Last year Gene Chizik showed up at SEC Media Days as the reigning king of the SEC coaching hill. Auburn was fresh off an SEC title and a national championship. This year things were a bit different.
Auburn is coming off an 8-5 season in which it went 4-4 in SEC play. While last season Chizik had to answer questions about living life without Cam Newton, this season people are wondering how Auburn can move on from offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn.
Not surprisingly, a lot of the questions posed to Chizik on Wednesday focused on new offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler and quarterback Kiehl Frazier.
Here are the highlight's from Chizik's press conference.
On the importance of Scot Loeffler's ability to develop young quarterbacks like Kiehl Frazier: "It was imperative that as I went out and looked into who the new coordinators could potentially be, that was a huge point of emphasis, the way I saw it, in who we hire. Scot has been great with developing quarterbacks. I think that's been his forté. Even though he's a young coach, that's what he's been known for, back when he coached the quarterbacks at Michigan with Lloyd Carr.
"That's a comfortable position for him, he was really good at it. It's been good to watch him work with our quarterbacks.
"I think the importance of it is paramount, I think it's huge. Again, it was a pretty seamless transition. I think our quarterbacks have embraced it. I think this is something that, moving forward, is going to be really, really good in terms of us going out and recruiting other quarterbacks knowing that Scot has been a proven guy when it comes to the development of that position."
On the quarterback position in general heading into camp: "It's up for grabs. We're looking for the guy that can take Auburn and lead them to win football games. Kiehl is strongly considered in the mix. 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. 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..
"It's going to be a battle. Obviously in two a days is when that's going to be decided. You're going to ask when it's going to happen. I'm not going to put a timeline on it. However, I will say the sooner the better."
Chizik's thoughts about SEC newcomers Missouri and Texas A&M: "I'll tell you what, I don't think a lot of people are giving Texas A&M and Missouri the credit they deserve. I will say that standing up here because for four years I played in that league.
"Gary Pinkel is one of the best football coaches in the country. If you look at what he did in turning Missouri around, the point he's got them to, you know, I hear a lot of things. Missouri and Texas A&M aren't coming into the SEC with their hat in the hand saying, Thank you for letting me be here. They're coming in here to compete and play their tail off on the football field. You can bank on that one...
"There's probably some missed notions with people that they're going to come in here and struggle. Like anybody, they're going to have good years, they're going to have bad years. Overall, Kevin Sumlin and Gary Pinkel, they can coach. And Missouri is a good football organization, and so is Texas A&M. So it's going to be a good fit. There's going to be some good football added to our league."
On what opening the season against Clemson in the Georgia Dome means for the program: "We play games of that magnitude a lot. That's nothing new to us. Playing our opening game in that venue is very exciting to our football team and our fan base, which is very important. Playing a team like Clemson, who has had so much success under Dabo the last couple of years, it's exciting for our players. This is the third game in a series that started back in 2010 and have been good games ever since.
"For playing a team that's not in your conference, the Auburn Tigers versus the Clemson Tigers is kind of a very well fit game. It makes sense. It's going to be exciting for our players.
"To have that game at the beginning of the season is interesting for our guys. We haven't necessarily had a game opening team since I've been there that is going to be this exciting for our players. Not that the other games weren't, but this is a big game, against probably a top 10 team. I don't know where all that is, but it's a team that's really had some great success."
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