Chizik Eases Into Role As Texas' Latest DC

<I>Inside Texas</I> caught up with new Co-Defensive Coordinator Gene Chizik as the National Assistant Coach of the Year prepares for his first full week of Longhorn spring training.

The former Auburn assistant is Texas' third DC in three seasons but, if initial impressions are an indicator, the Longhorn defense should lose none of the heightened intensity and requisite attitude that former coach Greg Robinson instilled in the unit. Robinson was named head coach at Syracuse University on January 11. Chizik is relatively more even-keeled than Robinson when talking post-practice but, on the field, Chizik is as excitable and energetic as his immediate predecessor. What's more, Chizik's approach to the first half of spring football is very much like Robinson's focus on fundamentals and technique

"The first objective is to get everybody in the right spot, personnel wise, and making sure you've got everybody situated correctly," Chizik said. "And then, schematically, making sure we've got everybody in the right spots as far as where they fit in the defense. The first few days is not so much about how much we can put in or how much they can absorb or things of that nature. It's more about, 'Let's get them lined up. Let's play a lot of disciplined, technique football. Let's let them use their athletic ability to run and chase the football. I mean, that's the name of the game. It hasn't changed in 200 years. That's really what we're trying to do right now."

Chizik has met individually with players and has spent countless hours in coaches' meetings since arriving in late January. Finally, he has a chance to see what the student-athletes can do on the field. What, then, is Chizik specifically looking for in a player during the month where this fall's depth charge will largely be established?

"The main element, in my opinion, of what it takes to be a great football player at any position is discipline, willingness to be coached on technique, and understanding where you're supposed to fit in that scheme. That's what we're looking for in players"

Chizik joined Duane Akina as Co-DC and is in charge of Longhorn linebackers. Overall, Chizik said it has been a smooth transition from a 13-0 Auburn team to the Rose Bowl champion Longhorns.

"Transitions are hardest for me when my family doesn't travel immediately with me," Chizik said, "and that's the only thing that's been hard. Everything that has to do with coach (Mack) Brown and University of Texas football and this whole program, that's been the easy part. Football is football. Football players are football players. So, that part is always the fun part and the easy part. But I'm working on the second part of it, and that's trying to get the family here."

Chizik's family is scheduled to arrive in Austin later this week. He and his wife have three children, all younger than seven years old.

Chizik won the Frank Broyles Award in early January, presented annually to the nation’s top major college football assistant coach. He also interviewed in January for the DB coach position with the NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars and also turned down an offer to be the DC at North Carolina State. Auburn proposed a two-year deal at a reported $300,000 but Chizik opted for Texas because he said (upon his hiring) that he wanted to "reach the pinnacle of coaching in college football." Chizik believes he now has the top defensive coordinator's job in the college football, and one that will put him on the fast-track to a head coaching stint of his own.

Under his tutelage, the Tiger defense finished No. 1 in the country in points allowed (11.3 ppg) on the way to the Southeastern Conference championship and a 13-0 season. Chizik's unit gave up just one rushing TD during the 11-game regular season. His defense has not allowed an opponent to rush for 150 yards or an opposing back to total 100 in 17 games.

Auburn ranked fifth in total defense (277.6 ypg) in 2004. The Tigers also finished the season ranked 10th in passing defense (173.5 ypg), and 12th in rushing defense (104.2 ypg), and did not allow a rushing touchdown until the eighth game of the season, giving up only four all year.


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