A lot of news came out of Chizik’s Sunday teleconference and evening player interviews, so we’ll run that down here. As always, the actual reporting here is being done by the fine collective firm of Bitter, Tate, Goldberg, Woodbery, Gribble, and Brietzke. Developments:
— John Sullen probably shouldn’t get comfortable in the starting lineup just yet. Chizik specially mentioned Bart Eddins as a player who could see time and Jared Cooper is in the mix as well. Chizik’s hands are a bit tied here: not only are the options to replace Isom kind of unappetizing from an experience standpoint, but with Vance Smith, A.J. Greene, and Jorell Bostrum out with injuries, there’s not even that many of them.
Chizik did say there’s an “equation” and a “plan” for replacing Isom, which does make me think the suspension won’t just be a one-week thing. (Operating theory: Eddins, who’s spent most of his practice time backing up Pugh at center, gets all the week’s reps at guard and starts. But we’ll see.) Buckle in, folks, because it’s going to be a bit bumpy up front.
(A quick p.s.: I mentioned yesterday that Berry had switched from right to left guard to make room for Sullen; Berry had actually been on the left all season with Isom on the right. I’m not the only one to make that mistake, and Berry was definitely on the right last year [wasn’t he?], but still: this is why they pay me the big bucks, right here.)
— Gabe McKenzie played on both offense and defense Saturday. Chizik and Roof were complimentary of McKenzie’s effort and willingness to do whatever’s asked of him, but if they don’t even know what side of the ball they want him on, how can they develop enough trust in McKenzie to send him on the field in a big game? It’s beyond unfortunate (and puzzling … how can the coaches really not find a role for guy this experienced, athletic, and versatile?), but I’ll believe McKenzie will contribute this season when I see it.
— Chizik didn’t even want to hazard a guess at who’ll return punts this week, opting for jokes (funny ones, too) about Jamr Travis and Chizik’s son getting a shot at it. His frustration with the situation comes through the presser reports about as loud and clear as something like that can. Your guess at who emerges this week is as good as mine. (Personally: Demond Washington handled the job and did some fine work at the JUCO level, and he just fumbled the once. Give him enough reps to get comfortable, and he should be fine, right?)
— Speaking of Travis, both he and Andre Harris burned their redshirts this week. Travis is seeing time on special teams, and Lord knows Auburn needs all the help it can get there. It’s a little bit odder to see Harris get garbage time on the offensive line, but if the coaches think there’s a chance they’ll need him for serious time, better to blood him now. If Auburn’s coaches feel this is what’s best for the team, I’m sure it is, but I still can’t help thinking both players’ chances to contribute down the road would have been a little better if they’d been able to save this year of eligibility.
— Chizik declined to say who might take over Wildcat duties if Burns can’t go, but Woodbery thinks Fannin is the logical choice, and he is. The man played quarterback in high school, has obvious mad skillz with the ball in his hands, and sure as hell needs the touches.
— It probably won’t be an issue, though: both Burns and McCalebb sound like they’ll be good to go. That McCalebb is a-OK is particularly exciting news.
— Antoine Carter saw action Saturday, but reading between Chizik’s lines about his being “heavy-legged,” I’d wager he’s still at least a couple of weeks away from seeing any significant action.
— Chizik explained what the team slogan “Do What We Do” and the potentially original-to-the-Chiznick term “impostors” meant. What’s important about this little tidbit isn’t what this stuff actually means–it’s just coachspeak–but that we’ve heard the players spouting it off the cuff in their interviews from time-to-time. That means something, because it shows that what Chizik is selling, his team is buying. It’s just the sort of thing we want to hear.
Photo by Van Emst.