By David Mitchell, firstname.lastname@example.org
AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen, in a single statement on Sunday, summed up his disappointment in the firing of coach Gene Chizik, as well as its reality.
“I hadn’t really had time to process it. But I mean, (I am) disappointed in the year, disappointed in having to let Coach Chizik go, but that’s part of the business in college football, especially at a big-time program like us in the SEC,” he said. “Not winning a conference game is not going to cut it wherever you are at in this league.”
While Lutzenkirchen, a senior, is on his way out of the Auburn program, that’s the reality that current players and recruits have to face.
Each of the handful of players who spoke to the media on Sunday indicated their appreciation and love for Chizik. At the same time, they understand the business and noted the need to move forward as a team.
Running back Tre Mason expressed his feelings on the firing.
“It was a rough day for everybody,” he said. “It’s tough. There are going to be a lot of tears shed because there are a lot of relationships that may be put on hold or come to an end today. … (Chizik has) done a lot for me and this program. I wish him the best of luck in his future.”
And the reality:
“I’m going to do my best to help get everybody over it,” Mason added later.
Defensive tackle Jeff Whitaker expressed a similar reaction.
“I had a special bond with (Chizik) just dating back to him coming in my living room and recruiting me and bringing me to a special place like Auburn,” he said. “But I know, at the same time, Jay Jacobs and his staff is going to go out and get the best guy for the job.”
Who “the best guy” is will affect more than just the current players on the team. Currently, Auburn’s 2013 recruiting class is ranked No. 10 in the nation, according to Scout.com. The coming decisions in regards to the coaching staff will determine whether the class maintains its lofty ranking or slips down the boards.
Wide receiver prospect JaQuay Williams, a Sandy Creek High product, officially became the first Tigers recruit to de-commit from the team on Sunday, according to ESPN’s Kipp Adams.
Other recruits have expressed questions about their future on Twitter or through other media.
“Coach Chizik gone…. What now….,” running back prospect Jordan Wilkins, a four-star recruit out of Tennessee, posted on Twitter via the handle @jordanwilkins2 on Sunday.
He indicated later that an Ole Miss coach was paying him a visit Sunday night.
“Ole miss coach stopping by the house tonight,” he said.
Central Gwinnett product Trey Johnson, a linebacker, visited Ohio State on Saturday and reportedly enjoyed his visit.
“I do not want to talk about anything specific yet,” he told ESPN on Sunday. “I want to wait and see who they bring in and continue to take my visits.”
Those visits include a trip to Florida on Dec. 14 and Southern California on Jan. 18.
Defensive end prospect Carl Lawson, who visited Clemson on Saturday, declined comment to Clemson24/7 about Chizik’s firing, but indicated he enjoyed his visit and will return again sometime soon.
Auburn High product Reuben Foster, the prized recruit of this year’s haul, has remained mum on the subject, though he did take a trip to the University of Georgia on Saturday.
Calls to Tim Carter, his coach at Auburn, were not immediately returned on Sunday.
Despite the loss of a head coach and the growing uneasiness surrounding the future of recruiting, however, players were still optimistic about the team’s future.
“I don’t think it’s just something you come in and it’s a rebuilding issue,” Whitaker said. “We have players. We’re not going to have another season like this.”