Chizik: Auburn players open with clean slate

Published 10:10 am Wednesday, March 25, 2009

AUBURN — Auburn coach Gene Chizik said the players entered his first spring practice with competition at all positions, just as he likes it.

The Tigers held their first practice under the new staff Tuesday evening with, he said, no inherited positions or guarantees based on the past.

“As we’ve told our whole football team, it’s open for everybody,” Chizik said before practice. “Everybody’s got an open window there. Spring practice is about competition. These guys have been competing in the weight room, they’ve been competing in the early-morning workouts now for two months.

“Now, we’re just going to carry that on the field and it’s going to be really interesting to see which guys end up coming out on top. We’ve got some young, athletic guys that we’re really interested in seeing. No one’s going to inherit a position, so there should be some great competition going.”

He said the first week would be an evaluation period in all phases of the game.

The Tigers have competition at quarterback among returning starter Kodi Burns, Neil Caudle and Barrett Trotter. Chizik said a perfect scenario would be to have the position settled early but isn’t necessarily banking on it. All three are starting fresh in Gus Malzahn’s offensive system, which features no huddles and a fast tempo.

“In a perfect world, you’d hope to be able to go in and say this is our guy,” Chizik said. “You’d like to be able to go in and say that a week from now. That’s a perfect world. That might be a little ambitious. We have to watch our quarterbacks in this new system and watch them try to grow and look at them and not necessarily look at where they are today but where they’ll be four months from now.”

He didn’t shed much light onto the status of injured players tight end Tommy Trott, left tackle Lee Ziemba, quarterback Chris Todd, defensive back Aairon Savage or wide receiver/return man Philip Pierre-Louis. He said he hoped all of them would be able to have some contact during the spring, but didn’t elaborate on individual situations.

The one experiment is moving tight end Vance Smith to the offensive line, where the Tigers are thin. Chizik said Smith could see work at any of the line positions.

“He’s a little undersized to be moved down in there,” he said. “We think just from simple numbers, that’s one of the moves we need to look at right now. That doesn’t mean it’s going to stick through the rest of the spring, and we certainly don’t want to move a kid back and forth, but we know we have some offensive line deficits that we’ve got to try to overcome.”

Chizik has had time to get to know his players and assistants since his hiring in mid-December, and has watched them on film.

“It’s a whole new situation when you’re on the field,” he said. “I think that’s part of the growing process. It’s not just learning offense, defense and special teams. It’s also getting to know each other and what our expectations are on the field. I think everybody’s going to grow together with that.”