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Monday, February 22, 2010

Spring preparation easier for Gene Chizik this time around

This time last year, Auburn coach Gene Chizik and his staff were scrambling to finish evaluating what they had on their roster in advance of spring practice. Things have changed this year.

"It's much easier at this point in time," Chizik said. "There's a lot of variable s 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 real difference when the Tigers start spring drills next month will be an earlier schedule. Players have scheduled their classes for later in the day than last year, allowing Chizik the option of practicing in the morning.

He wants to work on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, with Saturday reserved for scrimmage-type situations. He has a tentative starting date being March 24, after Auburn's spring break.

Some other notes from Monday's meeting with reporters:
  • Chizik was pleased with the administration's dedication to his coaching staff. All of the assistants received at least a 10 percent raise from last season, with Gus Malzahn getting a 43 percent boost to $500,00 per year, the top salary among SEC offensive coordinators. "It's very important that there's a vote of confidence on their part and they see the importance of continuity with our coaching staff," Chizik said. "You just look around the league, there's been a lot of changes. We've only been here one year, but when you have successful coaches, there are going to be people interested in hiring them."
  • Chizik said the rising coach salaries are a function of supply and demand. "It starts with the coordinators," he said. "I think people understand the importance of the leaders of your offense and defense and the impact it can have on your football team."
  • DB Aairon Savage will fit in at both safety and cornerback this season.
  • S Zac Etheridge continues to make progress as he returns form a neck injury, although Chizik didn't give a concrete update on his status. "Kind of a day-by-day progression of him getting to the point where he can play again," he said. "I'm not going to overstep my boundary. I'm not a doctor. But I'm very encouraged about he progress he's made the last couple months."
  • He mentioned Mario Fannin, Eric Smith and Onterio McCalebb as options at tailback this spring, with Dontae Aycock a possibility to play a multi-faceted role like Fannin did last year.

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