Just one year removed from his 2011 national championship team, Auburn head coach Gene Chizik took to the podium on the second day of SEC Media Days.
Chizik and the Tigers have experienced tumultuous circumstances since their perfect 2010 season with off-the-field issues surrounding their former star running back Michael Dyer and the tragic shooting incident involving current Auburn players Ladarious Phillips and Eric Mack as well as former lineman Ed Christian.
Chizik opened up his press conference reflecting on how his team has grown through the deaths of both Phillips and Christian.
“I’m very proud of our football team. I think in the midst of some very difficult times they’ve really bonded together and done a great job of trying to move forward.
They, without question, are still dealing with some of those issues,” Chizik said.
“We got to still plow through some of those tough days, and we know that. We’re providing all the resources for them possible to keep them moving in a positive direction.”
As far as the football team goes, one of the biggest questions for the Tigers heading into the 2012 season is the quarterback position. Auburn cycled through three different quarterbacks over the course of last season: Clint Moseley, Khiel Frazier and Barrett Trotter.
Trotter has now graduated so the position for the taking between Frazier and Moseley. Chizik shed very little light on the situation.
“It’s up for grabs,” Chizik said. “We’re looking for the guy that can take Auburn and lead them to win football games.”
When it comes to Frazier, Chizik claimed he’s seen a lot of development since last season.
“I think he’s grown a lot as a football player since he has been here. There was some means to the madness last year to make sure we played him in football games when the game was on the line, where there was a lot at stake,” Chizik said. “We played him early in the games, middle of the game, late in the game, particularly when he was ready. I think he’s got that feel.
Chizik added that no timeline has been set for making a decision on who the starting quarterback will be, but would rather settle the matter “the sooner the better.”
One constant theme throughout Chizik’s press conference was improvement. He touched on how both Frazier and Moseley have “a lot of room for improvement.” Chizik even said Corey Lemonier, a player many would categorize as Auburn’s best player, still needs to get better.
“He is a very good football player, but at the end of the day he’s like the rest of the guys on our team, they all have room for improvement,” Chizik said of Lemonier.
The Tigers return 10 starters from last season and Chizik emphasized the importance of leaning on those returners, especially the six senior starters.
“To whom much is given, much is expected. We feel like those seniors that have been starters in the past, we feel like their leadership is key. It’s very paramount,” Chizik said.