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Friday, July 23, 2010

SEC Media Days: Auburn has great expectations

Auburn won eight games last season. The Tigers don't think that number will cut it this year.

The were picked third in the SEC West on Friday, behind Alabama and Arkansas, but they had more first-place votes that the Razorbacks. In fact, Auburn got seven votes to win the SEC (Alabama was first with 143, Florida second with 17).

But the Tigers realize the eight wins they got last year won't get them where they want to be -- atop the conference standings.

"Coach Yox, our strength and conditioning coach says 'Eight ain't it,'" linebacker Josh Bynes said. "Eight ain't it because eight ain't going to get you nowhere. It will get us back to the Outback Bowl or the Champs Sports Bowl, something like that. That's not what our plan is this year."

The Tigers said similar things last year -- although it was perceived as more of a long-term goal of Gene Chizik and his staff -- but they think this year is different.

"Everybody's aspirations are to win the SEC Championship," Bynes said. "But it was more like this year is a feeling, like we actually feel like, dang we're going to win the SEC Championship. Last year we were more saying it than feeling it. This year, since the spring, I told coach that I've got a feeling this is going to be the year. It's a great feeling and we know what we're capable of doing. We have the ability, the talent, players at the position. We just have to execute."

Before I jump into writing tomorrow's stories, here are some notes from Auburn's portion of the SEC Media Days:
  • Auburn had all but one player of its 32-member signing class qualify academically last year, something Chizik called rare. Wide receiver Jeremy Richardson, who enrolled at East Mississippi Community College, is the lone exception. The Tigers are still short of the NCAA-allowable 85 scholarships, however. "We're getting real close," Chizik said. "I don't think we're quite there yet. ... It's going to have to be multiple years that we do this to get the numbers where we need to be."
  • Those freshman might be thrown into the fire early. Chizik met with them the other day and told them he expects them to play. "We hope we eventually get to the point where we recruit our freshmen class and sit there in July: 'Hey, if some of them are good enough to step in and help us, that's great,'" Chizik said. "But if they're not and they can't do it right now, that's fine too. We're not really there. We're more to the point of I expect you all to play. And if you prove that you can't, we'll kind of proceed from there. They know our expectations in terms of us needing them to fill a role somewhere either on offense, defense or special teams."
  • There was no news for what kind of timetable Zac Etheridge has now that he's been cleared medically to play. Chizik said the team will play it by ear.
  • Bynes might be one of the most thankful players that Etheridge is back. The safety is another veteran signal caller on the defense who can help him call out audibles. "If he sees something I don't see, he'll come up to me and say, 'Josh, do this, this and this on this play' or 'watch that guard,'" Bynes said. "Zac is like another linebacker out there on the field helping me out with a lot of things. He's very intelligent, he does a great job of watching film, breaking down film. Me and him talk a lot on the field and having him come back will be better for defensive backs and linebackers."
  • Chizik made a good point about continuity on the coaching staff, which is exactly the same as last year: "This is the first time right now the high majority of our football team has the same coordinator twice."
  • Interesting message from Auburn today regarding agents. While previous coaches have put the onus on the rogue agents who are causing some of the qualifying problems of a few big-name college stars, Chizk and Co. stressed the responsibility of the player. "A lot of this has got to go back on the young guy," he said. "I mean, he's got to have an allegiance to his school, he's got to have an allegiance to his teammates, he's got to have an allegiance to his football team and his coaches and his university. Hey, if they know right from wrong and they choose to do wrong, then they don't really have an allegiance to the people I just mentioned."
  • Chizik said he was in favor of a change to legislation to curb that sort of thing, but added that it would be hard to regulate.
  • This was interesting: offensive tackle Lee Ziemba said he's familiar with plenty of runners for agents. How can he tell? "They usually introduce themselves. You know who you're dealing with.
  • And you also know the rules about all them. And you're responsible for those rules."
  • Ziemba doesn't feel like an aggrieved college athlete who needs a handout. "I get a college education in exchange for my services on the football field. I think that's going to prove to be more valuable than a few hundred thousand dollars right now. I'm not pressed for money. I've got a roof over my house, a bed to sleep in. I've obviously got plenty of food to eat."
  • Ziemba thought about taking out an insurance policy after opting not to enter the NFL Draft and come back for his senior season. He declined for two reasons: 1) the premiums were insanely high, and 2) you only get paid if you get hurt and can't play football again. Those policies don't protect you if you tear an ACL and aren't the same player anymore.
  • Bynes listed the following freshmen as standing out in summer workouts: LB LaDarius Phillips, LB Jake Holland, CB Jake Mincy and DTs Jeffrey Whitaker and Kenneth Carter. He said Mincy has picked up stuff quickly and Carter can move pretty well despite his size.
  • Bynes on the expectations placed on quarterback Cam Newton: "Everybody thinks he's going to be this savior or whatever with their expectations. We're not saying he's not going to be. He's a great quarterback, he can throw, he can run, he's very smart, he caught on to our offense very, very quickly. At the same time, he has to go out and handle what he's supposed to do and that's to be the quarterback and not to try to take up too much so fast. If he's capable of handling that, so be it and I believe he has the ability to do so. He's going to do a lot of great things this year, I believe."
  • Ziemba on the rumblings about Newton before he arrived in Auburn: "There were rumors going around. Some people were saying he was 7-foot tall."
  • Ziemba was asked how long it will be until Gus Malzahn gets a shot as a head coach. His answer: "I'm not sure. You'll have to talk to him about that. I'm not his agent."
  • The offensive line, which returns four starters, should be a strength on offense. What's the advantage to having played so many games together. "A sense you don't have to communicate as much," Ziemba said. "I kind of know. Me and Mike (Berry) kind of know where each other are. We have to work together every other block, and we kind of know what each other's doing, what each other's next move is. We rarely say anything. Why give away something when you don't have to?"
  • Best dressed award of the Auburn players goes to Aairon Savage, who had a light blue and white pinstriped seersucker suit, an orange shirt and a blue and orange bow tie. Very GQ.
I've got some stories to get done now, but I hope to have a post up later recapping the non-Auburn events of the day, so check back.


MikeP said...

Nice report! About depth, when everybody enrolls this term we will be at 83, which is about where the other schools are.

Also, with the SEC imposing the "28 signee limit" the deal has changed. From now on almost every SEC team will have very few players that don't qualify. When a school could sign 36 hoping 25 would qualify it was one thing. Starting with this year's class, all SEC schools were more selective.

Andy Bitter said...

Plus, Auburn loses 20 seniors from this year's class. Keeping the scholarship number at 83 might be hard this offseason.

MikeP said...

Keeping in the mid-80's will be tough.
20 seniors and limited to 25 new enrolees is cutting it close. As far as I can tell, normal attrition from year-to year is somewhere between 5 and 8, so the numbers indicate at least a small decline for the 2011 season.

Almost nobody goes into a season with the full 85 due to summer injuries and late surprises, so it won't be too bad compared to the opposition.