to emphasize with our players. So far this year, I think the players have done a really good job of that.”
You’ve always stressed getting off to a good start but it seems like this team is really good at it. Something different about this team getting off to a fast start?
“Well, I think you always want to start fast and finish strong, but you also have to play for 60 minutes in the game. I think a few times early on we started pretty well early on in the game but we didn’t kind of sustain it in the game. That’s something we’ve emphasized with this team and will continue to emphasize so that we can play for 60 minutes. You look at games, the team we’re playing this week was ahead 41-10 this week and ended up getting beat. So you have to keep playing. The way college football is right now, people are very prolific at scoring a lot of points. You have to keep scoring on offense, you have to keep moving the ball on offense, you can’t relax, you can’t not pay attention to detail and you’ve got to keep playing well on defense and keep making plays for 60 minutes in the game.”
When you have a loss like A&M did in the opener and bounce back to get to 4-1, what does it say about them to get over that?
“I think sometimes when things like that happen it can be a galvanizing thing for your team. People respond better sometimes to bad things happening than they do when good things happening. It shouldn’t be that way but it sometimes is. They’ve certainly responded and played really, really well. They played really well in that game to get into that position that they were in. So they have continued to play well, run the ball, have great balance, do what their players can do. They’re very aggressive and physical on defense. This is a really good team.”
You stopped by with Aubrie Nicholas before the game and gave her a kiss. You also met the family of little Cam who died on Friday. What does it mean to you to offer encouragement to those families?
“We have something that’s… I guess it’s the compassion that you have. We always want to try to help children, families that need support in very difficult circumstances. We have a lot of these young people come out to practice and watch practice. I think our players have done a fabulous job of spending a little time, taking pictures, trying to add a little joy. Something positive in terms of encouragement. Our thoughts and prayers are with all the young people who have tremendous adversity in their life, especially when it comes to health issues that are real battles that hopefully they’ll be able to overcome. We like to support them every way we can.”