HOOVER, AL (WBRC) - As SEC Media Days began on Monday, Auburn football coach Gus Malzahn announced that four of his players facing marijuana possession charges will not miss playing time.
Speaking to assembled TV reporters in Hoover, Malzahn said that cornerbacks Carlton Davis and Jeremiah Dinson along with receiver Ryan Davis and defensive lineman Byron Cowart will play in the Tiger's season opener against Clemson.
Malzahn said Monday that the players made first-time mistakes and have completed punishment at Auburn (Malzahn would not divulge the exact form of punishment).
The four Tiger players were charged with misdemeanor drug possession charges on April 30. They are facing a court appearance on July 21.
Malzahn said that barring them from playing time "is the right thing to do." Malzahn has disciplined players in the past after marijuana possession arrests (see Jonathon Mincy & Nick Marshall), but insisted on Monday that the four players that will escape a benching are indeed remorseful.
Malzahn denied that playing Clemson in the season-opener had any effect on his decision.
In other news from Hoover in Monday:
Malzahn was asked if he considers himself on the hot seat following a 7-6 record in 2015. Said Malzahn, "Coaches are on the hot seat every day. You have to win in this league, it's that simple." Asked if he thinks his head coach is under pressure, defensive lineman Carl Lawson told the assembled media, "His record speaks for itself, that's all I'm going to say."
What about bouncing back from that trying 2015 season? Malzahn repeatedly pointed out that last fall the Tigers lost several close games while the year before they won several close games. The coach says that his challenge this fall will be to make sure his players find a way to win the close ones. Said the coach as he greeted print and internet reporters, "I think each year after year, you always -- you know, you take a look back and you evaluate things, what can you do better from a head coach's standpoint, what can you do better from an administrative standpoint. So it was good for me to set back and look and evaluate everything. You know, when I look at last year, really the thing that stands out to me is we lost close games. In this league, you're going to have a lot of close games. The two previous years, we were one of the best in the country at winning close games. And we had opportunities. And usually it comes down in this league to two or three plays in these close games, and you got to find a way to make them and you got to have your guys prepared and you got to be able to execute. And from an offensive standpoint, really was the first time since I've been coaching college that we didn't execute at, what I say, a high level consistently. And that goes back on me. I do feel good about where we're hat at. I do feel good about some of the valuations and some of the changes we made going into this year."
And the quarterback race and the high octane offense that was missing at times last fall? Said the coach, "Offensively, one thing we have focused on in the spring and will in fall camp, getting back to playing with pace. That's the edge of ours in the past, and that's got to be the same this coming year. Also executing at a high level. We always pride ourselves in executing at a high level. Last year we didn't dote get that done. Those were the two focuses from my standpoint to get this thing turned around so we can play quality offense like we expect. And, thirdly, we got to find our starting quarterback. The positive is we have three guys that we feel like can execute our offense. The challenge we have is defining and figuring out who that guy is that gives us the best chance to win games." Added Malzahn, "Last season Jeremy Johnson went through a storm, but he has a chip on his shoulder this summer. John Franklin III has looked impressive, but I want to stress that all three quarterbacks are very capable."
On a lighter note, I asked Coach Malzahn what kind of speeds he has reached in the new BMW i8 he recently purchased. Said Malzahn, "I think I have only driven over the speed limit once or twice (sheepish grin).. I do to watch my speed, but I will tell you the car can go 160 miles an hour."
The Auburn coach would like nothing better to be in the driver's seat of the SEC's western division come early December.