Countdown to the gridiron
Tigers formulate new offensive, defensive strategies for 2012
Photography by Todd Van Emst
Head football coach Gene Chizik’s preparations for the 2012 season were interrupted June 9 when a shooting at an apartment complex near the Auburn University campus left three dead, including former Tigers offensive lineman Ed Christian and fullback Ladarious Phillips, and three wounded, among them current offensive lineman Eric Mack. A suspect has been charged. Meanwhile, Chizik and his staff—which includes new-this-year offensive and defensive coordinators Scot Loeffler and Brian VanGorder, respectively—continue to mold the team in advance of the Tigers’ season kickoff against Clemson at 7 p.m. Eastern (6 p.m. Central) Sept. 1 in the Georgia Dome. No tickets? The Tigers vs. Tigers matchup will be televised nationally on ESPN. Chizik sizes up the season for Auburn Magazine readers and football fans:
How do you feel about the overall direction of the football program as you head into your fourth season at Auburn?
GC: We are in a much stronger position as a football program than we were this time a year ago. I don’t know how many wins that will translate into this season, because we still have some question marks that need to be answered at different positions, including quarterback. The good news is that we have more depth, more experience and more competition across the board. We have 16 returning starters, but in many cases we have guys right behind those returning starters who are really pushing them. That’s exactly what you want.
We are also working on our fourth full recruiting class, which we think is really important to solidify the foundation that we have been methodically building. We are building a very solid foundation for Auburn for the long term. Our administration and the university have done a great job in giving us the resources we need, especially with facilities. We’ve got the new indoor facility, and the university is upgrading the old Sewell Hall dorm with an incredible new residence hall. Those things are really important in recruiting. Overall, I feel very good about the direction of our football program.
You only have about six seniors among those 16 returning starters. Who do you expect to be the leaders of this year’s team?
GC: There is no question that the leadership of those seniors is going to be key. As you said, we don’t have a lot of seniors who are returning starters—but the good news is they have had a lot of success. They have won a national championship, they have averaged 10 wins a year over the past three years, and they have never lost a bowl game. We have guys like Philip Lutzenkirchen, Onterio McCalebb, Emory Blake, Daren Bates and T’Sharvan Bell who we expect to step up to the plate as leaders. I’ve seen a noticeable change in them stepping up as leaders. … read more