Auburn Offensive Coordinator Rhett Lashlee Quotes

Saturday, December 31, 2016

RHETT LASHLEE:  A great honor to be here. Just growing up in the southeast and attending a Southeastern Conference school and working in the SEC for seven years, the Sugar Bowl is a huge deal. It’s a huge honor. It was always the game that as a player and coach you dream of coaching in and playing in. Honored to be here. We have a great challenge ahead of us, but our guys are prepared, looking forward to playing here in a couple of days.

Q. Rhett, the passing game has struggled this season as a whole, mainly because of Sean’s [White] injuries. They’re doing very poorly against pass defense. How confident are you that you are going to be able to take advantage of a very poor pass defense and how confident are you that Sean will be healthy for this game?

RHETT LASHLEE:  Sean has practiced the entire bowl prep. I think he is looking pretty good right now. He has had a couple of good days the last few days. There’s no question, when we were playing well in the middle of the year, we had a pretty good balance offensively. We were very efficient on the football.  Right before he got hurt, he was leading the league in pass efficiency, completion percentage, touchdown interception ratio, yards for completion, a lot of good categories.

He got hurt. And as a whole, the last couple of games, we were very poor in the passing game. That’s going to have to be something that we do well in a couple days and just keep the balance that allowed us to be successful when we were playing well.

Q. Jarrett Stidham, which we know well in Big 12 country, can you talk about going after him, how you got him, what you sold him on, those kinds of things, and how that has affected Sean [White], an incumbent starter who now looks like will have to fight for his job again?

RHETT LASHLEE:  Every year you’re trying to go out and recruit players in every position. You bring in a new quarterback or two every year. That’s not uncommon.

Obviously, Jarrett [Stidham] is someone who is familiar with our style of play, our style of offense, back from when he was in high school, even at Baylor. So we thought that was a good fit. Just the more we got to know him and recruit him, like we do other people, we thought he was a good fit for what we do in our program.

As far as Sean [White] goes, Sean has been great. Sean has prepared for this game. Sean and all of our players, we’re worried about this game.

Every year, again, you’re bringing in players at every position. So every year guys know in the off%u2011season they’re competing. I think competition brings out the best in everybody, and I don’t think it will be any different in this scenario.

Q. When you look at the health, obviously Sean’s [White] health is important, but what difference and how big is it to have Kamryn Pettway and Kerryon Johnson both closer to 100% as well?

RHETT LASHLEE:  It’s huge. In leagues like the SEC and the Big 12, you’re going to get beat up throughout the year, so injuries are part of it. But some of our impact players being nicked up late in the season didn’t help.

Even Kerryon Johnson is a guy who played from that Mississippi State game, was pretty much banged up most of the year. We were just talking yesterday, it looked like he is kind of back to full speed and just looking like his old self.

So in a game like this where you’re playing such a high%u2011quality opponent, we’re going to have to play extremely well on our end of the football. Trying to have all of your guys as close to a 100% is a big plus. We have had a couple of weeks here to try to regain the momentum and the form that we had during that six%u2011game winning streak in the middle of the season.

Q. Going back to Jarrett [Stidham], can you speak to his skill set and what he brought to the table that enticed you, particularly in the passing game? Touch on how it impacts Sean [White].  Have you spoken to John Franklin about how that impacts him and any position change or anything like that for his future?

RHETT LASHLEE:  John is playing quarterback. Again, we’re going to bring in players every year. We do think Jarrett fits. His skill set fits what we like to do very well, but so do the guys that we have. Not any disrespect to him.

I kind of want to focus on the guys playing in this game because I think they have earned that. But Jarrett, he can obviously throw the football well, throw it vertically down the field. But he’s going to have to come in and earn the respect of his teammates and earn the right to have a chance to play, just like the guys who are here are going to compete as well.

So, again, Sean and John and all the other quarterbacks %u2011%u2011 Jarrett was on campus a couple of days during bowl practice, and those guys got along just fine and there weren’t any issues. And I expect it to be that way in the spring.

Q. Talk about going in against a team that is scoring about 45 points a game. Do you feel more pressure as an offensive coordinator to try to keep up?

RHETT LASHLEE:  Well, there’s no question that what they do offensively has been impressive. Lincoln [Riley] has done a great job. They put a lot of pressure on you as a whole football team.

And that’s why I said we’re going to have to play extremely well. It’s a team game. You know we have to pick the defense up; they have to pick us up. And the last couple of games, we didn’t do our part.  So, you know, we do feel like we’re healthy. We feel like we have had good preparation.

This Oklahoma defense is a pretty good defense now. They do a really good job in their league. They’re sound. They do a very good job of mixing up coverages and fronts. They’re very multiple. They have got a player that can really get after the passer. Number 31 is really, really good. He can really affect the game.

So I think that for us to go out and just play our best and be balanced is key for us always. We can’t be one%u2011dimensional. We have got to be better on third down. Going in most of the season, we were one of the top third down teams in our league. The last three games obviously we were one of the worst.

So staying on the field, keeping the ball away from them but obviously giving us a chance to score some points, that’s when we were at the our best this year. And we have to get more explosive and get back to that balance we had during the middle of the season.

Q. Rhett, a couple of years ago, you thought you were going to be in the Sugar Bowl with Sean [White] and Kamryn [Pettway] going to be the two guys you were counting on, as much as you are. That probably wouldn’t have been what you expected. Could you just talk about what they have done over these last couple of years to kind of put themselves in the position they’re in?

RHETT LASHLEE:  Talking about Sean and Pettway?  I think Sean is one of those kids, as I said before, who has been a little bit of the underdog. He has a great competitive desire, and that’s what his guys love about him, and he just keeps coming at you.

Having him out there gives our guys a shot in the arm because of his competitiveness. And he’s always %u2011%u2011 any time the challenge has been brought up and people write him off, he usually rises to the occasion.

As far as Kamryn Pettway, we recruited him out of Prattville, Alabama. He was a running back.  We weren’t sure if he was going to be a running back, an H%u2011back. He’s a bigger back. First year he played H%u2011back, and then we had some depth issues going in the season in running back. We said let’s see what we can do.

Tim Horton made a comment at the end of the spring, said he’s going to be just fine. He said he may end up being our best guy. It wasn’t a cut to any of the other guys. Sure enough, about two or three games into the season, he got hot and got rolling.

Him and Kerryon [Johnson] really complement each other well. But what he has been able to do this year been really phenomenal and been a big lift for us.

Q. You did some cool experimentation with some plays this year. I thought the single wing was something we were watching. Tell me how you assess how that all worked out, how you ran some of that in the Iron Bowl, just looking back on that.

RHETT LASHLEE:  I think we were three games in the season. We were struggling. I think one thing, too, it was a couple of games left in the season. At one point, 87, 88% of our yards came from freshmen and sophomores this year. So we’re a pretty young football team.

So those first couple of games, we played some really good teams, Clemson and A&M and even Arkansas State, who won the Sun Belt. And we weren’t really clicking very well at all.

So we were able to kind of step back and try to simplify things. It allowed us to play faster, maybe not quite as many formations and changes. But it allowed our guys to play faster, adjust better on the move, and maybe just play with a little more confidence. And it probably allowed us to start executing better.  Because at the end of the day, it’s not about how many plays you have; it’s how many plays you can run well.

So I think that’s why, when we started playing well at the middle of the season, that was probably the biggest adjustment we made. And that kind of took us away from some of the things like the single wing and things like that.

But when we had injuries and things happen towards the end of the year, sometimes you search a little bit to try to help give your guys a better chance to be successful. But, again, we’re just trying to give our guys confidence.

At one point in time, we were leading the SEC in total offense, not too long ago. So we have got it in us. We just have to make sure that we show up and put our best foot forward.

Q. Coach, you still have one more game left. But how big is it having a guy like Kam Pettway coming back in 2017 for next year?

RHETT LASHLEE:  It’s big any time you have the SEC’s leading rusher in yards per game coming back. Again, he got a roll and got on a tear. I think he only played in seven or eight of our games and still had a really, really good year.  But in our league, you can tell you’re going to have to have more than one guy. But it’s huge.

You just hope that after having one year of playing running back in our league under his belt, have a great off%u2011season, that he can even have a better year, too.

Q. With all the bowl practice, extra practice back at Auburn, were some of the young guys out there stepping up and playing well? And, specifically Woody Barrett, how did he do in practice?

RHETT LASHLEE:  That’s one of the best things about the bowl practice, especially when you’re at your home site. We had about eight or nine practices there. Every day the young guys get more reps, get more individual work. Especially early on in the bowl prep, you’re able to scrimmage them and let them play.

And Woody did good things.  So we let our young guys play.  Woody took predominantly all of those reps, and that’s almost like an extra spring ball for those guys %u2011%u2011

So when you look at that we’re going to get to the spring here in a couple of months, hopefully those 10 to 12 extra practices that Woody got, being in our meetings and not just being with the scout team and those kind of things the whole time will help speed up the development process for him and a lot of those other younger guys.

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