Auburn’s season-opener against Clemson in Atlanta is still three months and change away.
But that doesn’t mean the Tigers — the Auburn variety, that is — haven’t been paying attention to Clemson’s prowess. Coming off of an ACC title, Clemson will be highly-ranked heading into the 2012 season, and Auburn relishes the opportunity to play a tough team right off the bat.
After all, Mississippi State and LSU are lurking on the rest of the Tigers’ September schedule.
“It’s really kind of a match made in heaven when it comes to playing a really good football team outside of your conference,” Chizik said. “What it does, is getting into the SEC schedule, it really is going to give us a good idea of where we are as a football team. This is arguably a top 10 team. They’ve got a dynamic offense coming back, so we’ve got our work cut out for us.”
Chizik also cited Clemson’s tradition, Auburn’s affinity for playing in Atlanta and the Tigers vast recruiting ties to the state of Georgia as big pluses for Auburn’s season-opener.
- Given a chance to talk about Kiehl Frazier’s development this spring, Chizik answered with praise. He did not address Auburn’s other quarterbacks, although he also wasn’t asked about Frazier’s main competition. “It was invaluable he got a chance to play a good bit last year, no matter what role we used him in. A guy who can get in those games early on in his career, being out on the field, being in this environment, playing in this league and not having to do it for the first time the next year is huge,” Chizik said. “He certainly improved in a lot of aspects this spring. He had a lot of opportunities. He’s maturing as a quarterback. He’s a 19-year-old kid that has a lot in front of him. We asked a lot of him and he handled it very well. His best days are ahead of him, but he made a lot of strides this spring.”
- Citing Scot Loeffler’s background in a bunch of different offenses, Chizik said the Tigers made progress toward establishing a new offensive identity this spring. “We are going to come up with our own package, our own identity,” Chizik said. “We have certainly moved forward in finding out what we can and can’t do this spring. No question about it.”
Echoing his mantra of open competition from the spring, Chizik confirmed that Auburn still has a ways to go to determine a starting lineup. “The main focus of this spring was for guys to win spots on our two-deep, and some of those positions are still up there,” Chizik said. “It’s not clear-cut who has become the starter at certain positions.”
- Asked about Missouri and Texas A&M joining the SEC, Chizik offered a little welcoming praise for the league’s newest members. “Two great institutions,” Chizik said. “In my time in the Big 12, Missouri was at probably some of its finest hours with what they were able to accomplish. A&M, same thing in terms of tradition. All the things you would look for in terms of joining this league, Texas A&M certainly has that.”
- Chizik declined a chance to compare this team to the one that took the field in 2011. “”They’re two completely different teams,” Chizik said. “We’re still young. 70 percent of our players are underclassmen. … That means we’ve still got a lot of developmental guys.”
- That being said, a lot of those young guys impressed Auburn’s coaching staff during its 15 spring sessions. “”I still feel like we have a young team that’s developing, physically and mentally, but we’ve got a lot that made strides,” Chizik said.
- On Missouri and Texas A&M’s spread offenses, Chizik praised Gary Pinkel’s system, saying that Missouri is going to do what’s been working for them in Pinkel’s long tenure as a head coach. After saying that he wasn’t sure what Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin will be running, Chizik also mentioned that Sumlin’s passing attack at Houston is “a little bit different” than most SEC offenses.