Sunday, November 27, 2011

Chizik discusses Iron Bowl loss, bowl practice

AUBURN - Auburn coach Gene Chizik met with the media Sunday evening and talked about a variety of subjects, including Saturday's Iron Bowl loss, the upcoming bowl game, and what went wrong for the 7-5 Tigers this season.

Here's what he had to say.

Have you watched the tape from the Alabama game?

“I’ve watched most of it. We’ve had recruits in all day, so I’ve watched bits and pieces of it. Most of it.”

Your thoughts?

“Very disappointing. And again, like I said last night, it was a very good football team. It’s disappointing because in the fourth quarter going in, if we were able to convert on that fourth-and-short and go in and close the distance to a touchdown, I think the momentum of the game and how our crowd was into it would have given us a chance to get into it and have a chance to stay in the game. We had our chances, we just didn’t execute well enough to get it done.”

Losing the way you did against teams like Georgia and Alabama, was that what makes it tough to take rather than the number of losses?

“I don’t think, regardless of what the rest of the records are, regardless of how you did in the other games, any time you get beat against a Georgia and an Alabama, very unfavorably like we did, obviously it’s very disappointing. You’ve got to keep in perspective that the losses we did have that were lopsided came against very good football teams. You take the No. 1 team in the country and the No. 3 team in the country (LSU and Arkansas), and you make mistakes on the road against great teams, that’s the result you get. That was the No. 1 team against the No. 3 team. In our case, we said it from the beginning: Our margin of error is very small. The bottom line is when we’ve played in those games and they’ve been lopsided, we’ve done things that we can’t do and win games: turn the ball over, give up big plays on defense. It’s very disappointing, and when you play in games against those good of teams, that’s the result. We’re going to take all of those things and we’re going to grow from it. We’re going to learn from it. We’re going to use those things to move forward and get better.”

You've got a lot of young players. How much will they benefit from the bowl game?

“I think it’s extremely beneficial, because they’re going to get enough time off where they’re going to get separated and removed from football, then all of a sudden start all over again. It’ll almost be like spring practice with a game at the end. For us and our football team, no question about it, that extra practice time will be invaluable.”

What's the upcoming schedule?

“We’ve got to really concentrate on the academics this week because we have exams the following week. Obviously we’ll stay in shape weight room wise and conditioning. But we’re going to prepare academically this whole week and the following week without there being any true practice time. At least that’s the plan now, and that plan could change.”

Do you hope to get some injured players back for the bowl?

“We’re hoping they can. That’s the goal for a lot of those guys that weren’t able to play this year and are going to be in that situation. We’re hoping they’re back and able to practice for the bowl game because, again, it’s going to be like their first spring practice. Some of those guys will be day-to-day when it comes to that, as far as how they progress.”

Is Kris Frost one of those players?

“He’s trying to work himself into that. He’s made a lot of strides here in the last three weeks. He’s one of the guys we think may be able to do something during bowl practice. We just don’t know exactly to what extent yet.”

Will T'Sharvan Bell be back for spring?

"You hope that when spring practice starts there’s some things he’ll be able to do. And guys just come along at a different pace faster than others. With him, I think it’s just going to be how he responds to the surgery. Certainly, we would love it. Maybe non-contact drills, it may be nothing at all, I don’t know. We’ve got to wait and see."

Where’s Kris Frost going to play?

"That’s a good questions because we haven’t seen him play yet – he never made it to the practice field. So we don’t really know. We know he’s a great athlete and he’s got the ability to probably play anywhere at those linebacker positions that we want. That’s going to be a great evaluation process for us this spring with him."

Kris is helping coaches on the sideline during games?

"Since he’s been coming back to practice and he’s been a little more engaged with us versus just with our medical staff, yes. We felt like he’s more engaged, more into it mentally and so we obviously used him to help us with signals last night."

Any update on Shon Coleman?

"I think he’s doing, medically, really well. I don’t profess to be a doctor to know exactly what that means, but it sounds like he’s really doing well in terms of treatment, where he’s going, the effectiveness of his treatments. So it’s been very encouraging. But as far as what that means for him playing, ever playing, when he may be able to play, there’s not really anything out there on that yet."

Will you consider any changes at quarterback for the bowl game?

"The bottom line is: it’s like everything that we’ll do. We’ll go back and really revisit every position at every facet. Offensively, defensively, special teams-wise, every facet of what we’re able to accomplish and not accomplish. You can lump the quarterback in there with the guards and the centers and the wideouts. It’s all the same."

Was the offense different over the course of the season. It seemed more effective early.

"Everything was done… It’s the exact same offense. That never changed. In terms of pace, in terms of what we were trying to do, whether we ran it or threw it, that was all based on, again, what the defenses were giving us or not giving us. We added a couple wrinkles in there with Kiehl at quarterback because, again, we felt like that was something that would give us a little bit of extra running game in there that we didn’t feel like we had. So really and truly, when we weren’t good on offense it was because we didn’t execute it. It’s that simple. That combined with as we got deeper in the season, obviously, we were playing some great defenses too. So, it’s a combination of that and it’s, again, it’s a deal where we’re going to go back and reassess and look at everything. But we didn’t change anything offensively. We still paced people when we felt like it was effective. Again, you’ve got to look at how your defense is playing. If your defense is on the field for 28-30 snaps and your offense has been out there for nine, you’ve got to play the game differently. So going back and evaluating it, nothing changed with the offense, but our plans did change based on what was unfolding during the game."

How much did it hurt losing Emory and Trovon over roughly the same time frame?

“Losing Emory for three or four games, whatever it was, that definitely didn’t help us. Even up to last night he’s still not 100 percent. That’s not an excuse that’s just the way it is. That’s the reality of taking away some our vertical passing game that for the first three games was there. So all that combined.”

With those guys banged up – you had Jaylon Denson who didn’t step up?

“There’s a lot of moving parts in the offense. You’ve got to put those guys in position where there’s a comfort level between the quarterback and themselves. And they’ve got to be able to convert different routes on the run based on what they see coverage wise and that’s hard sometimes on a young guy. That’s some of the reason you didn’t see them in there as much as somebody might expect. It’s just not that easy that you put a wideout in there and he runs downfield and you throw him the ball up. That’s not the way offenses are run. We know that down the road they are going to be really good players, but again, it takes time at the wideout position to learn the position.”

Do you still believe in what you’re doing offensively?

“Absolutely. I believe we have to get much better everywhere.”

Same apply to the defense?

“We have to get much better everywhere.”

Will you do what you can to keep this staff intact?

“Again, there are going to be guys who are going to be sought after as head coaches, there are going to be all kinds of different variables, but I’ve always placed a very high amount of importance on staff continuity. But at the end of the day, guys have to do what they think is best for them and their families, just like I have had to do for my whole career. Again, some guys will have opportunities, some won’t, but again they will do what is in the best interest of their families.”

Do you prefer Quick changes or slow changes?

“I haven’t really given it a lot of thought. Typically, when there are changes they all happen at different times. So I’ve got a plan in place for however it happens and whether that’s early or late.”

You mentioned making a 10,000-foot view of the program, does that include assessing personnel and changes that you instigate?

“That includes assessing everything. That includes players, coaches, managers, trainers, everything. We were 14-0 last year and I did the same thing. We were 8-5 the year before and I did the same thing. In my seat, I don’t think that’s anything unusual. That’s what you always have to do to keep moving forward. I assessed everybody and every single person in this program when we were 14-0 and I’ll do the same thing this year as well. Including myself. We’re always trying to look for a better way and a better result. We’ll assess that and at the end of the day we’ll do what we think is best for Auburn.”

How did the recruiting weekend go?

"Again, Auburn does such a great job of selling itself. Although the result of the game was not favorable, I think the atmosphere -- the game day experience, the way our fans showed up and were into it the whole game -- was incredible. That was pretty much the consensus of every recruit who was here. It was a huge success. We had a lot of official visits, a lot of unofficial visits. I don't think there's any question that the game day experience here and what our fans brought to the table -- it was second to none. I think every recruit saw it."

Are you convinced that this kind of offense can thrive in the SEC?

"It can be an extremely effective offense moving the football, running the football. You asked specifically about the quarterback position. Any offense is going to be more productive … if you don't have that epic quarterback but you're surrounded by a lot of great players with a lot of experience -- the quarterbacks have a chance in this league to be successful. If you are not surrounded by a lot of great players and your quarterback is not an epic quarterback, they may struggle because of the nature of defenses in this league. We're always trying to get the best quarterback we can get. We'll continue to do that. That's where you can pretty much start no matter what type of offense you're in. You start there. It doesn't mean your offense can't be great without a great quarterback. In this league, jn my opinion, if you have a quarterback that's not a great quarterback but he's surrounded by a lot of really, really good players with a lot of experience, you can still have a lot of success with that."

Do you anticipate a wide-open QB race in the spring?

"I anticipate having a wide-open race everywhere. At every position. Our football teams know right now that we'll go with the best guy at any position that earns that spot. That's true with every position."

Will Tre Mason get another shot on kickoff returns?

"Tre got hurt for a little while there and that kind of set him back. He just needs to keep working at it. We knew Onterio had the potential. He works it in practice. He loves doing it. He likes being the kickoff return guy. In the middle of the game, several times he's asked to go in there and get a shot at it. Tre has turned the ball over at that position some. He's still going to be really good at it. That's a great case in point of a young guy who is going to grown from mistakes that were made. He'll continue to do it for us at some points. He'll continue to battle for that job back. We have a lot of confidence that he can do it."

Can you talk about Onterio's leadership abilities?

"I'm very appreciative of guys who are willing to do the dirty work -- cover punts, knock punts back, change the game because of field position, be a kickoff return guy. You used Onterio so I will, too. He's covered every punt this season -- and we've punted a good bit. Never asked to get off it. Wants to be on it. We've got a lot of guys like that. We need that idea to catch on with everybody on our team. For our young guys to see that is invaluable."

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