It's hard to imagine anything positive coming out of a shutout loss, but the play of Auburn freshman quarterback Jonathan Wallace was just that. While the Tigers didn't get on the scoreboard and there were definitely some missed opportunities, coach Gene Chizik said in just his second start Wallace showed some good things.
"He played against a very effective defense, a very good, very aggressive defense," Chizik said. "I've just got to give the kid a lot of credit, because he stands up in there, and takes some hits and makes some plays with his feet. He makes some things happen. He also missed some things that young guys miss. That's really where it's out. It's the equivalent of a rookie starting in the NFL, somewhat. It's a tough go the first couple of times that you get in there.
"You've got the whole gameplan. Now, as I said going into the game, that was going to be a whole different scenario than the last time he went in. Because the last time he went in, it was a little more tame with pressures, and that wasn't the case last night. Overall, it's going to be a learning experience for him. For a young guy, he doesn't panic, he's frustrated he threw the interception, and that's the sign of a competitor. He'll continue to improve. Overall, with the circumstances the way they are, I think he's done a good job."
VanGorder's Comments Off The Mark?
Following Saturday's 38-0 loss to Georgia defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder had some direct things to say about the Tigers and a lack of playmakers on defense:
"In all fairness to them, I think they carry a toughness about them," VanGorder said. "I say that in that they've endured a very difficult year. We're not built, our defense is not built with size, strength and power right now. I think that becomes obvious against teams like Georgia. First game, Clemson. It shows up. Players know. We talk about it. I respect them.
"I've had a lot of fun with them in terms of learning football, working on changing the culture in our room. They did a fine job preparing this week. I feel awful that they go out and good things didn't happen. You've got to earn those things. You've got to tackle."
When asked to respond to VanGorder's words from Saturday night Chizik said there is no question the Tigers need some improvement on defense, but as to the rest of the thoughts from his defensive coordinator he's not so sure.
"I don't really know how I interpret that," Chizik said. "I think that there are obviously some positions that we feel like we need to upgrade in terms of productivity but other than that I really don't have a lot as far as interpretation of that. I'm not really sure exactly what all that means but we can always be bigger, we can always be stronger. But again I think we've got guys at certain positions that we can certainly, and need to, upgrade."
Chizik Not Thinking About His Future
While Auburn continues to struggle and the talk continues to grow louder surrounding his job security, Chizik said that for him it's still about the players and getting ready for the next opponent. This week that means Alabama A&M and the last home game for a group of seniors that have done some good things on the Plains.
"This isn't about me," Chizik said. "Really and truly, I really want to talk about our next football game and our seniors that it's their last time. Getting a chance to play in this stadium and these guys have done a lot for our program. They've been involved in a lot of wins and a lot of great things that have happened. Really, that's the focus for me. It's not about me.
"I understand the question. But it's just really not about me. My number one focus is this week, and trying to get the seniors to make sure that the last game they play in this stadium is one that they can go out with a win. Then we'll address the next week when that comes, and we all know what that week is and the importance of that week. But it's not about me."
Chizik Talks Next Season
Saying that he feels very strongly he's the guy to turn the program around next season, Chizik said that the focus following this year will be on improvements on both sides of the ball. He said that begins with evaluating where you are and what you need in order to get things back on track.
"I think it's really going to start with evaluation; a great evaluation from top to bottom of everything that we've done from scheme to recruiting," Chizik said. "I just think that you have to really look under the hood of the car. We got a car that's not running very well right now. I think you got to look under the hood of the car and you've got to figure out where the problems are under the hood and that's going to become a very extensive evaluation starting with a lot of different areas. I think that from there you can make very informed decisions on where you need to go with the next season and starting in January."
Auburn was without cornerback Chris Davis, linebacker Jake Holland, and defensive end Craig Sanders in the loss to Georgia. Chizik said that Davis should be back this week after getting cleared to play on Friday. He was available in an emergency role along with Sanders, who sprained an ankle last week. Still bothered by a sprained ankle, Chizik said that Holland's status is still up in the air this week. True freshman Josh Holsey (quad) and Ricardo Louis (arm) were banged up and will be evaluated this week in practice.