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.