Gene Chizik: Quoting AU Coach Gene Chizik

Comments from Gene Chizik during his first weekly press conference, this one previewing the Utah State game.

Opening statement… Opening Statement

"Game week is finally here. It's obviously exciting for our team and our coaches, and I know our fans are excited. We're really looking forward to a great opening challenge with Utah State and the challenges that they pose. This is (head coach) Gary (Andersen)'s third year. He's done a really nice job building the program just the way he wants it.

Offensively, they have a lot of returning starters. It's going to be a challenge for our defense. Everything starts with the offensive line, as we know. They have some veteran guys up front, which will be challenging for our young defensive line, as we know. It'll be a good first challenge for us. They have a running back coming back that had a great year a year, two years ago. He's now healthy and back in the mix, so that's going to be a great challenge for us.

We're anticipating preparing for a two-quarterback system type situation with two different types of body types playing quarterback. That'll be a challenge for us, as well, so we have to be ready on that front. Defensively, it appears that they're jumping in and out of a three, four-man front defense. Those are challenges as well, starting with our offensive line. Schematically, that poses some challenges for us there. They're doing some things defensively. They have a couple of really good players on their defense starting at inside linebacker; two really good football players there for sure. They don't have as many returning starting guys with experience defensively, as they do offensively, but they have a lot of good players on their defense. So schematically that'll be a challenge, as we know that.

Again, their kicking game, they have some challenges for us there. They have a kick returner, Kerwynn Williams, that is probably averaging somewhere between 26 or 27 yards per kickoff return. He's set numerous records there, as well. So it's a very solid football team. Again, a great challenge for our very young team going into the first game. We're excited that it's here. We've had a really good fall camp. I'm sure that you guys have seen the two-deep now with what we've come up with. Again, it's going to be really interesting. It's going to be a lot of fun.

I think we counted it up, and we're going to have anywhere between 25-30 players playing Saturday that have never played a college game, which ought to get extremely interesting. We're going to have a lot of fun with it. They've worked really hard. They want to be really good. It'll be fast moving for them, but the game will eventually slow down for our young guys. Again, we're looking for a big performance from our whole football team."

On working the younger players into the game who are not starters…

"The plan is to really play the guys who we think deserve to play, whether it be early in the game or late in the game, whatever the situation calls for, the guys that have worked hard enough and deserve to play and have really earned our trust to play, we're going to put them in whenever we feel like the situation is right.

We're not holding anything back. You're going to see them on the opening kickoff, you're going to see them on the opening kickoff return, depending on which one we do, you're going to see them throughout the offense and the defense. That's just where we're at. Although, at this point, coaches get very reluctant to just put them in right at the beginning of the game. We're going to have to get past our reluctance to do that, and just do it. That's just where we're at."

On how the participation report might look after playing so many players…

"If you look at it, before we gave out the scholarships to some of the walk-ons a few weeks ago, we're really playing with somewhere in the neighborhood of 70 scholarships. So, it's all hands on deck. In terms of the participation chart, there are going to be quite a few. Again, as I said, a good number of those guys are going to be freshman and redshirt freshmen. Then when you look beyond that, a lot of guys that we're considering veterans, they haven't really played that much either. Everybody has to participate. Offense, defense and particularly special teams, it's going to be team by committee. That's just the way it's going to be. But again, we have to get past any reluctance that we have to do it, and put them in the game and let them play."

On preparing quarterback Barrett Trotter for his first collegiate start…

"I'm excited for Barrett Trotter. I'm excited for him. I have a lot of confidence that he's going to go in there and be very poised, I really do. I feel like he's going to be very poised, and he's very prepared. We still have a week left. This is really practice number one, game week. I'm excited for him. I think he's going to be excited, but again, I think he's going to show a lot of poise, and he's going to show a lot of confidence. He has a great grasp of the offense and what the plan is already.

I think it's going to be a great day for Barrett, and again, we're going to go in and we're going to evaluate when we get done with game one and see where we're going for game two. There are a lot of positions out there that we're anxious to see how they prepare and how they play in front of 90,000. But again, I'm excited for Barrett."

On Onterio McCalebb starting ahead of Michael Dyer at tailback…

"I wouldn't read anything into that at all. You know how we run our offense with Michael and Onterio, and you're even seeing some of the freshmen. You're going to see Anthony Morgan. Again, you're going to see a lot of faces at tailback as well, so I wouldn't read anything into that."

On redshirt freshman Chad Slade and freshman Reese Dismukes starting on the offensive line having not played a collegiate game before…

"That is going to be part of the journey that we're going to be on. It's really challenging when you take a true freshman and you put him at center in this league. That's really going to be interesting. Reese is extremely intelligent as a football player. I still feel like it's going to be a great learning experience. I think it's going to be a great first game for Reese simply because he's gone against our guys every day in practice and kind of has an idea of what that's like, but now also we're going to ramp it up a notch when we get to game day against some very big, physical defensive players, especially now when you're looking at potentially getting head-up nose guards on you and no shade on there where you potentially might not get a lot of help from a guard. So Reese has some challenges, but physically, the more games he plays, you're going to see him get better. I feel very confident in that, in all the calls he has to make, in a game like this where it could be a little bit of a three-down front, could be a four-down front, there will be challenges for him in there, too. We feel very confident in his ability.

Chad has gotten better and better all through camp, there's no question about that. Has he arrived? No, but we feel very confident that he can protect the edge, and he can be a physical run blocker. He has 300-plus pounds. He's dropped some weight since he came here last year. His eyes will be big on the first day too, but that's OK. He'll get used to it, and the game will slow down for him, as well."

On wide receiver Travante Stallworth

"Travante has been a guy that is kind of old steady. He's a very savvy football player. He understands coverages. He understands where he's supposed to be, when he's supposed to be there, and at wide receiver, as you know, trying to find holes in the defense becomes a huge part of your game. He was limited when he hurt his knee. It's been a journey for him getting back, so I'm very proud to see that he's come on so well in camp. Physically, I think he's close to being where he was before he got hurt, and mentally, we know he's, again, a very savvy football player. I'm very impressed with him, and we're looking forward to seeing him play and seeing some big things out of him."

On any true freshmen who are not on the depth chart that might play…

"Most of the freshmen will be on the depth chart. I don't want to leave a guy out, but most of them are probably on there right now. That's not to say that there won't be a couple of more that we throw on there that could help us on some special teams."

On conference expansion and Texas A&M possibly moving somewhere…

"Obviously I'm very aware of all the possibilities and rumors and discussions going on. That's why we have a great (SEC) commissioner in Mike Slive. We have a great group of presidents and athletic directors, and they'll make those decisions. This is a great league. Whatever the decisions are that are made by the people that make those decisions, which we have very competent people doing that, they'll make the right decision for the league. Right now, I'm focused on Utah State. They'll do it just the way the league needs to do it."

On what stands out about the SEC…

"There are several things. It's the passion of the fan base, the skill level, it's the stadium, the facilities, everything the recruit is really looking for. He can get it at pretty much any school in the SEC."

On pressure for Barrett Trotter in following Cam Newton as quarterback…

"We've talked about it briefly, and my words were simply this: You're Barrett Trotter. Don't try to be somebody else. He doesn't need to try to be Cam Newton, he doesn't need to try to be Chris Todd or Jason Campbell. He needs to be Barrett Trotter. Really and truly, that's about the length of the discussion. I think he understands that, and they all know that."

On having two running backs as returning starters…

"It's really nice. It's really nice when you look around and you see so many young guys that you feel good about, but they still haven't played on game day. There's still that element of question there. What are they going to do when the lights come on and the whistle blows in a game. It's really nice to see guys like Onterio (McCalebb), Michael (Dyer), Emory Blake, and Daren Bates defensively, that have played a lot of football. That's always a luxury, especially in our situation right now."

On veterans and their response to the younger players…

"I'm really proud of, I'm going to use the word ‘older' guys. I don't know if that's the right word or not. I hesitate to do this because I usually leave someone out that I shouldn't, but Philip Lutzenkirchen, Onterio (McCalebb), Emory Blake, Brandon Mosley, even though he's only been here a year. Guys that have really been in there and played a lot and contributed significantly to what we're doing. They've been phenomenal. The young guys on defense that are considered to be vets, if you will, Like I mentioned, Daren Bates, Neiko Thorpe and even our young defensive linemen.

You look out there and you think Corey Lemonier, Jeff Whitaker, Kenneth Carter and Nosa (Eguae) are our veterans, but they have three years left. They've all played a great role, they really have. They've really tried to take the young guys under their wings and really tried to impart really good wisdom, both on and off the field, and it's really been good. But again, a lot of those guys are still working every day to work to become a lot better football players themselves."

On the freshmen being accepted by the team…

"I think in this day and age, it has certainly changed. There is no question that there are more young guys playing. I just think when teammates feel like there are young guys that can come in and have an opportunity to help them win a championship, I just feel like they are really embraced, provided that they come in with some humility. In this day in age, sometimes that is really hard for them to do because of how much they hear about themselves in recruiting. If they come in with a great deal of humility and just go to work, I think the guys embrace them, and so I think a lot of it is to the degree in which they come in.

What I've found is certainly with this group that we have, with the 25 guys that we brought in, they came in with a lot of humility even though they were highly recruited. I think they understood once they got here, all that goes away, and they are just the low guy on the totem pole, and they have to work to have a job. But I think overall, I think people embrace them more because more young guys are playing, and they give you an opportunity to help the older guys win a championship. "

On Mike Blakely's status…

"Mike Blakely is not going to be eligible. So, he's going to be redshirted this year. He's doing a great job for us on our scout team, phenomenal attitude, doing great in school. I couldn't be more proud of him, but this is going to be a redshirt year. I would love to see him play obviously for a lot of reasons. He is certainly talented enough to play right now based on what I've seen. I know he wanted to play so it is disappointing for him, but I think he's handled it great, and he's going to have a great year this year helping us win."

On recruiting more heavily in Texas with regard to conference expansion…

"Everything is based on circumstances. We'll go to wherever we have to go to recruit a player based on if we think he is the right fit for Auburn, if we think that the risk versus reward, meaning money and time spent on somebody far away. If it looks like there is a valid opportunity for us to sign that young man, we will recruit him whether he's in Texas or otherwise. We've expanded out some.

This past year, we went out as far as Arizona and as far up as Delaware. We are willing to expand to wherever we have to expand to. But in answer to Texas, we've obviously recruited Texas since we've been here too, and we have several players from Texas as well. But again, it would have to be the circumstances as to whether we would go out and spend the time and money in efforts recruiting a guy based on his circumstances."

On how many assistant coaches recruit a certain area…

"We have different amounts. It's not necessarily that we put two guys or four guys or three guys. Again, it depends on circumstances. There could be relationships built that would warrant one guy doing it versus the next, so that's all really just kind of a case by case basis, if you will."

Whether the team is where he expected it to be…

"I think we're probably right where we thought we would be, to be honest with you. We still have a week left to go. We still have a week of preparation, which is really good, but overall, we're certainly not disappointed. We've made a lot of strides probably in the last 10 days or so in my opinion, so we're just about where we need to be and where we thought we would be. Again, understanding we still need another whole week of work to be prepared to play in this game Saturday."

On whether he wants the team to use preseason predictions as motivation for the season…

"To be honest with you, I haven't really given it any thought. My thing with my players is they have to stay focused on what we are asking them to do in this building, and that's been out mantra since I've been here. We've had all kinds of different situations since I've been here. Really, to be honest with you, I'm not really aware of what is swirling around out there, whether they think we're going to be 14-0 again or 0-14. I'm not really in tune with that.

What our main focus is with our players and trying to impart on our players is pay attention to what you can control, and the things they can control are right in this building. What they do every day when they get over here and what they do voluntarily coming over here and trying to get better as football players on their own, so we don't talk about that."

On there being more pressure for this season coming off a national championship...

"Well if you are asking my opinion, we don't talk about pressure either. We just talk about day by day, trying to get better at what we do. That is as coaches and players. There is always pressure when you're in the SEC, and there is always pressure when you are at a place like Auburn because the expectation of everybody is for you to win.

That expectation is true from our equipment managers and trainers, student trainers, student managers, all the way up to me and our athletic director. So those expectations are there. It comes with the territory. The pressure that is on probably more internally from each guy individually and what he expects himself to do than anybody. So as a whole we don't really talk about that. We don't talk about expectations in terms of what everybody else's expectation is. We only talk about expectations in terms of what ours are. So that is really kind of non-applicable to us in a way."


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