Auburn, Ala.--As the Auburn Tigers prepare to face the Virginia Cavaliers in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl on New Year's Eve in Atlanta the defense is dealing with a change on that side of the ball as Head Coach Gene Chizik has taken over the duties as defensive coordinator for Ted Roof.
On Monday the Tigers hit the practice field for the first time in preparation for the bowl game and Chizik was coaching the linebackers along with Graduate Assistant Dustin Landry. Getting back into the swing of things didn't take long for Chizik according to senior linebacker Eltoro Freeman, who said Chizik continues to do the right things on and off the field for the future of the program.
"He's the real deal man. He set the tone starting today and it actually started two weeks ago before practice. He set the tone for us in the classroom, off the field, and on the field. He's real strict and he's a man of his word. He expects things done right and the Auburn way. If it's not done either one of those ways then you won't be a part of Auburn. I think these bowl practices and the standards Coach Chizik has set are going to help Auburn men become better men and also better football players."
While Chizik is busy doing double duty on the field as a coordinator in addition to being the head coach, he's also in the process of finding a new defensive coordinator for the Tigers in 2012. Until he does however Jeffrey Whitaker said the team has all the faith in the world in Chizik.
"I've been with Coach Roof for a while," Whitaker said. "It was a little shock. It was a shock when I found out, but at the same time, knowing Coach Chiz, he's going to make a great decision, whoever he brings in. At the same time, we just went through the situation with Coach Rock (Tracy Rocker), when he left, and brought in a great defensive line coach in coach (Mike) Pelton. Me, I don't have no worries."
Something Chizik has already done is grab the attention of the players at linebacker. Freeman said it started in his talks with the team and continued on the practice field. He said because of that he's ready to give his best shot at helping the Tigers finish off the season on a high note.
"Coach Chizik is straightforward and is going to tell you the truth whether you like it or not," Freeman said. "He's not going to sugar coat anything. That's one of the things he did in the meeting room today. He let everyone know where we were and how he felt about each one of us as far as a player and the things we need to work on. That's exactly what I like. I'm going into this thing full speed and working hard in the film room and at practice. I'm trying to do whatever I can do to help Auburn get that eighth win."
Freeman Part 1:
Freeman Part 2: