The Tigers will practice again on New Year's Eve, take New Year's Day off and practice again on Sunday before flying to Arizona on Monday, Jan. 3rd.
"I was really, really proud of the way we practiced," Chizik said. "I thought we had another very good day." The coach said he liked how his team focused at Thursday evening's session.
The Tigers have been trying to practice at a fast tempo and the coach said his team accomplished that despite having to work out in the rain in the two hours-plus session held under the lights at the Hutsell-Rosen Track and Field. The Tigers moved to their new practice location because construction crews have torn up the three football practice fields while putting in the foundation for the new indoor practice facility that is scheduled to be completed next summer.
Chizik said the Tigers will have more full pads practices prior to their Jan. 10th game vs. Oregon. "We have been practicing well in whatever gear we chose to practice in,"?he said. "I think they have really taken it to heart it is about going to work."
Auburn's head coach flew to Connecticut on Monday night and spent part of Tuesday doing a variety of interviews at ESPN that are being aired on that media entity's TV and radio networks. "It was good," Chizik said of the trip. "I felt like it was a great opportunity to go up there and talk about Auburn football."
Assistant head coach Trooper Taylor said that Chizik's multiple TV appearances have been a boost for recruiting. Taylor, who also coaches wide receivers, said that the Auburn coaches have been getting calls and messages about Chizik's TV appearances from their recruits as well as other players who want to be recruited by the Tigers.
Curtis Luper, who is Auburn's recruiting coordinator as well as running backs coach, agreed with Taylor and pointed out that playing in the national championship game is a huge plus for recruiting even though the coaches will be in Arizona preparing for the game while other coaching staffs will be making in-home visits with prospects.
Commenting on recruiting, Chizik said, "It is tough because obviously we are kind of removed from the territory we normally recruit, but we have got a good recruiting plan and we are playing in the national championship game--that is recruiting in itself. It is a little bit of a Catch 22 because you would like to be able to see some guys, but it will all work out."
Senior defensive tackle Zach Clayton said the team reported back ready to get to work after their Christmas break. "We hit the ground running and didn't have any hiccups or anything like that," he said.
Zach Clayton has started every game for the Tigers this season.
Clayton is expected to be in the middle of the action when the Tigers take on an Oregon offense that likes to attack the middle of a defense with its running game led by All-American LaMichael James.
"They have a strong running team and they are going to try to run the ball the majority of the time," Clayton said. "They like to throw outside passes and that type of thing to try to get us winded and then run up the middle. That is something we are preparing for and the tempo as well."
Clayton said it has been a plus for the Tigers to have plenty of practice time for this game so the defense can do extra conditioning work to prepare for Oregon's ultra-fast style of play. "We have had four weeks to get ready for it so the conditioning aspect shouldn't be too big of a problem because we are going against our offense running a play about every 10 seconds."
In addition to running drills with Kevin Yoxall and his strength and conditioning staff, the defense has been doing pursuit drills during and after practice. Individual players have been doing additional aerobic work by jumping rope during practices.
James, who finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting behind Auburn's Cameron Newton and Stanford's Andrew Luck, is the nation's leading rusher. Asked if James reminds him of any back he has played against, Clayton said James has the same type of skills that made Noel Devine a star at West Virginia.
In other news and notes:
*The Senior Bowl announced on Thursday that offensive tackle Lee Ziemba and middle linebacker Josh Bynes have bene invited to play in that all-star game scheduled for Jan. 29th at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile. "I am really, really proud of those guys," Chizik said. "It is a great honor."
*Ziemba is a consensus All-American who won the Jacobs Trophy as the SEC's top blocker. He has the school record for consecutive starts with 51. Bynes, who has started 34 consecutive games, earned second team All-SEC honors as a senior.
*Bynes will be playing in his third bowl game. He has 10 career tackles in postseason play second on the team behind Neiko Thorpe's 14.
*Offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn's name has been mentioned as a candidate for the vacant Maryland job after he turned down the chance to be head coach at Vanderbilt. "A lot of our guys are going to get attention, and rightly so," Chizik said. "It is flattering when you are in those shoes, there is no question about it. The thing that I am most proud of about our coaching staff is they are very focused on one thing right now and that is to win one more game."
*Taylor said that Darvin Adams will be the No. 1 punt returner for the championship game with Quindarius Carr No. 2 and Anthony Morgan No. 3 for the championship game. Taylor said that Adams has been making good decisions on when to run and when to call fair catches in practice. Adams handled that assignment in the SEC Championship Game after Carr lost a fumble in game 12 vs. Alabama.
*Chizik noted that Auburn will need to play well on special teams vs. Oregon because that is a strength of the Ducks. "They are really good at everything they do," said Chizik, who said from watching video of Oregon that the Pac-10 team obviously spends a lot of time working on special teams.
*Another guy getting a look at punt returner, cornerback Chris Davis, has done a good job with that assignment, according to Taylor, who said that he has been impressed with the job the freshman has done in coverage during practice.
*Offensive line coach Jeff Grimes noted that even though his team's OL will have a significant size advantage over Oregon's defensive line, that doesn't mean the Tigers won't face a major challenge in Glendale on Jan. 10th. The Auburn coach said Oregon's defensive line quickness and intensity will be a challenge to deal with as well as an aggressive scheme that forces the entire offense to deal with a variety of blitz packages. Auburn's coaches are expecting he Ducks to blitz on about 50 percent of Auburn's offensive plays.