Taking it slow

Gene Chizik encountered a problem in Year 1 at Auburn that Derek Dooley would love to have in Year 1 at Tennessee: Scoring too quickly.

Chizik's Tigers averaged 33.3 points per game last fall but got most of those points on big plays rather than time-consuming drives. As a result, Auburn's overworked defense allowed an SEC-worst 27.5 points per game.

Given the well chronicled obstacles facing Tennessee's 2010 offense, Dooley would be thrilled if his Vols average 33.3 points per game ... no matter how many quick-strike scores were involved.

Certainly, Chizik has no problem with the big-play aspect of offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn's attack.

"It was a little bit of a different dynamic simply because we had plays where we scored fast and quick," he said. "We're good with that. I'm good with that. That's not a problem."

Obviously, three-play touchdown drives are not a problem ... unless you fail to balance them out with a few 10- and 12-play drives. That was Auburn's primary drawback in 2009.

"What we need to address is: How can we sustain longer drives?" Chizik said. "That means getting first downs. That means driving the football, running the football, doing the things that can keep our defense off the field a little bit more."

Chizik is hoping the Tigers will be able to sustain more time-consuming drives now that Cameron Newton has inherited the quarterback job. The former Florida Gator turned in a spectacular performance in the junior college ranks last season.

"It's a good thing that he's had a little bit of experience in this league, just traveling around and being in different stadiums - seeing it, knowing it," Chizik said. "I think that little thing in itself is big.

"And the fact he went to a junior college and was able to lead that team to a national championship ... I think that was big. I think that's all in the recipe of getting Cameron ready to play in this league consistently."

Whether Newton can play consistently enough to produce the time-consuming drives Auburn needs to relieve the pressure on its 2010 defense remains to be seen. Chizik likes what he has seen to date.

"He wants to be a great football player ... he really, really does," the coach said. "As we've told him: He's got to get on the field now and deliver. That's the last piece of the puzzle and the most critical part."

If Newton can deliver on the field, Auburn just might be able to challenge defending national champ Alabama for the Western Division title this fall.


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