Chizik Talks Recruiting, Visit Weekend

Auburn coach Gene Chizik talks about the first official visit weekend, his philosophy on recruiting, and how his new staff is being received on the road.

Auburn, Ala.--This weekend is the first official visit weekend of the Gene Chizik era at Auburn and it marks an exciting time for any coaching staff. With recruiting being the lifeblood of any program, Chizik said he's very much looking forward to the weekend and seeing how well he can sell the Auburn program to the 10 or 11 prospects on campus.

"It's really neat," Chizik said. "We actually met last night with our hosts, our players that are going to be helping us for the weekend. I told them that this was like game day. You've got to treat this like game day. That's the importance of these weekends. We have three and all three of those have to be home runs. It's got to be a home run weekend and we've got to treat it like a game day.

"At the end of the day you win or lose," he added. "It's that cut and dry. I'm excited about it. I think our players are excited about it. I think they are excited about bringing in players who can help them and help them win now. It's game day. We'll have some fun this weekend."

The numbers game is always interesting for college football coaches. With the maximum of 85 scholarship players on a team with 25 being the most you can bring in with any one class, Chizik said right now he expects the Tigers to be able to sign close to or perhaps 25 players for 2009. With close to 20 commitments at the moment and a few that could possibly count on last year‘s class, Auburn has to target specific areas for the remainder of the month of January to help fill out problem areas on the team. Chizik said that's the biggest job for the staff right now is deciding what areas need the most help.

"I think offensive line without a shadow of a doubt," Chizik said of high priority positions. "Wide receiver beyond a shadow of a doubt. We've got to get one great quarterback. Defensively we're always trying to upgrade speed. That's the name of the game.

"I've spent a lot of time evaluating what we have versus what we have committed versus what we need to bring in beyond that," he added. "That's the challenge right now, trying to fit those pieces of the puzzle. That's what our challenge is the next three weeks. That's kind of the progression that it goes. What do you have? What do you have that has been promised as a commitment? Where do you need to go from there?"

That is the big question now as the Auburn coaching staff has hit the road and looked high and low for prospects while also trying to get back in on some of the top players in Alabama and beyond. Some of those players are prospects that new members of the staff had prior relationships while at other schools. Chizik said there is a fine line you have to walk when recruiting for a new school and that's one his staff is dealing with right now.

"We're trying to be very respectful to that, but at the same time we have to try to bring in the best players for Auburn," Chizik said. "Recruiting is a battle. There are three weeks before we have to sign them. Any of the doors that are opened and we feel like it's a special kid that fits what we're doing here at Auburn, we're going to highly consider going after those prospects."

In addition to players being recruited to other schools that are now looking at Auburn, there are additional players in Alabama that Chizik and his staff are trying to get a foot in the door on. With several high profile prospects no longer looking at the Tigers, Chizik said the job is to get in the door and see where it goes from there.

"Recruiting is all relationships," Chizik said. "It's opportunities for these young guys and it's relationships. Those are the two things they are looking for. They're looking for relationships with people and coaches that are going to be with them for four or five years, and they're looking for opportunities. I think what we have is plenty of opportunity for these young guys coming in. It's a new staff. There are certain positions on our football team right now we're very thin at. We have to recruit difference-makers at certain positions. What we are behind the eight ball at is relationships. I think we can make that up, I really do.

"I think from day one they've been open and willing to listen," Chizik added. "I think they've been great. The response has been positive. When you keep hiring guys that go out on the road and they actually have position coaches they can talk to and you can tell them how you see them fitting in, obviously they are more interested. I think it has been very positive."

Historically the focus for Auburn in recruiting has been in Alabama, Georgia, and Florida with occasionally players coming from Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and South Carolina. Hiring coaches from Oklahoma State and Iowa State that are familiar with the Midwest and Southwest, Auburn is in a position to branch out its recruiting efforts down the road. Chizik said while he'll never pass up the chance to recruit a great player four or five states away from Auburn, the key is to be good at home.

"If we have relationships somewhere that take us to a player that might not be in the traditional recruiting grounds that Auburn has been accustomed to then we would, but it's real simple," Chizik said. "You start in this state first and work your way out. We've got to saturate this state and we've got to do a great job recruiting in this state. That's the number one priority and then you branch out from there."

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