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Auburn’s Chizik At The Podium – 7/18/12

Dan Mullen exceeded expectations.  Joker Phillips lived down to them.  What will Gene Chizik do?  Since arriving at Auburn, he’s quickly become the one guy in the league most media folks dread seeing step to the mic.  Not because he’s a bad guy, but because he doesn’t show much personality at these types of events.  To be honest, it might be just as entertaining if they simply took his black leather jacket and hung it behind the SEC dais for 30 minutes.

At any rate, his time is now…

* Good start.  Chizik opens with a thanks for all the thoughts, prayers and support that poured into Auburn following the shooting deaths of two ex-Auburn footballers a month ago.  Nice touch.  Very classy.  Heartfelt.

* Says the Chick-fil-A Bowl win last season was a “big moment” for the growth of his young players’ confidence.

* The coach says his team has more depth and more experience than last season.

* Chizik points out that his senior class has averaged 10 wins per year for three years, they haven’t lost a bowl game and they’ve won a BCS crown.  (Much of that thanks to the signature of Cam Newton and his one incredible season, of course.)

* Scot Loeffler’s offense won’t be “completely different” from what Auburn’s done in the past.

* Brian VanGorder and Chizik are “on the exact same page” philosophically.

* Chizik says the recruiting class he’s putting together now is “very pivotal” for finishing off the foundation that his regime has been putting down in Auburn.

* Auburn’s coach is benefiting from following Joker Phillips.  He doesn’t seem nearly as drab as he normally does.

* Chizik isn’t worried about winning ugly.  He said he’s proud of the fact that his guys have found a way to win games decided by seven points or less.  “At the end of the day, it’s all about winning” whether that’s “by 24 points or by one point.”

* Asked about defensive end Corey Lemonier, Chizik said his player “has got the art of pass rushing down,” but that he’s got room to improve in the run game.

* The quarterback position is “up for grabs.”  Chizik said Kiehl Frazier was used in key parts of games last year so he wouldn’t be awed by playing in big games at big times this season.  The coach said he won’t put a timeline on naming a starter, but “the sooner the better.”

* As for kids who flip-flop their commitments, Chizik said some guys get caught up in the emotion of a visit.  He said — correctly — that

* Mizzou and A&M aren’t getting “the credit they deserve.”

* “Gary Pinkel’s one of the best football coaches in the country.”

* “Missouri and Texas A&M aren’t coming into the SEC with their hat in their hand… These are two dang good football teams with two dang good football coaches.”  Finally he added, “Overall, Kevin Sumlin and Gary Pinkel, they can coach.”

* Asked about Auburn moving to the SEC East someday, Chizik wouldn’t bite.  He said geographic reasons are not the only reasons divisions are set up the way they are.  Didn’t sound like he’d really be in favor of moving AU to the East.  (Good thing, because that’s not going to happen anytime soon.)

* Like Dan Mullen, Chizik — who’s also at his 4th Media Days event — seems much more relaxed and comfortable this year.  Not nearly as blah as he’s been in the past.


Our overall grade for Chizik’s “performance” based on comfort, friendliness, openness… We’ll give him a 5.  He didn’t have one-liners like Steve Spurrier, but he was much more at ease than he’s appeared to be in past years.  The expectations were low because there have been sessions when a stump might’ve been more interesting to listen to, but overall we’ve got to give Chizik credit for improvement.  He was open and honest and he didn’t ramble with long-winded answers as he often has in the past.

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Kentucky’s Phillips At The Podium – 7/18/12

When discussing the usual SEC yawners (Gene Chizik and Dan Mullen) earlier today, I left someone of the list.  Joker Phillips.  In itself, that should tell you just how entertaining Kentucky’s coach usually is at these events.

Well, he’s up next to talk about his Wildcats.  Here’s hoping for a Mullenesque improvement over last year’s session.  (Not that media Q&As have a thing to do with winning football games, of course, but if we’ve got to listen to them… they might as well be interesting.)

* Phillips says he’s excited for 2012 after finishing the 2011 season with two wins and two losses.  A lot of young guys made plays for UK in those last four games.

* He said UK’s win over Tennessee allowed his team to achieve one goal on the season — win its last game.

* Oops.  I already nodded off.  Phillips seems like a nice guy and who knows what he’s like one-on-one in a living room, but he’s just brutal.  He wanted to talk about his two new assistants and for a second it seemed he forgot their names.

* Phillips says he’s got some good young talent on his team.

* Listening to Phillips, I wonder if he’s brought in as a motivational speaker in Hell.  Again, he might be great in every other aspect of the job, but yikes this is brutal.

* The coach says “the best league just got better” with Missouri and Texas A&M coming into the SEC.  Asked about further expansion, Phillips said that’s up to the SEC’s “unbelievable commissioner.”

* Phillips said the way UK beat Tennessee last year was more important than beating Tennessee.  That low-scoring win showed his team that they don’t have to win by putting up 500 yards and 35 points.

* He said the success of Kentucky basketball has helped sell his football programs.  “We want to hitch our wagon to our basketball program?”

* Phillips said that John Calipari has been helpful to him.  He said Calipari actually called him on speaker phone recently to talk to the coach and a two-sport athlete Phillips had on campus.

* Asked about his hot seat status, Phillips said, “Well, I’m not sitting down right now, so ain’t nothing hot.”  Drew a few laughs.  Good line.  “I don’t have time to listen to that stuff.”

* Phillips says to take care of his program at Kentucky, he’d be against a nine-game schedule.  (Why are people asking this of coaches?  Of course they’re against it.  The SEC’s coaches were against a seven-game schedule at one time.  Then against an eight-game schedule.  And against an SEC Championship Game.  Nick Saban may be the one guy who’ll say he’s open to playing nine.)


Our overall grad for Phillips’ “performance” based on comfort, friendliness, openness… we’ll give him a 2 on a scale of 1-5.  He just doesn’t seem comfortable in these types of settings.  He comes across as a nice guy who you really want to do well, but overall he’s right down there with Chizik in terms of stiffness.

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Mississippi State’s Mullen At The Podium – 7/18/12

There are two coaches each year I usually dread hearing from — Dan Mullen and Gene Chizik.  That doesn’t mean they’re bad guys, bad coaches or that I hate their schools/teams/etc.  It does mean they’re sort of bland.  (In Chizik’s case, bland is an understatement.)

Mullen might be the fastest talker in the league (though Will Muschamp and Gary Pinkel certainly have given him a run for his money this week).  Let’s see how he does today…

* Mullen says he’s excited for the season.  Though he doesn’t have a veteran team, he likes the squad’s attitude.

* The coach also talked up his team’s GPA early in his opening remarks.  He also praised MSU’s administration and mentioned the new facilities going up in Starkville.

* Quick opening statement from Mullen… quicker than his usual approach.  He seems a bit more comfortable this year.  Heck, this is his fourth Media Days event.

* Asked about his sometimes shaky relationship with quarterback Tyler Russell, Mullen credited the player and his family for dealing with “outside pressures” from fan and media expectations.  “I expect him to have a huge year,” the coach said.  Mullen said he knows the system and that the staff will give him “the keys” and lot of play-calling responsibility at the line of scrimmage.

* It didn’t take long for the “you’ve only beaten Ole Miss in the West” question to pop up.  In response, Mullen said the first SEC game — against Auburn — is always important because it’s a two-game lead for the winner over the loser.

* Mullen says you have to bring “your A game” every week regardless of division, when asked about the strength of the West Division.

* MSU’s coach is clearly more comfortable this season.  He’s not rushing as he has in year’s past.  He seems friendly and upbeat.  Big improvement over past year’s performance.

* Asked about tougher academic standards, Mullen says he’s sorry that some players won’t be rewarded.  He says it takes depth away.

* Mullen said there will probably be some billboard plans for the fall.  He claimed he only sees the billboards after they’ve already been designed.  Ole Miss fans are scoffing at that.

* Mullen says Russell compares to Alex Smith in terms of style — more passer than runner.  He says only a portion of MSU’s playbook will be used, which is normal.  But this year the percentage used might differ from what’s been used in past seasons.

* “I try to play nonconference games within our region,” he said when asked about a nonconference game at Troy.  Mullen said he wants players’ families to be able to see them play.  He said taking a bus to a game saves money.  MSU doesn’t have to spend “millions and millions” to jet across the country.  A novel spin.

* Mullen’s really doing a good job this year.  Relaxed.

* The coach says the secondary is the strength of State’s defense, especially with defensive tackle Fletcher Cox now gone.  State will have to adjust to his departure and the secondary will have to pick up some of the slack.

* Asked if the gap between State and Alabama/LSU/Auburn/Arkansas closing, Mullen said his teams has had fourth-quarter chances against those teams.  He said he just needs someone to make a play at crunch time.  Mullen said that shows that his team is close to those West foes “which means we’re not very far from the national title.”;

* “As much as we always try to prevent head injuries, in the game of football that’s always going to happen.”


Our overall grade for Mullen’s “performance” based on comfort, friendliness, openness… we’ll give him a 5 on a scale of 1-5.  Totally different Dan Mullen this year.  As noted above, in his fourth Media Days he seems much, much more relaxed and friendly.  This wasn’t a Rat Pack show at The Sands, but in past years, Mullen’s seemed to have a bit of an edge to him — not unlike Gary Pinkel yesterday.  That was not the case today.

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SEC Headlines – 6/12/12

1.  ESPN’s Mark Schlabach breaks down the playoff battle brewing between Jim Delany and Mike Slive.

2.  Could a playoff system really cut the little guys from the little conferences out of the race altogether?

3.  This NBA mock draft has the top three players coming from the SEC.

4.  The manhunt for the alleged shooter at Auburn goes on… after police raided the wrong Alabama house.  (Two arrests have already been made in the case.)

UPDATE — Police now say reports of them raiding the wrong house are inaccurate.

5.  This writer says Gene Chizik is the right man to help lead AU through its current tragic crisis.

6.  Mark Richt’s new contract at Georgia states: “It is expected that the recruitment of junior college student-athletes will be kept to a minimum…”

7.  Andy Staples of says UGA’s drug policy is noble, but it puts the Dawgs at a disadvantage.

8.  Joker Phillips has ended two long Kentucky streaks for futility, but there are still more streaks to snap.

9.  Tennessee’s Cuonzo Martin is taking his hoops program to children across the Volunteer State.

10.  Vanderbilt’s James Franklin thinks the SEC “is difficult enough” with an eight-game football schedule.

11.  According to The Golden Nugget in Las Vegas, Missouri will be an underdog in six of its 12 SEC games this fall.

12.  Sad.  Just a sad day for sports and news coverage.  (Link fixed, sorry.)


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What’s The Better Chizik Look: Spring Or Fall?

Let’s say you’re a man who makes $3.5 million per year.  And let’s also say you want to dress like a man who makes $3.5 million per year.  In that case Auburn football coach Gene Chizik would make a pretty good model for you.  He makes that much cash and he’s shown himself to be quite the splashy dresser these last couple of years.

Ah, but which Chizik look do you go for?

Chizik’s Spring line, which he showed off at a recent Atlanta Braves games?












Or his classic Fall collection, complete with rugged leathers?












Pastel paisley or rich, Corinthian leather, folks?

Or do you just hold out, hoping he releases a paisley/leather jumpsuit salute to ’80s rock/funk legend Prince?

Gotta give this to Chizik… the man’s got his own style and he doesn’t care what anyone else thinks about it.  Probably because he makes $3.5 million per year and could buy or sell most of us.


(Kill the “you hate Chizik” comments before they start, please.  We’d have fun with any coach who tried to pull off these two looks.  And, no, yours truly won’t be gracing GQ anytime soon, either.  Of course, I don’t make $3.5 mil, either.)

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SEC Headlines – 4/10/12 Part One

1.  Gene Chizik says Auburn has a lot of work to do to develop depth at linebacker.

2.  Alabama’s offensive line is providing stability this spring.

3.  Star point guard BJ Young will return to Arkansas for his sophomore season.

4.  Trent Johnson traded a better job for more security by leaving LSU for TCU.  (Always smart to restart the coaching clock every four or five years.)

5.  Rick Ray has completed his coaching staff at MSU… but with six players leaving, he’s still got some work to do on the roster.

6.  Ole Miss has announced seven future home football opponents.

7.  Kevin Sumlin thinks his quarterback competition is going well at Texas A&M.

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Massive FB Phillips Leaves Auburn

Running back Ladarious Phillips arrived on Auburn’s campus at a whopping 291 pounds in 2010.  He was expected to drop some of that excess weight, but that didn’t happen.  And now AU’s dropping him.

Phillips — who was expected to be a fullback for the Tigers this fall — is walking away.  “He will not be on our football team and we’re going to with him well,” Gene Chizik said yesterday.  “He’s decided he’s not going to play.”  At Auburn, that is.  He’s been granted a full release to transfer to any school of his choice.

Jay Prosch — an All-America transfer from Illinois — is slated to be Auburn’s starting fullback in Scot Loeffler’s new offense.

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AU’s Jacobs Says He Saw 2011 Coming

Would the real Gene Chizik please stand up?  Is the guy who won five games in two years at Iowa State?  Is he the man who’s led Auburn to two 8-5 campaigns in three years?  Or is he multi-millionaire, top o’ the line coach who led the Tigers to their first national crown in decades?

That’s what many Auburn and SEC fans would like to know following last year’s post-Cam Newton season.  But Auburn AD Jay Jacobs isn’t reading too much into last season because he says he and Chizik knew early on what was coming:


“2010 was a magical year for us.  Back when I interviewed Gene in December ’08, we knew that 2011, as far as the number of players, was going to be challenging.  I couldn’t be more proud of how the guys played.  There was only one institution that played more freshmen than we did this past season.  I’m proud of how hard they worked and how they stayed to the task at hand and continued to build this foundation that’s going to take us back to an SEC championship.”


Sounds good.  And we believe it’s too soon for anyone to start writing Chizik off as a one-year wonder.  But…

For Jacobs to have known back in 2008 that the roster would be so full of holes in 2011, he would have to have foreseen some real problems coming with Chizik’s first two signing classes.  After all, 43% of the players from Auburn’s ’09 and ’10 classes aren’t at Auburn or never arrived.

For that reason — while we say it’s way too soon to panic on the Plains — we also aren’t buying Jacobs’ “we knew it was coming” message.

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AU Nabs Another Top Florida Prospect

Auburn didn’t have a great morning, but Gene Chizik’s rebounded nicely this afternoon.  In addition to five-star offensive lineman Avery Young, the Tigers have also nabbed the signature of fellow Floridian Ricardo Louis.  Louis is a four-star receiver prospect from Miami Beach.

Louis had been an Auburn commitment before switching late to Florida State and then declaring himself undecided.  Turns out, he wound up where folks thought he would all along.

And suddenly Auburn’s finish has taken on a much better look.

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SEC Headlines – 1/23/12

Just a few headlines from around the league for you on this Monday…

1.  In hiring Scot Loeffler, Gene Chizik found an O-coordinator who can “develop a quarterback to get them where we needed him to be to win championships.”

2.  The Arkansas football team wants two more wins next season.

3.  MSU’s comeback win at Vanderbilt on Saturday required their best half of basketball all season.

4.  Riding a two-game win streak, Ole Miss hopes to keep things rolling with a pair of home games this week.

5.  Florida’s bench players are getting better.

6.  Vince Dooley and Mark Richt put out statements regarding Joe Paterno’s passing last night.

7.  Up next for Kentucky: Georgia at home, then LSU on the road.

8.  Steve Spurrier on Paterno: “It was sad how it ended, but he was a great person and coach.”

9.  Cameron Tatum broke out of a slump to help lead Tennessee to its upset win over UConn.

10.  Vanderbilt’s defense disappeared against MSU and as a result so did the Commodores’ eight-game win streak.

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