Coaches Making Spring Football Preparations

In part one of our series of articles previewing spring football 2002, the coaching staff will be busy throughout the rest of the month making plans for the workouts in March.

Editor's Note: This is the first in a series of previews on spring football 2002.

Auburn, Ala.--With Bobby Petrino now calling the shots on offense and Gene Chizik doing the same thing on defense, this will be a spring of change for Auburn football.

Offensive coordinator Bobby Petrino

While the football players move into the most demanding portion of their winter workout program with 6 a.m. conditioning drills that start this week, the coaching staff has a demanding month, too. With recruiting behind them, Petrino and the offensive staff have been extremely busy putting in the NFL style offense that the new coordinator is bringing to Auburn. There will be little carryover from the previous attack under the direction of former offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone and this is a learning time for the assistant coaches as Petrino works to get the staff up to speed on what he wants to get accomplished in spring drills.

"We are going to have a good mix between both the single back and the two-back," Petrino says. "Primarily, to be able to run the ball and run the play-action game you have to get into the two-back system. And, because of all the different zone blitzes and pressure defensive pressure packages that people are running now, it is important that you can handle the line of scrimmage and be able to knock them off the ball with either a fullback or an extra tight end in there."

Petrino, who arrived at Auburn in time to help with recruiting, says he is really enjoying being a part of college football again, which are his roots in the coaching profession.

Defensive coordinator Gene Chizik.

Chizik, who just arrived in Auburn on Friday, is really under pressure to get his defensive system installed with spring drills ready to start on March 1st. "We really don't have much time, but I am excited about being here and I am really looking forward to spring practice," he says.

Chizik says he has already started studying video of the 2001 Tigers in action to try to get a handle on the big picture to supplement what he has been told by the defensive assistants and head man Tommy Tuberville. "I am just trying to get a good gauge of athletically where they fit in a little different type of scheme. There is not a whole bunch of change."

Chizik says, "Last year they were more of a 4-4 type front with two true inside linebackers and two true safety-type outside linebackers. We are going to start everything from a 4-3. We are still going to play an eight-man front, but it is going to be more of a three-linebacker scheme. Some people considered last year's front more of a four linebacker scheme. There is just some tweaking of some players here and there and deciding at which linebacker they fit best at."

The coaches are deciding where to best use players like redshirt freshman Antarrious Williams, who could be an outside linebacker or safety.

The former University of Central Florida defensive coordinator adds, "Simplicity is the key and that is one thing we are going to do here. That is one thing we have talked about in-depth. What I have evaluated so far and what I see is some very talented young men--more so than what I have been used to working with.

"In my interpretation of what I see, I feel we need to make sure everything is very simple. Make sure everybody knows where to line up. That everybody knows how to play their technique. You have to turn these folks loose and play football. So the transition period is not going to be getting into a lot of different things. It is going to be teaching base things, base techniques, and not confusing these guys and let their talent play."

Commenting on the changes the new coordinators will be making in spring drills, Tuberville says, "We'll probably have more on offense than defense. Our philosophy in both areas will still be the same. We're going to be run-oriented on offense with several different ways to throw the football, whether it's from a one-back or two-back set. We're going to spread the field and utilize our talent the best way we can.

Tommy Tuberville decided to replace defensive coordinator John Lovett and offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone after the Tigers finished 7-5 last season.

"Defensively, we're going to continue to run a four-man front, but we're going to change the way we make a few alignments. We'll change the way we approach our eight-man front with our linebackers. We'll change a couple of positions there. But, overall, it will be close to the same as we've played.

"The thing we want to do is to make sure we get all the players in the best positions to help this team win. That's what we'll concentrate on for most of spring practice. We have a lot of young players that we redshirted that we need to look at."

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