Iron Bowl Week: Notes And Quotes With Chizik

Auburn coach Gene Chizik talks about the safety position, changes on the offensive line, Jonathan Wallace and more.

Safety Shuffle

Auburn coach Gene Chizik said that sophomore safety Erique Florence missed Saturday's game with Alabama A&M for personal reasons and his status for the Iron Bowl this week is questionable. Regular starter Demetruce McNeal played sparingly against the Bulldogs in the 51-7 win after being pulled late in the loss to Georgia the previous week. In his place sophomore Trent Fisher earned the start and late in the game picked off a pass that he returned for a touchdown. Chizik said McNeal will have the opportunity to earn his job back if he does the little things the coaches are looking for in practice this week.

"I thought Trent, he played OK," Chizik said. "I mean obviously everybody saw the touchdown at the end and you can't look at that and assume that that was indicative of the rest of the night but I was proud of Trent. He played good, certainly can play better there's no question about that. Ryan Smith got a lot of playing time back there as well. So again, we'll evaluate all those guys and we're not always dead set on just playing two guys, it could be three, it could be four so we'll look at it all."

Offensive Line Changes Coming Again?

Auburn made a change on the offensive line Saturday as Christian Westerman was inserted into the offensive line with Chad Slade moving out to left tackle in place of Greg Robinson. Westerman was banged up in the third quarter of the win and his status is up the air at the moment according to Chizik. He said they'll have to wait and see this week how things will go up front on offense, but he was pleased with how the redshirt freshman played in his first career start.

"I thought Christian did well," Chizik said. "I thought that for being gone so long and coming back in a game and just trying to get game speed and things of that nature, I thought that he played well while he was in there. Chad played well at times. It was a little bit different for him being out there on the edge. All that being said, I think that both of them did well for the circumstances."

Big Underdog: Currently a 34-point underdog to Alabama, Auburn's task is a large one this coming Saturday in Tuscaloosa. Looking for the first SEC win of the season on the road Chizik said that his team will go into the game like it does every week and that is believing it can win.

"I really, I feel like our guys know and feel like in every game that we go into we've got a chance," Chizik said. "I don't know how much they pay attention to all that. I'm sure they hear it. We're going to do our best to make sure that's not how we feel when we go into a game I can tell you that."

Wallace A Surprise?

A late signee for the Tigers, freshman Jonathan Wallace has come in and played solid since taking over the starting job three weeks ago. Completing 62.1 percent of his passes for 649 yards and four touchdowns with two interceptions, he has taken over a leadership role for the offense according to Chizik. While that part of the game hasn't come as a surprise, he said Wallace's ability to throw the ball has been a different story.

"I think it's probably been a little bit of a surprise," Chizik said. "He's just come light years since he got here, throwing the football. You know what's really impressed me about him is decision making. Marking quick decision and not, he's taken some hits there's no question about that but he's gotten rid of the ball quicker than I expected him too. He's made decisions quicker than I expected him to. He's gotten himself out of harm's way sometimes because of that.

"He just makes a decision and he goes with it. It's not always perfect throw or it's not always, but he's made quick decisions and the element of toughness that he's had when he runs the football and protecting the football. He had that one game where he didn't protect the football very well and really hasn't had a problem since then. Just those type of things are very impressive to me for a young guy and that's where I think that he's really ahead of the curve when it comes to most 18 year olds that are trying to do the same thing he's doing."


Inside The AU Tigers Top Stories