Chizik Upbeat About Search, Program, Practice

Comments from Auburn's head football coach Gene Chizik and Brandon Mosley are featured in this bowl practice report.

Auburn, Ala.--Gene Chizik said everything is going well with his Tigers as Auburn wrapped up the on-campus portion of bowl preparations with a practice that lasted one hour and 45 minutes on get-away day for the players on Wednesday.

Chizik, who has been working as interim defensive coordinator and linebackers coach as well as head coach, was asked after practice if he has made headway on the searches to replace Ted Roof as defensive coordinator and Gus Malzahn as offensive coordinator. His answer was a short one. "Absolutely," he said.

As he has done previously, the head coach has avoided giving many hints on who he will hire and when that will happen. Asked if it would be after the New Year's Eve bowl game when he announces his hires, Chizik said, "Without trying to box myself in the corner with the time line, that is certainly a very good possibility."

Asked what he is looking for in the coaches he hires, and if bringing in someone who would keep the job on a long-term basis is a priority, Chizik said, "I think you hire the best guy. Obviously, continuity is something you would really like to try to have.

"The real unfortunate or fortunate reality is if you hire really good ones, a lot of people want them. I want to hire the best fit--the best person for Auburn. Obviously, continuity would be a big deal, but the most important thing is that it is the right terms of being on the same page and having the same philosophies. That is the most important thing."

Despite being two coaches short of a full staff when Malzahn leaves for his head coaching position after the bowl game, Chizik said he is pleased with the way things are going with the overall program.

"We are in a great place," he said. "We have no reason to believe the plan we laid down three years ago, which is us going on a really, really direct path...we have no reason to believe that anything has changed.

"We have had changes in personnel and staff here. That is only simply because of the circumstances they had in taking those jobs. They had to do what was best for their families. That happens all of the time in college football. People will try to portray it however they want to, but the reality of it is, is that we are on the exact same path we were a month ago, two months ago.

"People are going to spin it how they want to spin it, but I can assure everybody out there, there is absolutely 100 percent one direction we are going and that is the same direction we have been going since we got here three years ago," Chizik said. "Nothing has changed and the future is very bright."

Coach Gene Chizik is wrapping up his third season as head coach of the Tigers.

Chizik said having the support of Athletic Director Jay in providing the financial resources to hire the right people for the jobs is an important tool in finding the best guys to replace Malzahn and Roof. "I think it is a huge part of the puzzle," Chizik said.

"When you talk about paying assistants these days, if you are going to go out and hire assistants that have proven themselves by their body of work, it is about market value," Chizik said. "The prices and the salaries that a lot of these position coaches--not just head coaches--but coordinators...the salaries they have escalated to is all about supply and demand. That is the way the market is.

"Whether we like that or don't like that, it is all about the market," Chizik added. "You have to be able to stay within the range of the market or you have no chance getting the top guys you are interested in.

"Anybody you go after, if they are a coordinator at a really good place or been there for a long time, the reality is you are going to have to pay them because they are going to come back and pay them. That is the way it works."

Chizik noted the money available is quite different for coaches than when he got into the business. "It has really been incredible over the last X amount of years how all of the salaries have escalated, but here is one thing you pretty much know. In the business world when the salaries go up, they usually are never coming down. When you set the bar they are usually only going up, and that is where we are at in college football."

The Tigers will reassemble in Atlanta on Christmas night and start practices there the following day. Chizik said he liked the final workout on campus.

"I thought it was a really good practice this morning," he said. "Typically this is a day they are ready to get out, but they were focused, they were really, really in tune to what we were doing."

The Chick-fil-A Bowl game will kick off at 6:30 p.m. at the Georgia Dome in New Year's Eve as the Tigers play Virginia for just the third time. The series is tied 1-1. "We have got a lot of work left when we get to Atlanta," Chizk said. "We know that. I think now we are in a good place."

Commenting on Wednesday's workout, the coach said, "Offensively, we did a lot of third downs, a lot of landmarks, situational things. Defensively, there are a lot of movements and shifts and trades. We were just making sure that all of the alignments are correct and basically just worked on different personnel groupings."

Offensive tackle Brandon Mosley, who will be playing his last game for the Tigers in the bowl, said he is looking forward to the New Year's Eve matchup vs. Virginia as he finishes his two seasons with the Tigers after transferring in from junior college.

"It's different because we are not playing for the national championship, but it is still exciting at the same time to be able to make it to a bowl game and have one more game to play with these coaches and players," he said.

Brandon Mosley started on last season's national championship team and has continued that role during his senior season.

Mosley noted that his understudy, freshman Greg Robinson who is redshirting, should be ready to compete for the Tigers next season. "Greg is going to be good," Mosley predicted. "He has got a lot of potential and upside. He has been getting a lot better going on throughout the year.

"He has learned the plays and has come a long way," Mosley added. "He has got all of the tools you need--size, strength, quickness."

The Chick-fil-A Bowl will be the final game for a senior class of 15 players. The group includes just six the Tigers signed out of high school. Wide receiver Quindarius Carr, safety Drew Cole, injured offensive guard Jared Cooper, linebacker Eltoro Freeman, offensive tackle A.J. Greene and safety Neiko Thorpe signed with the Tigers as high school seniors. Freeman re-signed with the Tigers out junior college and Mosley played for the Tigers for two years after signing out of junior college.

In other news and notes:

*Going into the bowl game junior Daren Bates leads the Tigers in tackles with a late season push in which he has made 34 of his 96 tackles in the last three games. With 12, 12 and 10 tackles in the past three outings, the linebacker is the first Auburn player to make 10 or more tackles in three consecutive games since Dontarrious Thomas did it in 2001 vs. Ole Miss, Syracuse and Vandy. Thomas totaled 46 tackles in that stretch on the way to making 122 that season.

Daren Bates is a three-year starter for the Tigers.

*Chizik had praise for the winners of the coaching staff's scout teams player of the year awards. Walk-on Corey Grant, a running back transfer from Alabama who played at Opelika High, won the offensive award. Daniel Pond, a walk-on linebacker from Spanish Fort High, was honored on defense.

Corey Grant transferred to Auburn in 2011.

"Corey has been unbelievable in the weight room," Chizik said. "He has been the ultimate team player. Anything we have asked him to do, he has done it with a great heart and a smile.

"Daniel Pond just every day gives great effort out there. Those are things for their teammates see them do, knowing that they are doing this, and knowing they are doing it because they love football. That is really exciting for their teammates."

*Based on the cumulative record of opponents, Auburn played the nation's second toughest schedule during the regular season with opponents posting a .623 winning percentage. LSU's schedule is rated the toughest with opponents winning at a .639 percentage.

*Auburn's bowl opponent finished the regular season with an 8-4 overall record and a 5-3 mark in the ACC. That tied Virginia with Georgia Tech for second place in six-team Coast Division of the Atlantic Coast Conference behind Virginia Tech, which was 7-1 in the league.

*Virginia is making its first bowl appearance since 2007. The Cavaliers also broke into the AP Top 25 for the first time this season since last doing it in December 2007.

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