With Friday’s Iron Bowl forecast calling for a high of 52 degrees and a 30 percent chance of showers, Auburn made the most of the wet conditions.
“We certainly could have gone indoors if we wanted to, but we felt like us being able to handle a football that was wet (was good),” Tigers head coach Gene Chizik said. “We haven’t had many opportunities to do that. You never know what the weather conditions are going to be on game day.”
Unlike last year, when thunderstorms dotted Auburn’s schedule, this year’s slate has been rain free.
While there were concerns about players possibly slipping and pulling a muscle, Auburn coaches thought the reward outweighed the risk.
Wide receivers coach Trooper Taylor said his group didn’t have many dropped balls, although he was most impressed by tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen’s hands.
“He can catch the ball whether it’s wet, dry, or you can drop it out of a plane,” Taylor said. “I try to tease (the receivers), saying, ‘It’s a shame the tight end’s got the best hands on the team.’ They can’t stand that, now.”
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Unfortunately because of the short week there will be no chat. But I can imagine people are traveling for Thanksgiving, so it probably won't be a big deal.
Here are some other notes and quotes from tonight's interviews with Chizik and assistant coaches:
- Chizik was named one of eight finalists for the 2010 Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award on Tuesday. The winner, which is voted on by the Football Writers Association of America, will be announced Dec. 6. After going 5-19 at Iowa State, Chizik is 19-5 at Auburn, the second most wins through 24 games of any Tigers coach. “To pin that on one guy or to think that one guy is responsible for that is untrue,” Chizik said. “It’s all the assistant coaches, it’s all the players, those are all team awards. I think we all try to look at it like that. It’s certainly nice, but by no way, no means is that award reflecting on one guy.”
- The other seven finalists are Wisconsin’s Bret Bielema, Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio, Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy, Stanford’s Jim Harbaugh, Oregon’s Chip Kelly, TCU’s Gary Patterson and Boise State’s Chris Petersen.
- When he takes the field for the Iron Bowl, Auburn left tackle Lee Ziemba will break Will Herring’s school record for consecutive starts with 50. “I’ve never been around one that’s done that,” offensive line coach Jeff Grimes said. "No. 1, it’s incredibly difficult just to start as a true freshman. No. 2, to have been able to do that consistently for all those games without missing any? That’s pretty unbelievable for a guy to have played in the trenches.”
- Ziemba, a preseason All-SEC pick, has lived up to his billing. “He said it’s not the number of starts; it’s the quality of starts,” Grimes said. “That says something to me about how he was looking at it.”
- Grimes is impressed by the Crimson Tide's defensive line. "I don't see much of a dropoff in terms of what they're doing on defense," he said. "They've been able to pick up. They've played really well. You check a play. They check a play. You motion. They check out of one blitz into a totally different blitz or coverage. They do an extremely good job."
- Safeties coach Tommy Thigpen holds Alabama’s passing game in high regard, particularly quarterback Greg McElroy and receiver Julio Jones. Thigpen thinks Alabama has broadened what it does with McElroy, who has a 70 percent completion percentage, 2,390 passing yards and 17 touchdowns. “Last year I thought the quarterback was just decent,” Thigpen said. “And now he’s probably one of the premier quarterbacks in the conference.”
- He called the 6-foot-4, 222-pound Jones the strongest receiver Auburn has faced this season. “He’s fast, he’s strong, you can see him out there strong-arming defensive backs. He’s a difference-maker," Thigpen said. "They’re doing a lot more this year than they have in the past. Looks like he’s more of a go-to guy than we’ve seen. Last year at this time he only had maybe 500, 600 yards, this year he’s approaching the 1,000-yard mark. They’re throwing the ball at some points you think he’s not going to get it, and the quarterback is zinging it in there and he’s making some big-time plays."
- Oddsmakers have Auburn as 4- to 5-point underdog. Chizik was asked if his team feels like underdogs. Guess his response? "My focus is just on the game. All of the other things, that’s for everybody else to talk about. That’s not what we talk about.”
- Curtis Luper was asked about how effective his running backs have been this year. "The big addition was the big tailback, the quarterback," he said. "That accounts for about 130 a game."
- Lots of good stuff on offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn, who I plan to write about for Thursday's paper. Here's a taste from Grimes: "His football mind doesn't have an off switch, that's for sure. I may get a text from him on a Saturday afternoon at 2:30and it'll say: 'Have you thought about this?' His mind is always on. That's one of the things that makes him great. He's so driven toward success and so focused in his approach. "
- Bonus rain quote from Trooper: "I cranked up the (JUGS) machine pretty high just because Cam (Newton) has such a strong arm. And when we first get out there to test it, the first guys really don’t want to ease out there because they don’t know if it’s a split finger or a fastball. So I try to see who’s going to be tough enough. And usually the guys that go up there first are Kodi Burns and Darvin Adams. They jump up there right off the bat. And T-Zach. I couldn’t say one guy’s different."
- Although not an Alabama native, Trooper is impressed by the fans' knowledge of the game. "They understand when to make noise, when not," he said. "I know it’s tough on the quarterback to get the play called. We didn’t no-huddle, like we do now, so it was more difficult. Because when you got in the huddle, they got louder. They didn’t wait until you broke the huddle to start getting loud."
- Trooper went to the "Hoosiers" well with one of his quotes about the Iron Bowl tonight: "One thing we talk about is the football field’s not getting any bigger, any wider. It’s going to be the same. We’ve got to go out there and execute regardless. People outside of the football team make it bigger than what we’d like for it to be. We want our guys to focus on alignment, assignment and effort. Not who you’re playing. To sit here as a coach and say there’s not going to be more enthusiasm or hype about it, obviously that’s not going to be true because of what’s at stake. You hear everybody say all the time, ‘Throw (out) the records.’ No matter what they are, when you go out there and play these two teams together, it’s going to be a physical, tough football game. I’m looking forward to it."
- He thinks having plenty of veterans -- including 24 seniors -- will help out. "As a coach, I don’t have to say anything. If a kid drops a pass, those older guys are already telling him that’ll get us beat. Guys not getting lined up when we’re pacing, going fast-paced, no-huddle and we get a penalty because somebody’s not in their stance right, those older guys are getting on him."
- Anecdotal evidence, you say? Here it is: "The offensive linemen do a great job policing each other. It was funny, I was watching tape and you know how (Brandon) Moseley’s been downfield a couple times on some naked calls, a little play we call naked, and you watch the film from behind and (Ryan) Pugh is holding him up by his jersey. I’m saying, ‘What is he doing?’ He’s making sure he doesn’t go downfield. That kind of experience and that kind of, it seems funny but to that kid it makes him think about it and keeps you from making the same type of mistakes over and over. And that’s the kind of leadership we have on this football team. We’re fortunate that we have as many seniors that we do, because they’re talking and coaching just like the coaches are.”