Friday, July 24, 2009

Friday notebook

Gene Chizik confirmed Friday that four players on the 2008 roster would not return for the coming season.

Chizik kicked sophomore defenders Marcus Jemison, Christian Thompson and Jomarcus Savage off the team in late June. The coach also said long snapper Dax Dellenbach, who was on scholarship, would not return this season.

Defensive end Cameron Henderson and receiver Philip Pierre-Louis both are still in the program. Asked specifically about their standing on the team, Chizik stopped short of declaring them safe.

“Those guys right now, they’re still on our football team and the ones that are not are the ones that I just mentioned,” he said.

The Montez Billings situation remains equally vague. Auburn’s top returning receiver, who Chizik said at the end of spring practice was trying to work through some academic issues, is working out with the team.

Chizik said Billings would open fall camp with the team. However, Chizik said he doesn’t yet know when Billings will play in a game.

“He’s definitely going to play this fall. That’s for sure,” Chizik said. “We’re still working through some of the other issues, but he will be playing this fall.”

Billings graduated in May. There have been no specifications on the “academic issue.”

Billings will break camp with the team, but it’s not clear whether fellow receiver Tim Hawthorne can do the same. Chizik admitted Hawthorne suffered an ankle injury over the summer.

Per Chizik’s injury policies, he did not reveal how long team physicians predict he will be sidelined.

Chizik didn’t hazard guesses for defensive backs Aairon Savage or Mike McNeil either. Aairon Savage suffered an Achilles injury in June and will reportedly miss the entire season. Chizik said Friday he hasn’t ruled out the senior returning this year.

McNeil suffered a broken leg during a spring scrimmage. Chizik isn’t sure how much time McNeil still needs to recover, but hinted it could still be a while.

“I don’t know but I do know he’s making a lot of progress,” Chizik said. “You’ll probably ask me the same thing in three weeks and I’ll probably give you the same answer.”

FRESH FACES: One thing Chizik did reveal Friday is that he expects freshmen to come in and compete for jobs immediately – especially at receiver and linebacker.

On the offensive line, though, he’s not necessarily expecting help from tackle Aubrey Phillips.

The true freshman originally signed with and reported to Florida State. However, he immediately left the team after FSU released him from his scholarship.

Phillips committed to Auburn earlier in the week, but has yet to sign with the Tigers.

“Right now the ones that we signed are the ones that we’ve got for sure,” Chizik said. “Most of those are already here on campus. As the days unfold if there’s anyone new that’s added, I don’t consider them added until they show up.”

TEBOW TALK: In a pre-press conference meeting with beat reporters, Chizik refused to indicate whether he voted Florida quarterback Tim Tebow to the first-team all-SEC unit.

He did an about-face during the press conference, though, admitting that he voted for Tebow.
South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier turned out to be the coach who didn’t vote for Tebow. Spurrier blamed the error on his director of football operations. He also changed his vote from Ole Miss’ Jevan Snead to Tebow.

COLOR ME BOTH: Former coach Tommy Tuberville parted from Auburn tradition by asking fans to wear orange on football game days.

Chizik isn’t as picky. Blue, orange, Chizik doesn’t care as long as fans are supporting the team.

“Our colors are navy blue and orange, so those are the two colors I vote for,” Chizik said. “I love them both. I guess it depends on what you look best in.”

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