Shortly after he met with Auburn beat reporters, Gene Chizik took to the podium in the main interview room here at the Wynfrey Hotel for SEC Media Days for his annual “state of Auburn football” address. Although he had already addressed some issues in the room with the beat reporters, here’s a few of the highlights from his time in front of the entire media throng here in the main room.
For the most part, Chizik’s appearance in front of the main room was a rehash of a lot of things Auburn fans know — why he hired the coordinators, what the offense looks like, that sort of thing.
On the other hand, there were a few nuggets.
- Chizik reiterated his thanks to people who responded to Auburn in the wake of the June 9 shootings. “I’d like to take this opportunity to thank, first opportunity that I’ve had to publicly thank so many people for their outpouring of love and prayers and emails and phone calls to the Auburn family since that tragic night, June 9th, when three young men were shot and killed, two of them being former Auburn football players. I do want to say thank you.”
- Asked about the slow start for the Tigers last season — despite going 2-0, Auburn had some trouble with Utah State and Mississippi State — Chizik pointed out the Tigers’ record in close games. “What I’m proud about our football team in so many ways is that when you come down to the end of the game, our kids have found ways to win ‘em. I feel like since we’ve been at Auburn, if those games are decided by seven points or less, there’s a good chance Auburn is going to win it,” Chizik said.
- Corey Lemonier has been a preseason All-SEC pick in several publications after posting 9.5 sacks a year ago, but his run defense needs some work, a fact Chizik acknowledged. “I think he’s got the art of pass-rushing down,” Chizik said. “What we’ve done in the spring is we’ve tried to work with Corey in great depth of understanding the importance of the run game. … There’s no question that Corey in the run game, he has some room for improvement, he knows that, we know that.”
- Asked for the umpteenth time about Kiehl Frazier and the quarterback situation, Chizik refused to budge. “It’s up for grabs,” Chizik said. “Kiehl is strongly considered in the mix. I think he’s grown a lot as a football player since he has been here.” He also mentioned Moseley. “Clint Moseley has done the same thing. A lot of snaps last year. … Clint has a lot of room for improvement, and he knows that, and we know that. It’s going to be a battle.”
- Chizik bristled visibly at the idea that Missouri and Texas A&M have something to prove coming into the SEC. As a former Big 12 coach, he has respect for both programs. “The things that I’ve heard right now, I’ll tell you what, I don’t think a lot of people are giving Texas A&M and Missouri the credit they deserve,” Chizik said. “I will say that standing up here because for four years I played in that league.”
- One reporter proposed a shift in the SEC that would put Alabama and Auburn in the SEC East, and Missouri and Vanderbilt in the SEC West, to make the SEC’s divisions more geographical. “Geographically, to the outside looking in, some of that probably makes sense, till you sit in the meetings and go through all the different things that are involved in making that decision.”
- Chizik reiterated his position on the 4-team playoff, then added a persuasive argument he hadn’t earlier. “Another scenario could be if No. 1 and No. 2 are in the same conference, they play a championship game, 2 beats 1, right, then 2 becomes 1 and 1 becomes 4, they’re going to have a rematch in the next game,” Chizik said. That’s a good point. Nobody would want to see, say, LSU and Georgia play in the SEC Championship Game, then turn around and play each other again right away.