Gus Malzahn says he'll draw plenty of motivation from Auburn's close call in the national championship game.
The Tigers coach said Friday he feels the program's future is bright and that they'll "work extremely hard to get back there and try to redeem ourselves."
Malzahn repeatedly referred to Auburn's future as bright at his end-of-season news conference after the Tigers' 34-31 loss to Florida State. Indeed, even with tailback Tre Mason and left tackle Greg Robinson leaving early for the NFL draft, Auburn figures to enter next season with a high ranking.
Malzahn says he has spoken with athletic director Jay Jacobs about raises for his assistant coaches. He expects to sign his own six-year deal "in the near future."
He says former starting quarterback Kiehl Frazier is transferring.
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FULL NEWS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT (Provided by Auburn Athletics Dept.)
Opening remarks… The bottom line is, we came within 13 seconds of winning the national championship the very first year. I think the very first game we were probably average at best, but our guys found a way to get better each game. They found a way to get us to the last game and come close to winning. That was very special to be a part of. I'm extremely proud of our team, the way they represented us all year. They laid the foundation and the future's very bright. I'm really looking forward to the future and to building this thing the right way.
On quality of players returning as opposed to 2010… Obviously we won three years ago and lost this one at the end. Talking big picture moving forward, we've got a lot of our main players coming back. We feel very good about our overall program and where we're going and really feel like our best days are ahead of us.
On attempted timeout before pass interference on final drive of game… At the time there was a little discussion to make sure we have a good idea of what they were going to do and who they were going to go after. That was about it.
How will preparation change with a high preseason ranking… That's a good thing; it's where our program should be. As far expecting to be one of the top teams, our approach will be no different. We will still work just as hard, we will still have the same velocity, by hard work and by keeping our edge.
Plans for Nick Marshall… We are really excited about the spring with Nick. We got a lot of information throughout the year and we can build around his strengths even more. What he did in one year by not going through year and by winning the job two weeks before the season was phenomenal. I don't know if there has ever been a situation similar to that. I really think his upside is very high and he's a natural leader and his teammates have a lot of respect for him as well as his coaches. This will be the first time that we've actually had a quarterback come back after one year so we're pretty excited about that."
What can Nick improve on over the spring and summer… He throws the ball well. I think the big thing is just getting his timing down with him and his receivers. And probably just giving him a little more freedom. Now that he will know the offense even better. Week to week, you have a game plan. It was good for him having that 30 days. I think you could see that in the passing game. We're looking forward to spring.
On how Nick's passing improvement opens up the offense… We will see where we're at with the talent around him. We can be more balanced but at the same time we're going to play to our strengths. We really feel like we can be effective in the passing game.
Who will replace Greg Robinson… Shon Coleman, Patrick Miller, Robert Leff. We're going to open that dude up and see who wins that job. The good thing is that we have a little bit of depth at that and have some experience.
On whether Avery Young will move… We haven't gotten there yet. As we get done with recruiting we will start thinking more personnel-wise. On Avery playing through injury… He's a tough guy. He's a great competitor. He had a pretty bad ankle injury mid-way through the year and battled through that. He's very athletic and a great kid.
On position changes like that reported of Trovon Reed… That's premature. We've not talked about any of that. Once we get to pre-spring meetings, we'll talk through things like that.
On the early enrollees arriving… They're all here and off to a good start.
On the transition for the high school guys… It's good especially for the junior college players where it's a little easier to transition. For the high school guys it's something new but we've got a very good support staff. Their teammates have already developed a relationship with them trying to help them out. That's the great thing about our group. We're a close team and they take care of each other.
On Ricky Parks rejoining team… He's walking on and we're going to give him an opportunity to prove himself.
On backfield with Jay Prosch gone… That's going to be a big question this spring. We'll mix and match guys. We will try a lot of different guys and see where we're at.
What have you done since the game? The next morning, we got up -- it was a travel day – and we got in pretty late. The fans were unbelievable. We have the best fans in college football and they've proved it time and time again. Unbelievable in California and then when we came back here.
Next day, got up the same time, got in the office the same time. We've got recruiting. We've got to move on. We've got to keep this thing going – not a lot of time to rest.
Is this the toughest loss you've had to deal with? There's no doubt – when you get that close, it's pretty tough. But you've got to find a way to move on. The future's bright, and that's what I told our team last night, that the groundwork's laid and the future's bright and we're looking forward. And I'm excited. Once you get over the feeling when you lose a championship game that close, you put that behind you and look forward. We're going to work extremely hard to get back there and redeem ourselves. That's a very motivating thing.
About reports of stealing FSU signals… It's the first I've heard about it. I don't have any way to respond to that.
Any transfers? Kiehl Frazier is moving on. We appreciate everything that's done. He's been a class individual. He's a winner and we're going to root for him in the future. I'm extremely close to him. He's always been nothing but a winner in his attitude. We talked throughout the year and he just felt like at this time, he wanted to go somewhere and play quarterback. We wish him nothing but the best. (speaking to his coach Josh Floyd) Josh is his former high school coach and a former quarterback of mine, so we're all communicating.
Is Justin DeLaine still in the program? We're working through that.
How have the backup punters performed? In practice, they look pretty good. Steven Clark is one of the best punters in college football, so that'll be a big void, but we've got some guys who will compete for the job.
Was Cody Parkey hurt in the BCS game? No, the ball wasn't carrying really well.
How important will it be to get the team back in the weight room? It will be very valuable. We're way ahead of schedule right now on our off-season. Our in-season strength and conditioning program is very progressive; we had guys making personal gains during the season, which is fairly rare. So we're in good shape. Our guys are excited to get back and work with Coach Russell, which is very good thing from my standpoint. They have discretionary weeks to work out on their own.
Have you discussed staff raises with Jay Jacobs? Yes, definitely. We have one of the best staffs in college football and we'll do everything our power to keep them together.
Do you have a timeline for finalizing your own contract details? Yes, that will be in the near future.
About the senior class… As a group they were very impactful, not just in what they did on the field but the work they did off the field. Last spring, before we even got out on the practice field, from a leadership standpoint for the team, they took it and made sure we were close. They took a fragmented team and brought it together. We had very few off the field issues. That's where it started, and it started before we even played football. That's a group that will be remembered. There are a lot of great memories and now that the season's over with, you look back. It all started with those seniors, keeping this team together, keeping them believing. They represented Auburn very well and represented their families. It was a good group to be a part of.
About Jeff Whitaker… Jeff Whitaker's one of our overall leaders and he has a lot of wisdom for his age. Our coaches have a lot of confidence in him as the team does.
About next year's schedule with difficult road games… Obviously, playing at home, we have a huge advantage, but the good thing is we'll have a lot of veteran guys that our coaches are familiar with and who are familiar with our coaches, so we should be in good shape to deal with that on the road.
Of the injured guys, who might be available for spring? We're still working through that; obviously we'd like to have all those guys in contact. The good thing is most of them are veteran guys who already have an idea about the system and everything that goes with that.
About Justin Garrett… Justin Garrett was voted MVP of the spring and then was battling injuries and didn't get to play hardly at all, we were still able to have a successful year. Hopefully we can get him healthy and he can come back to football.
How do you build chemistry with your players? It's about the development of a relationship and trust on both ends. That's where it starts. There's a fine line when you're a coach – after they move on, that's when you really develop a friendship and you help them later in life. Our guys understand that.
Growth of the program since this time last year… Since winter workouts last year to where we are today, it's really impressive to see our guys grow and come together in all the things it takes to be successful in a short period of time. We have some talent here but they all came together. Everything off the field that it takes to be successful, they did. That's a tribute to those guys.
His focus before signing day…Just filling overall needs. There's not really one area that stands out. Just more of the big picture and getting the right people in here.
What he has learned over last 13 months…There's not one thing that stands out. I love being here at Auburn. I love being the head coach of the Auburn Tigers. That's been the main thing for me.
On coaching changes…After recruiting a staff, you always kind of re-evaluate everything at the end of the year and you move forward. We'll cross that bridge once recruiting's over.
On recruiting class…I think everything is going very well and the future is very bright. It's an exciting time for me, being the head coach.
His expectations for players who enrolled in January…For the junior college guys, we expect an impact right off the bat, and for these younger guys, since they're here early, that gives them a semester ahead of the other guys.
On Jonathan Jones' injury…He pulled his hamstring on that kickoff return they had. It's pretty unfortunate.
Are there other guys looking at the NFL… I don't think so. I think everything is pretty much done with that. I think we're pretty much intact moving forward.