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Monday, February 22, 2010

Gene Chizik thrilled to keep Auburn staff in tact

AUBURN, Ala. — Gene Chizik assembled what he considered to be a dream staff after first being hired by Auburn over a year ago.

He’s pleased the school’s athletic administration saw fit to keep that group together.

Speaking to the media for the first time since Signing Day, Chizik expressed gratitude Monday that his assistants’ received a salary bump last week after an offseason in which many of them drew interest for various positions with other schools.

“It was really important that there was a vote of confidence there in our administration that they see and understand the importance in the continuity of our coaching staff,” Chizik said.

“If you just look around the league, there’s been a lot changes. Of course we’ve only been here one year, but when you have very talented guys as assistant coaches there’s going to be a lot of people that are interested in hiring them.”

Auburn was the only SEC school to retain its entire coaching staff from last year.

The school gave a 10 percent pay bump to the coaches across the board, including Chizik, with the exception of offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn, whose salary increased 43 percent to $500,000. In all, Auburn will pay $571,000 more in football coaching salaries this year.

The rise in coaching salaries has been a trend in football lately. In the SEC alone, 10 assistant coaches will make $400,000 or more, including Malzahn and Auburn defensive coordinator Ted Roof ($407,000).

“This profession, especially at this level, pays a lot of money,” Chizik said. “It’s definitely gotten bigger over the last few years. The supply and the demand and the importance of winning is coming through loud and clear. People are willing to pay that money to get the best people at their trade.”

It comes with a trade-off, however.

“The patience level of fans, the patience out there period, when you get paid a lot of money is shorter,” Chizik said. “When you make large amounts of money, people expect things. ... People can justify it more in their minds now: They make ‘X’ amount of money, they should be delivering.”

I had a post before, but here are some more comprehensive notes than earlier on what Chizik had to say today:
  • Chizik thinks things are much calmer in Year 2 heading into the spring. “It’s much easier at this point in time,” Chizik said. “There’s a lot of variables that a year ago we didn’t know. Your second go-around is just so much easier for everybody, as you’d expect. I think it’s been pretty smooth since we came back from the bowl game.”
  • The only difference will be the schedule. Chizik plans to have morning practices when spring drills begin next month. The Tigers practiced almost exclusively at night last year. Chizik wants to practice on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, with Saturday reserved for scrimmage-type situations. The Tigers will tentatively start March 24, after Auburn’s spring break.
  • Five players — Neil Caudle, Cam Newton, Barrett Trotter, Clint Moseley and Tyrik Rollison — will participate in this spring’s quarterback competition, which Chizik called “a healthy one.” Many think the frontrunner to replace the graduated Chris Todd is Newton, the top-ranked junior college transfer in the country who enrolled in January. Chizik doesn’t think that puts any undue pressure on the former Florida quarterback’s shoulders. “Cam has, in my opinion, been very focused on what he wants to accomplish,” Chizik said. “As a staff, we’re not going to place any expectations on him that’s any different than anybody else. That’s not fair. There’ll be a battle at the quarterback position. He’s going to be part of that battle. May the best man win. Expectation-wise, he’s not going to be in a different boat. It won’t be any different.”
  • Kodi Burns will continue to work at wide receiver and as a Wildcat quarterback.
  • Highly-touted recruit Michael Dyer won’t enter the running back competition until he arrives in the summer, giving others the first chance to audition for the starting tailback spot this spring. Asked who will work there, Chizik listed three names: Mario Fannin, Eric Smith and Onterio McCalebb.
  • Dontae Aycock, who redshirted last year, could also get a look, although Chizik has a different role in mind for him. “Dontae’s a guy we can move around and do different things with,” he said. “Obviously, he was a quarterback in high school, so he’s talented.” Chizik envisioned a role similar to Fannin’s last year, with Aycock working some as a slot option who can stretch the field vertically and catch the ball in space.
  • Safety Daren Bates (shoulder surgery) is questionable for the spring, although Chizik expects him to be able to do some work.
  • Chizik couldn't think of anybody else who would miss spring drills.
  • DB Aairon Savage, who recently was awarded a sixth year of eligibility, will work out at corner and safety initially.
  • Chizik had no definitive statement on safety Zac Etheridge’s status for the spring after he suffered a scary neck injury last fall. “He’s a day-by-day progression of getting to the point where he can play again,” Chizik said. “I don’t want to over-step my boundary; I’m not a doctor. I feel very encouraged about the progress that’s been made here in the last couple of months.”
  • Junior college transfer Roszell Gayden figures to be a prime candidate to replace right tackle Andrew McCain on the offensive line, but Chizik is keeping his options open for now. "At the tackle position right now, there will be some young guys that we're going to potentially play out there," he said. "It may be a mix and match. Sometimes it could be a guard-type guy who could move out to tackle. Obviously Andrew graduated, and that's the hole we're trying to fill, but you've still got Brandon Mosley that's competing for potentially an offensive line/tight end job. He's very athletic and he can do both. Again, with our own football team, there's still some young guys that we may try out there. Maybe it's a John Sullen. It really depends. We feel like we're pretty good right now from left tackle to right guard. But again, that's going to be the one that's open, and people have to challenge it for you."


James said...

so with practices in the morning for the Spring, how will that affect you and other media's access to the players? do y'all get many after practice access to players during Spring practice in the past?

Great job as always!

Andy Bitter said...

I hope this will mean more players will be available after practice, since they probably won't be rushing to get a meal.

Generally, guys are looser in the spring. There's less pressure, so they're a little more open to talking. So I don't think the change in time will affect it much.

James said...

QB battles...Tyrick Rollison's latest facebook status says "I'M DONE...I NEED A NEW START". do you know of anything going on? any rumors of Rollison seeking permission from Chiz to transfer?