Chizik Talks Football, Staff, Facilities

Auburn Coach Gene Chizik talks football and much more at SEC Media Days in Hoover.

Hoover, Ala.—There's a lot of talk away from the football field where the Auburn Tigers are concerned, but on Wednesday Coach Gene Chizik took some time to talk shop while at the SEC Media Days in Hoover.

Coming off a 14-0 BCS National Championship season, Chizik said that losing so many veterans is going to be a challenge for his team to replace in 2011. The good news for the Tigers is that two strong recruiting classes have stocked the cupboards for Chizik's program.

"Because of the youth of our team there are going to be a lot of opportunities for young guys to step up and help us," Chizik said. "That's probably been one of the most enjoyable things about spring practice and working with so many of the young guys already there. Now you add the new ones to the mix, we've made it clear since recruiting them and since they have been on campus with us that everybody has an opportunity.

"When you have such a young team of course everybody is going to ask about the quarterback position and rightly so, but the reality of it is there are battles everywhere and a lot of those young guys will be in the battles."

One of the keys for Chizik and the development of the Auburn program has been staff continuity. In three years only one coach (Tracy Rocker) has left to pursue other options. Rocker is now with the NFL's Tennessee Titans. Chizik said that was an important part of the offseason for the Tigers and the reason why they were willing to pay the assistant coaches a substantial amount to keep the staff intact.

"I feel like this is a great commitment by our administration," Chizik said. "They know how I feel about continuity of staff. If you look around the United States at people that have great staffs and there is so much transition out there. That's not what I want here. I told these guys that I wanted this to be the best job they've ever had when they took it and I really sincerely believe they feel that way."

Keeping the coaching staff together could prove to be a huge thing for the 2011 Tigers with so many young players forced to play key roles on both sides of the ball. Chizik said that's one of the things he feels is very important about this year's club.

"It's huge," Chizik said. "It's human nature that you get comfortable and get into that routine of wanting to be coached by the same guy and hearing the same thing day in and day out. We are a product of what we repeatedly do or hear, all of us. For these young guys having a position coach year after year, I don't think it's any different. I think they need that. You can't always control that, but we're going to try to do it to the best of our ability."

Despite a twitter update on Wednesday from Auburn freshman running back Mike Blakely that his request to the NCAA to be eligible this season has been denied, Chizik wasn't ready to go that far just yet.

"We are still working through the process," Chizik said. "When the process is completely finished, I will let you know."

Another player who apparently still has some questions about his play this fall is redshirt freshman linebacker Jawara White. Even though he said earlier this summer that White had been cleared for contact this fall, Chizik said they are still monitoring White's recovery from back/neck surgery.

"He's an incredible kid who has done everything medically that they've asked him to do to try to return to football," Chizik said. "I can't tell you definitively today where he is exactly today in terms of will he be able to fully come back or not. We're rooting for him because he's a great kid. He's made a lot of strides. We're working in that direction, but I can't give you any definitive right now."

One player there is no question about is running back Eric Smith. Chizik said on Thursday that Smith won't return this season, ending speculation that he could return in 2011. Despite earlier reports making it clear that Smith wasn't going to be part of the Auburn team, rumors persisted that he may return.

When the Tigers take to the practice field on August 3 for preseason drills they should be on the best practice facilities in Auburn history. A new fieldhouse as well as updated practice fields with new grass are scheduled to be done in time for the Tigers and Chizik said he can't wait to see the finished product and get to use it.

"To the best of my knowledge they are working around the clock," Chizik said of the crews finishing installation. "I just have to give everybody tons of credit. Every time I do another walk-through it just seems like they've made incredible strides. It appears it will be (ready)."

The project, with the indoor facility and new fields, started in December and costs approximately $16 million.

"We'll use the indoor whenever we see fit," he added. "It won't be just for inclement weather, we can use it for a variety of reasons. It's state of the art. It's incredible. We had a vision for it two years ago when Jay (Jacobs) and I first talked. It's an extremely important piece of the puzzle. Like everything we've talked about that we feel like is important, our administration has given us the resources. I'm so excited and really it will be state of the art, it will be one of the best in the country if not the best."


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