Chizik On Dyer, UVA And the Bowl Experience

News, notes and quotes are featured as Auburn heads into Saturday night's Chick-fil-A Bowl vs. Virginia.

Atlanta, Ga.--Gene Chizik responded to rumors that Michael Dyer is transferring to Arkansas State and heaped praise on his bowl opponent on Friday as his Auburn football team heads into Saturday evening's SEC vs. ACC Chick-fil-A Bowl battle vs. the University of Virginia.

The rumor is that the All-SEC sophomore running back, who is suspended from the Auburn team, will follow Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn to Arkansas State. It started before Christmas in Jonesboro, Ark., where Malzahn is moving after the bowl game to take over as head coach of the Arkansas State Red Wolves.

"Michael Dyer's status with Auburn has not changed," Chizik said on Friday afternoon. "If it does, I will let you know. I am not aware of that."

Asked for more details, Chizik said, "I am not going to get into the details of my discussions with Michael Dyer."

Dyer was suspended prior to the start of bowl practices and returned home to Little Rock, Ark., following fall semester final exams. Chizik said that the door is open for Dyer to return to the team, but only if he is willing to conform to the team's rules. Dyer is expected to talk with the head coach on that subject prior to the start of spring semester classes at Auburn.

In Dyer's absence junior Onterio McCalebb and freshman Tre Mason are expected to take expanded roles at tailback. Also, freshman wide receiver Quan Bray has worked at running back as has freshman walk-on Garrett Harper plus senior walk-on Davis Hooper, who was cleared to play before Christmas after missing the entire season with a knee injury.

The Auburn vs. Virginia game will kick off shortly after 6:30 p.m. CST (7:30 p.m. Atlanta time) from the Georgia Dome. Television coverage is on ESPN. On Friday the bowl announced that the game is a sellout for a 15th consecutive year.

"This is really a testament to the extremely high level of support that we've received by local fans, and ACC and SEC team fans who continue to embrace our game," said Gary Stokan, the Chick-fil-A Bowl's president. "Atlanta is passionate about college football and is a hotbed for both conferences, making our annual match-up a perfect fit."

Saturday's game will be the third ever matching the Tigers and Cavaliers and the first in the postseason. Auburn won at Virginia in 1997 and the Cavaliers won the rematch the following season at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Both Chizik and Virginia coach Mike London had praise for bowl officials, the legion of volunteer helpers and their hospitality as well their opponents. They noted the whole week since they arrived in Atlanta has been well organized and that the players, the coaching staff and the coaching staff's families have had a great time.

"I don't think there is any question it has been a first class trip for our football team since we arrived Christmas night," Chizik said. "The hospitality, the people have been second to none. I feel like the events for the players have been really, really fun.

"In all the bowl games I've been to, this has to be right there at the top in terms of the hospitality, the organization--just the way the week has flowed for our players. I think they have really enjoyed it.

"At the end of the day, this is a reward for our players and our coaches and their families as well," Chizik added. "We had a lot of little kids on our staff. They have had a ball. It has just been a great experience."

Senior offensive tackle Brandon Mosley is shown racing a go-kart. Auburn's players defeated Virginia's team in the competition on Thursday evening. The Tigers averaged 29.31 seconds per lap and the Cavaliers averaged 30.56.

Chizik said that he is impressed with UVA's London and a person and a coach. He noted that from studying video of the Cavaliers in action it is obvious that the Tigers will be competing against a well-coached opponent.

London also had high praise for Auburn and its program and noted that the Cavaliers have a lot of respect for the Tigers as national power in college football. He said that even though it happened last season, his players are excited to have the opportunity to try to knock off the national champions.

" I think anytime you can play on a national scale with a team of a national reputation as Auburn, compete and play well, it is always going to help you," London said. "It is always going to help any program through the media exposure, through coming into the game, having a winning record."

News and Notes:

*The Chick-fil-A Fan Fest at the Georgia World Congress Center is set for 2-6 p.m. EST on Saturday.

*This year's game is the 20th anniversary of the Chick-fil-A Bowl matching the SEC vs. the ACC. The ACC leads 10-9.

*Bowl president Stokan had praise for the Auburn and UVA players on Friday noting they have been well mannered and "respectful" throughout the bowl week.

Auburn junior tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen talks with Scottish Rite Hospital patient Courtney Woodie during a visit by AU players and head coach Gene Chizik.

*Chizik will try to keep alive his record of never being on the losing team in a bowl game as a head coach or assistant coach. He is 5-0 at Auburn in bowl games, two as head man and three as defensive coordinator.

*When he was defensive coordinator of the Tigers, Chizik worked from the press box, but he said that he will stay on the sidelines for the Chick-fil-A Bowl game even though he will be serving as the interim coordinator. Graduate assistant coach Dustin Landry will be his eyes in the sky on Saturday night.

"Dustin Landry has worked with us now three or four years," Chizik said. "He's been to every meeting. He is on top of it. He has done a really great job for us. He has been my personnel guy. He does the things that information-wise I'm going to need him to do. We have been working together now for three weeks on exactly the plan and how it's going to unfold. He's going to be my main guy.

"Of course, we have every coach that we have looking at different things on the field as well, gathering information," Chizik added. "We will have to get used to it in the first quarter. It will be a little bit different, but we will make it work."

*London said that UVA's top defensive player, All-ACC cornerback Chase Minniefield, will be a game-time decision on whether or not he plays due to an injury.


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