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Chizik still building Auburn's foundation


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Chizik still building Auburn's foundation

By Gregg Dewalt

Published: Wednesday, May 5, 2010 at 3:30 a.m.

By Gregg Dewalt

Sports Editor

MUSCLE SHOALS — There was a digital photograph moment Thursday afternoon when Aubie, the Auburn Tiger mascot, perched himself on the wing of the sleek private jet that brought the school's head football coach to the Shoals.

The moment was significant only metaphorically — the plane was firmly planted on the tarmac of the Muscle Shoals Regional Airport but for Auburn fans, the sky is most definitely the limit as the Gene Chizik era heads toward its second year.

One year and an 8-5 record later, Auburn fans have high expectations for continued improvement.

Chizik doesn't mind those expectations and doesn't want to temper them. However, he is quick to point out that it is still early in the process.

“We're still trying to build a foundation,” he said before the Shoals Auburn Club annual meeting. “We want to build this as a long-term success. It's going to take every bit of our second year being every bit as good or better than we were our first year. We have the greatest fans in the world, so they all are on board. We just talk about family and future and that's about it.”

When asked if he is more comfortable after a year as the Tigers' head coach, Chizik, dressed casually and wearing an Auburn logo on a light blue shirt, said he always has been comfortable.

“Comfortable, I'm not sure that word is quite accurate,” he said. “The second year everything is easier in terms of the players know the coaches, the coaches know the players. In that regard, that's what time does for you. We have a great amount of knowledge and trust in each other.

“This is everything I thought it would be,” he added. “I was blessed to have a great working knowledge of Auburn from being her previously.”

Chizik said he enjoys the Tiger Trek stops each spring and summer, giving him a chance to interact with his constituency.

“It's great,” he said. “You love being around so many Auburn people. The fans are excited. There's a buzz amongst the Auburn family just in terms of excitement with the Auburn family about the athletic department period. It's fun to go around and be around these different Auburn people.”

During his media session before an eight-police motorcycle escort led him the Marriott Shoals Conference Center, Chizik touched on a few topics of interest.

On naming Cameron Newton the starting quarterback: “We knew the sooner we could do that and kind of move forward with who the starting quarterback is at this point in time, the better. We had no timetable on it. There was no pressing issue other than we'd like to go into summertime with somebody who would be the designated team leader at this point, not that our other quarterbacks wouldn't.

On Newton's development: Cam has done a phenomenal job all spring. He gave great effort and has handled this in a very professional and businesslike manor. He came in prepared every day for 15 days. In the short period of time he has been in the offense, he has grasped it.

On if the team is where he expected it to be after spring practice: It's difficult. Some days you feel you were; some days you feel like you're not. This summer is critical for the team in terms of the weight program and just how far they progress on their own and get better on their own without the coaches around.

On the NCAA rule that put an end to the Tiger Prowl recruiting caravan: “We don't put a whole lot of energy now into why rules are or are not in place. We spend our energy in making sure we abide by whatever regulations come about. It's not a damper. We are always trying to upgrade everything we do. It's about marketing what we believe in, and that's Auburn.

Gregg Dewalt can be reached at 740-5748 or gregg.dewalt@TimesDaily.com.


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