Sunday, September 6, 2009

Sunday notes

Gene Chizik’s straight-laced, down-to-business demeanor has been well documented since he took over as Auburn’s head coach.

A day after Chizik’s first victory as the Tigers coach, he admitted he took some time to enjoy his debut as he does after most wins while also joking about his media persona.

“I do. Believe it or not, I laugh and I joke with my kids,” Chizik said during Sunday’s teleconference. “I really do. I have a really good time.

“My personality actually comes out. It’s really fun. It really it is.”

The celebration started in the locker room, where the team awarded Chizik with a game ball to commemorate his first win as Auburn’s head coach.

Enjoying life after Auburn’s 37-13 win over Louisiana Tech on Saturday shouldn’t have been especially difficult, even if it was a prelude to the more daunting SEC schedule.

... For more, read tomorrow's story in The Anniston Star.

A few Auburn players were nowhere to be seen on the sidelines during the Tigers’ 37-13 Saturday night victory, leading some speculation as to why.

Auburn coach Gene Chizik said Sunday not to “read anything into that.”

“A lot of guys who are injured don’t want to be down there,” Chizik said. “It’s hard on them. Sometimes when they’re injured, they don’t want to come to the game.”

WRs Montez Billings and Philip Pierre-Louis, RB Eric Smith, DEs Antoine Carter and Cameron Henderson and LB Eltoro Freeman were not on the sidelines.

Several injured players, such as QB Barrett Trotter, S Mike McNeil and WR Tim Hawthorne, did not dress, but still wore their jerseys on the sidelines.

Billings missed the game because the NCAA declared him ineligible for the first four games. Smith is facing disciplinary action stemming from his August arrest.

Pierre-Louis, Henderson, Carter and Freeman, though, did not face any declared disciplinary actions. Carter and Freeman both nursed injuries through training camp.

Chizik said Freeman was “really close” to being able to play. Ultimately, the training staff decided to hold him out.

“You’ve just got to use some good judgment and get some clarity of mind with these guys, because you don’t want to put him back in there and lose him for three more games,” Chizik said. “It’s a fine line. He’s close to being ready. We don’t feel like he’s 100 percent, so you’re going to get used to some other names in there.”

True freshman DE Nosa Eguae also missed the first game. Eguae, who was expected to play, wore his jersey on the sideline, but had his right foot in a walking boot.

Chizik said Eguae would be day-to-day.

RETURNING TO THE START: Mario Fannin struggled in his first day as a collegiate punt returner.

As a result of two disastrous punts, he might not fill that role any longer.

Fannin dropped one punt, which teammate Chris Humphries recovered, and let another that he could have caught take a Louisiana Tech bounce.

When the Bulldogs punted again, true freshman Anthony Gulley was back to return.

“We’re certainly going to have to look at that really close,” Chizik said. “That’s one of those things that's really hard to determine. If you watch the first game every year, that’s probably what you see the most – punt returners bobbling kicks.”

Chizik said that while he plans to re-evaluate the return situation, the unit needs to be better at preventing gunners to get down the field as well.

DIFFERENT ROLES: Chizik said Sunday that he doesn’t want any of his coaches watching the game.

Instead, they are all in charge of watching a specific element.

“You’ve got to do your job. They can watch the game on TV the next day,” Chizik said. “We’re working and we’re specifically looking at things that we need to be paying attention to.”

He also said splitting the assignments helped lead to Auburn’s 93-yard touchdown pass from Chris Todd to Terrell Zachery because coaches noticed the corners and safeties play more aggressively.

As for Chizik, he said he watches different elements of the game.

“I focus on different things in the game that I can contribute based on what I see, and they change,” he said. “I’ve called a game for 14 years myself, so I know how you can get lost in calling that game and not really seeing all the things around you at times. So I try to be that guy that looks at everything around, and I can tell the play-callers, ‘Here’s what we see. We need to think about this, we need to think about that,’ because I’m not so submerged in every call. It’s different – totally different.”

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