Freestyling from The Bay
Why not write more?
I'll take a few minutes each afternoon (pre-Outback Bowl) to pontificate on some Auburn topic. It'll be freestyle, stream-of-consciousness stuff.
So on that note...
It's pretty amazing that Auburn is here. Not just because the Outback Bowl is supposed to feature an Eastern Division team. Or that the Tigers somehow found a way to become the most alluring of the Southeastern Conference's 7-5 teams.
That stuff doesn't have much to do with the football team. It's chance. It's opportunity. It's administrative ingenuity.
What I'll always remember about this team is its uniformity. Gene Chizik rolled into town last year talking about blueprints, plans, codes. It seemed trite. Every new coach says what he has to say. Appeasing the fans, winning the press conference, is everyone's goal.
He won the press conference that day, but not because he tried.
Chizik was honest. He had a plan. He coached at Auburn during its best days in 2004. He then jumped to Texas and coached there during some of that program's best days in 2005. He was at the pinnacle.
Then he went to Iowa State. Things there didn't go well. We know that.
Still, those struggles have given him insight that's equally valuable. Chizik was able to contrast what went well at Auburn and Texas with what failed at Iowa State. It's clear that he's a quick learner.
Chizik's plan, developed while he was at Iowa State, is working well at Auburn. The Tigers are recruiting well, they're competitive despite having significant personnel shortages and they're consistent.
The head coach wants to perfect the simple things first: The five-yard hitch route. Defending an inside-zone run. Communicating plays effectively from sideline to huddle. That's what the 2009 season was about: Getting the simple things correct.
Expectations will grow ahead of the 2010 opener. The team should be better. It'll be interesting to see how Chizik adapts the team as experience and confidence build through the spring and summer. Auburn should become a more complicated enterprise.
Managing that development will be his toughest challenge yet.