The real Gene Chizik

Published 5:58 pm Friday, July 24, 2009

Gene Chizik has talked but hasn’t said much.

Compare Chizik to his company Friday at Southeastern Conference Media Days—South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier, LSU’s Les Miles and Tennessee’s Lane Kiffin—and the first-year Auburn coach seems downright bland.

Is Chizik hard to get to know, or does he stay out of the headlines on purpose? Nah, that’s just who he is.

“What gets you attention is when you win; it’s that simple,” Chizik said. “I don’t have to go out and try to gather attention for myself.

“This isn’t about me. This is about Auburn.”

So, without Chizik providing a strong personality to talk about, the discussion of Auburn football has shifted to assistant coaches and recruiting efforts.

Events, such as “Tiger Prowl” and “Big Cat Weekend,” intended to get Auburn in the mix for top prospects have possibly been as popular with fans as recruits—and assistants Trooper Taylor and Curtis Luper have seemingly received as much credit for recruiting success as Chizik.

Another hot topic among Tigers fans is how much an offense that averaged only 11.6 points per conference game last season can improve under new coordinator Gus Malzahn, whose high-powered Tulsa attack averaged 47.2 points per game.

“Last year was a crazy year,” senior tight end Tommy Trott said at Media Days. “As an offense, we never really found our identity. Hopefully, with coach Malzahn, we can establish an identity and figure out what we want to do as an offense.

“You look at what coach Malzahn has done in his year at Arkansas and those years at Tulsa, and you know he’s been successful everywhere he has been.”

Trott and senior defensive end Antonio Coleman left no doubt about how the team will go about trying to improve on last year’s 5-7 season.

“I’ve been at Auburn for five years, and this has been the hardest summer of my life, getting up at 5:30 every morning for workouts,” Coleman said. “It’s all going to be a blessing when we start Sept. 5.

“The most important thing we lost [last year] is swagger, and I think we have it back. We got people hurt, people injured, and we didn’t finish the way we wanted, but we can’t harp on that—it was last year.”