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November 11, 2012

Auburn notes: Chizik believes he can rebuild his team

AUBURN, Ala. — There’s little left for coach Gene Chizik to say in the wake of yet another disheartening loss for Auburn, less than two years removed from reaching the pinnacle of college football.

“I’m just very disappointed we are where we’re at,” Chizik said Sunday afternoon following the Tigers’ 38-0 loss to No. 5 Georgia at Jordan-Hare Stadium. “I could belabor the point much more than that, but I think that word is sufficient.”

It was the most lopsided margin in the 116-game history of the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry. It was also Auburn’s fifth SEC loss of 17 points or more this year, and ninth in the past two seasons since winning the BCS National Championship.

As rumors and reports circulate regarding his job security, Chizik was asked, again, if it’s difficult not to think about his future with the program.

“No, it’s not. Because this isn’t about me,” Chizik said. “Really and truly, I really want to talk about our next football game (Saturday vs. Alabama A&M, a 7-3 FCS squad) and our seniors that it’s their last time.”

Auburn concludes its regular season Nov. 24 in the Iron Bowl at Alabama, just knocked off its No. 1 perch by Texas A&M Saturday. Auburn needs a triumph to avoid its first winless SEC campaign in 32 years and second since 1950.

“It’s embarrassing for the Auburn people, especially in these types of rivalries,” junior defensive end Dee Ford. “It’s hard, but we have to own it.”

Junior defensive tackle Jeffrey Whitaker gave his coach a vote of confidence Saturday night.

“Can’t say nothing bad about coach Chizik,” he said. “We’re playing hard for each other. Coaches and players.

“The main thing for me that I understand as a young man, is that life is tough,” Whitaker continued. “Walking out here with cancer, that’s tough. Walking out here when a loved one dies, that’s tough. This football deal, of course we take pride in it, but we’re going to rebound from this.”

Asked Sunday if he feels he’s the man to lead this rebuilding project, Chizik said simply, “That’s very accurate.”

Wallace to start again

Chizik confirmed freshman Jonathan Wallace will play quarterback Saturday, making his third career start.

“It’s the equivalent of a rookie starting in the NFL, somewhat,” Chizik said. “He’s in a tough situation. He played against a very effective defense, a very good, very aggressive defense.”

The Central-Phenix City product has completed 31-of-48 passes for 478 yards with three touchdowns against two interceptions.

“Just got to make plays, keeping the guys motivated on our sideline,” Wallace said postgame Saturday. “I’m still not doing things like I want to, but I’m progressing … slowly.”

Practice doesn’t make perfect

Chizik regularly opens his sitdowns with reporters by discussing the just-completed practice, and rarely deters from lauding a good session.

Chizik was requested to detail the difference between good energy and good physical progress in practice.

“When we’re out at practice, and the passion and the energy and them being focused is one thing. The execution of what we do is different,” Chizik said. “There’s been times at practice where the execution has not been up to the level … it needs to be able to compete with the people we’re playing with consistently.

“At practice, when I say we’ve had good practices, I’m looking for everybody to come out there and focus and be into it and practice with energy. But there are times in practice when we don’t execute well. There’s no question.”

Injuries pile up

Junior cornerback Chris Davis (cornerback) was not medically cleared to return until Friday, and junior linebacker Jake Holland (ankle) did not go through a full practice during the week. Both dressed against Georgia, but were only available in case of emergency and did not see action.

Freshman cornerback Josh Holsey suffered a quad injury and freshman receiver Ricardo Louis sustained an undisclosed injury against the Bulldogs. In a mid-week practice, junior defensive end Craig Sanders twisted his ankle during a kickoff return drill, what Chizik deemed a “freak Wednesday night deal.”

The injuries continue to pile up for the Tigers. Offensive guard and outside linebacker are the only individual positions which have not had a man dinged up since the season opener Sept. 1.

“It has been a little bit unique, especially the timing of some of them,” Chizik said. “They all weren’t necessarily game-related. You had guys that were a little bit banged up, but they were trying to push through. That has happened with us several different times.”

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