"We have definitely grown as a football team in terms of chemistry, in terms of becoming a team that finds a way to work together to win games" Chizik said. "We've found about every way you can win one. We're going to continue to grow. Since early in the season we've got a lot of new guys, starting at the quarterback position (Cameron Newton), and I think everybody has learned the guy playing next to him and things of that nature. That has helped in terms of us gaining an identity."
Despite the fact that Auburn is undefeated, ranked high, and has the leading Heisman Trophy candidate on its side, the Tigers still aren't a dominating football team to this point. Struggles in different areas and every game make for a tough Saturday each week, but for a coaching staff Chizik said it's the perfect medicine to keep a team focused on the upcoming opponent. In this case that's the Ole Miss Rebels.
"It's hard to play your best game every week and fortunately, or unfortunately however you look at it, we've haven't played our best game every week," Chizik said. "We've played sections of the game that have been good but we're still looking for a game that we put together and can say we played four good quarters all the way around.
"Yesterday I thought special teams-wise wasn't anywhere near where we were the week before, so we took a step back," he added. "Defensively I thought we took a step forward from where we were the week before. Offensively in terms of yards we were close to the same but in terms of point production not as good simply because of the field position issues our special teams kept us in all night. You can look at the whole perspective and we haven't played our best game yet. We're still in search of that. There should be no reason why our team should beat its chest at this point in my opinion."
That starts at the top with Newton and trickles down to every player on the team according to Chizik. Dealing with the demands put on a player of his caliber is one of the difficult things Newton will have to deal with each week as he prepares to play his best on Saturday. Chizik said right now that's something Newton has to be aware of.
"At the end of the day when you talk about postseason awards and recognition, that's only going to come with him being able to focus on being a football player," Chizik said. "That doesn't mean all the other stuff doesn't matter but at the end of the day he's got to do the things that are going to help him be the quarterback at Auburn. Time management is definitely an issue. We know that. We're going to try to do all the things we think are the best and the right things to do for the young man."
For the moment Newton is the runaway favorite to win the Heisman, an award which gets a ton of attention from around the country. Chizik said because of what he's done on the field his junior quarterback deserves to at least be in contention at the moment but it speaks more for what the players have done surrounding him as well this season.
"In my opinion a player's statistics and all the things that go into him warranting that attention is out there for everybody to see," Chizik said. "Do we have a guy that deserves that? Absolutely. There's no question about it. The best thing as a coaching staff we can do is give him a chance every week with what we're doing in the game plan to continue to put those types of numbers up so he can get recognized.
"To me it's a team award. I don't think there's any question about that. If I don't have five guys up there blocking and guys on the perimeter blocking like they've blocked then the results don't necessarily look the same. He's a great football player and does a lot of things on his own, makes guys miss and makes plays. That's why he's getting the attention he's getting and rightly so but at the end of the day it's a team award. The best thing we can do for any of our guys up for postseason awards is to continue to give them a plan each week that gives them a chance to win."
In addition to Newton there's also a good chance that junior Nick Fairley will get serious consideration for both the Outland Trophy and Lombardi Award at the end of the year. Chizik said if you look at what he's done this season the Mobile native should be in the running.
"I don't think there's any way you could say he isn't," Chizik said. "I think the numbers speak for themselves. Anybody that watched the game yesterday would have a hard time denying the fact that he's one of the best defensive linemen in the country. Does he play like that every play, I don't know about that, but I know he makes an impact on a lot of games and has been doing that consistently all year." Tiger Ticket Notes
Chizik said that defensive back Chris Davis was solid against LSU after being forced into a bigger role with the injury to T'Sharvan Bell. He said Jonathan Evans did an adequate job playing when Daren Bates went down on Saturday with an injury. With Bates questionable for next weekend Chizik said Eltoro Freeman could step into that role as could Craig Stevens, who is capable of playing both sides at linebacker.