Chizik And Tigers Excited About Spring Start

Auburn coach Gene Chizik talks about starting spring practice, position moves, injuries, and his goals for the team.

Auburn, Ala.--The Auburn Tigers will kick off spring practice Tuesday night at 7 p.m. and when they do they will have a head coach, staff, and team excited about getting back on the field. After a struggle last season, finishing just 5-7, as well as the addition of coach Gene Chizik and his staff, things are ready to take off as the Tigers take the field for the first of 15 scheduled practices this spring.

"I think there is a lot of anticipation from our coaches and the players," Chizik said. "We've been grinding for a long time without playing football. So tonight will be fun. We've got to work on a lot of different things, but just organizationally it's time to get started. It's an exciting time for the players and the coaches. We're really looking forward to it.

"This whole first week will be such an evaluation process right now with guys in our systems both offensively, defensively, and special teams," Chizik added. "We know we have a lot of work all over our football team. It's going to be really hard to pinpoint the places we need it most. The evaluation process in the next week will help give us a place to start."

One of the interesting things heading into the spring is always seeing which players have changed positions or made significant changes in their body since last season. The biggest move is the one true sophomore Vance Smith is making from tight end to offensive lineman. Listed at just 6-2, 255, Smith has plenty of growing to do to remain at the position, but Chizik said it's just one of the things they wanted to look at this spring.

"Vance is one of those tough guys," Chizik said. "He's one of those guys that works real hard. He's tough, but he's a little undersized to be moved down in there. We think just from simple numbers that's one of the moves we need to look at right now. That doesn't mean it's going to stick for the rest of the spring. We certainly don't want to move a kid back and forth and back and forth. We know we have some offensive line deficits we know we have to overcome. That's one of the moves we're going to start with."

On the injury front the Tigers have several players that were banged up last season or had surgery. Players such as Aairon Savage, Tommy Trott, Chris Todd, Adam Herring, Marcus Jemison, Darrell Roseman, Jomarcus Savage, Bart Eddins, Lee Ziemba and Philip Pierre-Louis are should see some action this spring, but Chizik said how much is yet to be determined.

"I don't really like to get into a whole lot about the injury situation, but I think everybody knows there have been some issues there," Chizik said. "We're planning on practicing every one of those guys and them doing as much as their physical limitations will let them do. Everybody is on a different schedule. Some guys are farther along than others. Basically everybody we're planning on practicing in some way, shape or form. Some will be ahead of others, but right now we're anticipating everybody practicing."

That could include redshirt freshman defensive lineman Andre Wadley. Listed at 6-2, 300, Wadley has been out since last summer when he suffered heat related complications. Chizik said they'll monitor him to see how much if any he'll be able to do in the spring.

As the Tigers open spring practice, one of the biggest things to watch will be the adjustment period between the players and coaches. Learning a new system on both sides of the ball as well as fighting for positions, the players and coaches will learn a lot about each other between now and the end of the spring on April 19.

"There's a difference between getting to know them off the field and getting to know them on the field," Chizik said. "I think that's part of the growing process right now with the players getting to know us and us getting to know the players in kind of a different venue. We've had some workouts with them and had a chance to get around them and know them, it's a whole different situation when you're on the field."

While there is plenty to learn on both sides, Chizik said the coaching staff got a head start on evaluating the players heading into practice so they could have a starting point at every position. That's by no means a starting depth chart though because Chizik said every position is up for grabs beginning Tuesday night.

"Somebody has to take the first snap at every position and that will happen tonight," Chizik said. "What we want the players to know is that everything is starting over. Everything is starting new. Everybody has a shot. What we talked about over the last six weeks is that nobody inherit's a position. That's just not happening here.

"We don't inherit a position because we were the guy the year or two years before. Everybody is starting new. We have ideas on where to start everybody because we've watched enough film to see where we're supposed to start everybody, but at the end of the day everybody has a new chance. Everybody has a new shot. We'll start evaluating players on what they did today."

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